American Morning

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October 4th, 2010
10:47 AM ET

A year-long look at bullying

Director, Lee Hirsch is putting the finishing touches on his project, "The Bully Project: One year in the life of America's bullying crisis."  He spoke with CNN's American Morning Monday.

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. jmm

    When I was growing up, I witnessed both my brothers bullied mercilessly in school. They were also bullied at home by my father who was a verbally and emotionally abusive alcoholic. I believe that was a factor in the bullying they endured in school. There self-esteem was already damaged and they had no support at home.

    When my own son started at a new school in 6th grade, he was targeted the first week by some kids. He came home one day and reluctantly told me he had been beat up by two girls who had taken his shirt and put him into a garbage can after gym class. Physically put him in a garbage can.

    Because of what I saw my brothers go through (my parents never took any action to stop it), I was not going to do nothing and have the situation at my son's new school escalate. Personally, I think a big factor in school bullying is a mob mentality that creates an atmosphere of acceptance for beating up on certain kids; once those kids have been implicitly accepted in that role by their peers and teachers (as well as accepting it themselves), the bullying will continue indefinitely and escalate. I wanted to have it stopped immediately, before it solidified into the status quo.

    I went in that day, with my son, to see the director at his school, which is a nationally recognized charter school that has very high expectations of its students. He explained to the director what had occurred. She took it all very seriously. She said she would put a stop to it, that this kind of thing is not accepted at the school. Sure enough, she contacted the parents of all the kids involved that same day, called them all in and explained to them what their kids had done and that such behavior wouldn't be tolerated, and then suspended them all for three days. The kids involved wrote apologies to my son, although they were not asked to do so. When they returned to school, things were fine. There was no retaliation – I think mainly because the director had made it clear it would not be tolerated, to the parents as well as to the kids.

    My son ended up friends with those kids, within a week, and now, five years later (the school is both middle and high school), he is very confidently non-conformist, unafraid of what other students think. I know he disagrees with me and is of the opinion that kids should have to work things out for themselves if they find themselves bullied in school; he doesn't agree with me having stepped in like I did. However, i would do it again in a second, because I feel like I have seen how it can go when parents don't get involved. He's a child and doesn't see the whole picture. I don't care whether he agrees with me or not. It's my job as a parent to make decisions as to whether something is harmful or not.

    That's not to say that it's not beneficial for kids to work out their conflicts. Of course it is. However, bullying is not really conflict, in my opinion. It is intentionally cruel and destructive behavior against another human being. Authorities such as school staff and parents should be there to protect children from the physical and emotional damage bullying can cause, to demonstrate to kids that cruelty and abuse of another human being is not OK and not tolerated in school.

    In fact, I think that may be the first step to dealing with the problem in the schools: for people to recognize that bullying is not "conflict" and is not something kids can "resolve," no matter how long they are subjected to it. It is cruelty and abuse and it should not be tolerated.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  2. john allen

    I am glad to see attention being paid to a climate of bullying that brings suffering to young people but originates with our leaders. I hope to see this behavior replaced by some other creative outlet, in schools and the world stage. Bravo to the filmmaker Lee Hirsch for breaking the ice.

    October 5, 2010 at 2:27 am |
  3. Steve

    Why was the most difficult question the one about the bullies themselves? The interviewer and interviewee ran from the question. The parents of the bully think it's okay and it is the problem of t he victim. Repercussions. Grow up and accept it. They need repercussions and their parents need to f***in hear it.

    October 5, 2010 at 12:43 am |
  4. alex m

    i am a 16 year old girl who was bulled from 2nd grade to about 8th. people get all sad when someone dies from being bulled. when i know it could have been stopped but no one did anything. then there are thouse people who say that bullying is not that big of a deal. will i have to ask have you ever came home ready to kill your self? have you ever came home feeling like your worth less. at the age of ten i felt like just ending it all. SO PLEASE TELL ME BULLYING IS NOT A BIG DEAL!

    October 4, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  5. Carmen Rivera -- playwright / educator

    I am an artist and educator who does workshops in the schools about bullying. One of the things that astounds me whenever there are stories about bullying, the "bullies" are never interviewed. I definitely think it's important to emphasize how painful bullying is! But why isn't there any attention given the the fact that bullies are wrong? Where are their parents? Parents of bullies have to responsible for the actions of their children. Where are the schools? It is the responsibility of the schools to protect their students. I've been in schools that have successfully dealt with the bullying situation and the common denominator for the success is that the bully / bully behavior was made public. Then there was an effort to integrate the bully back into a school environment. I know that's difficult because even adults support the idea that students shouldn't "snitch." But bullying continues to happen, because there a collective effort to keep bullying a secret until a tragedy happens. As a society, we must to stand up to the bullies. Adults who work with children must interfere and report incidents of bullying.

    October 4, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
  6. Rick Naylor

    Stop a bully? I started life in an L.A. orphanage 73 years ago; lived much of my early life as a street urchin.Over the years I have written a million miles of notes on why bullies rule. I believe I know when they start and when they stop. Stopping them is not a secret. It's a system. Watch for my web-site "Run Bully Run" . Over 55 years associated with law enforcement, I've seen it all. Never give in.

    October 4, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
  7. atam24

    As the very proud father of an amazing 17 year old boy who is very accomplished despite suffering from Tourette's Syndrome and bullies since age 4, it pains me every time I hear a story like this. We adults can legislate all we want. That will be meaningless to these children. The best weapon we have to fight this is the peers of the children themselves. In my opinion every school principal should call together a group of student leaders from all facets of the school; athletics, academics, shop, music, drama, etc to the point where anywhere there may be a kid that needs to be protected then a peer leader and protector can be there. These kids will only ever be effectively dealt with by their peers. Being called out by a teacher may be seen as an accomplishment to a bully. But I promise you, if that same kid is called out by the kids who have real social weight in that school then they will listen. We need to seek out these kids in every school, put them on task as being hero's, and then celebrate their doing it. Make it a club...make it an honors course...make it extra credit, whatever. Just make it happen. My son has survived and thrived through his own strong self of self and with the help of some really great friends who have no tolerance for bullies. As one of his friends put's it; "We're always on loser patrol. If any of the scumbags try to jump on someone else, guys or girls, we don't care... we quickly remind them that their scumbags and the kid they were targeting is with us. We can't stand losers!" My son is very worthy of these friends, and I am very lucky. My hope is that this type of a peer support system can be formalized and executed everywhere. Thank you.

    October 4, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  8. Marvin Wadlow Jr

    I love this project, I love Lee for being one of the bravest filmmakers I know! 🙂

    October 4, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  9. Helen M

    I'm a 17 year old girl. I think my generation has been in the worst bullying crisis ever.(its just my opinion.. i dont know exactly) I had to move schools twice because of being "bullied" or tortured by other students(girls) I had to get on anti-depressants and i even "conflicted injuries on myself" for years. My best friend was very close to killing himself over bullies. He was taken to a hospital then a mental facility.. All because of bullies at our school. I dont know if its because this generation is more sensitive and have more emotional problems or because the bullies are getting worse. either way, it is an EPIDEMIC. I wish everyone could do something about it but i don't know how. i wish people would take it more seriously and have worse consequences.

    October 4, 2010 at 11:24 am |