The High Price of Bullying

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A year ago today, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover took his own life. The Springfield, Mass., boy was about a week shy of his 12th birthday. His suicide came after months of brutal taunting that began when he entered sixth grade the previous September.

Carl was a slightly built young man who had yet to see his teenage growth spurt. His appearance was enough for some classmates to target him as "gay." Getting pummeled day in, day out with every homophobic slur that kids can muster took its toll on him.

So Carl committed suicide by hanging himself with an extension cord. His story has been echoed disturbingly too many times, most recently in the case of Phoebe Prince. She was the 15-year-old Irish immigrant who killed herself in January after enduring a relentless campaign of cyberbullying. 

Thankfully, kids who commit suicide remain rare. But instances of bullying are not. According to a 2005 poll by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), nearly two-thirds of U.S. middle and high school students reported being harassed or assaulted during the past year. Also, more than a third said that either bullying, name-calling or harassment is a somewhat or very serious problem at school.

There are many ways to remember Carl and to do something about bullying. You can start by going to Facebook’s "5 minutes to remember Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover" page today. Also, Carl’s mother and GLSEN have launched a petition drive urging Congress to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act, or H.R. 2262. It would require schools that receive federal education funding to implement a comprehensive anti-bullying policy.

Perhaps the biggest thing teachers can do is to be there for kids who are bullied at their own schools. Teaching Tolerance offers lessons for teachers and tips for students about how to handle bullying. Schools are supposed to be safe places for kids. Bullying makes them unsafe. We do not put up with other threats within schools. It’s time to stop ignoring this one.

Comments

My daughter started at a new

Submitted by Maryann Bunt on 14 May 2010 - 7:58am.

My daughter started at a new school this year. She is only 8 years old and in the 3rd grade. Since the 2 week of school she has been bullied and harassed. My husband and I had 3 to 4 meetings with the principle but no actions were ever taken. She treated my daughter,my husband and myself like we were liars. My daughter started getting physically ill and ended up getting an ulcer from all the stress at school. Even with doctors notes the school didnt believe us. Finally after going to the superintendent of the school and still nothing happening my husband decided to home school our daughter. But I dont want the principle to get away with not doing anything. I believe things need to change in schools when it comes to bullying. I watched my daughter go from being out going, confident to becoming very insecure, depressed, scared. She is finally becoming more confident again. But she is still scared to make new friends, to talk to new kids, and she still thinks there's something wrong with her because of what has happened. I don't want to see another child go through something like this. So I'm writing a letter about what my daughter went through hoping some kind of action will be taken so that bullying will not be tolerated. Im open to any advice anyone can give me.

It's great for your daughter

Submitted by Alma on 15 July 2010 - 12:37am.

It's great for your daughter that she had parents who stood behind her - even in the face of school officials. However, that is difficult. I had a teacher who decided to confront some girls who were bullying me in my presence. Unfortunately, it only cemented my feelings of inferiority when they had no problem talking about how horrible I was to the teacher. I still remember the sneers and disgusted looks on their faces.

Kids who are more bully-resistant are more able to laugh at themselves first - or spin the negatives into positives. The bully tries to hurt their feelings, but they are comfortable with being imperfect. I would venture to say that perfectionist children may be much more affected by criticism (which makes the bully feel powerful).

Some examples of resilient thinking:
Maybe I have braces now, but I'm going to look really good when they come off.
I'd rather be weird than be boring!
Or, if something doesn't go well in a game of kickball, there's always tomorrow (and a game plan to be made).

I wish the best for your daughter in her quest against bullying!

I love your comment! That

Submitted by Cathryn on 24 August 2010 - 1:46pm.

I love your comment! That really is the key. The least effective player to go after to stop the bullying cycle is the bully. If the bully figures out that they aren't having any effect, then they will very often give up the effort.

There are those instances where the bully will be extremely persistent. In those cases, it is important to rely on "strength in numbers." Once bullying and mistreatment of others becomes socially "uncool" that's when it will stop, or at least decrease.

You are absolutely, right! I

Submitted by Amy Powell on 6 April 2010 - 3:25pm.

You are absolutely, right! I am a concerned mother, teacher, and non profit director. My son has been bullied this year so horribly that he has felt uncomfortable to go to school, and he is only in 4th grade. I am going to volunteer to teach your curriculum from your website to classes at his elementary school in Long Beach. We need to unite to stop bullying in the schools. UNITED WE STAND!

Instead of creating a bunch

Submitted by Sara on 18 April 2010 - 4:10am.

Instead of creating a bunch of wimps by totally protecting them from bullies, maybe we should teach them to fight back. Granted, bullying is bad and is against the rules of the schools. But that's what it's like in the real world. The children coming out of the schools now are learning that if someone is doing something bad to them that they don't have to deal with it because someone else will fix the problem (namely the government). But if we teach them to fight back, they will be able to take care of their own problems without the aid of anyone else. That's not to say that we teach them to go beat up anybody who looks at them wrong, but they need to learn how and when to defend themselves. That's one of the most basic rules of any self defense discipline; use it only as a last resort if nothing else works. Parents and teachers need to do their jobs of stopping the bullying, but the kids can't rely totally on the parents and teachers to step in and stop a bully every time they're being bullied. They need to be able to deal with it in the immediate situation instead of being helplessly beaten up while they're waiting for a parent or teacher to stop it.

As someone who was bullied

Submitted by Val on 6 April 2010 - 2:46pm.

As someone who was bullied herself, I agree that this is a threat that cannot be ignored.

The one question I keep asking myself, and sometimes voice to others, because of that is this: If we admit that our schools should not be ignorant, then why on Earth do we seem to keep advocating the exact opposite to those who are being bullied at the same time?

Am I the only one who, because of her own experience and that of my peers, has been led to believe that this is not the best advice?

Am I the only one who feels this belief is reinforced by the fact that 1) whenever we tried to walk away the bullying kept following us wherever we go, 2) whenever we tried to ignore it, we either a) failed or b) succeeded by making ourselves totally oblivious to everything around us except what we were focused on, only to be subject to some sort of "surprise attack", and 3) we are told in self-defense classes to PAY ATTENTION to everything that's happening around us - including such threats - rather than ignoring them, among other things?

Do you see what I mean? We cannot just state that the bullying will stop for each individual student if THEY ignore it, yet still say it will continue and get worse if the SCHOOLS do. That does not make any sense!