Bully Culture in American Schools

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There's an interesting new documentary out called Bully that chronicles the hell that many teens are going through due to rampant bullying in American schools. I haven't seen the full film yet, but from snippets and interviews it seems to make a good point that despite anti-bullying campaigns, problems with bullying have actually gotten worse over the past 20-30 years.

http://thebullyproject.com/

http://www.chicagonow.com/portrait-o...

So, here's my question - do you guys think that bullying is far worse in today's high schools, or is it simply getting more attention? If it's worse, why? Does this reflect a certain moral decay and apathy in our society at large? And the million dollar question - should bullying be seen as just another part of growing up, and are we sheltering our children and giving them unrealistic expectations if we don't teach them how to deal with bullying?

Frankly, I think the explosion of bullying has more to do with the incompetence of school administrators than anything else. Bullies continue bullying because they know there are few if any meaningful repercussions to their acts of intimidation. Their victims can't get away, call the cops, or resort to legal action like adults would. And since administrators are more often concerned with shielding themselves from liability, they have a vested interest in pretending the situation doesn't exist.

I saw a part of the movie in which the school principle attempts to draw some kind of moral equivalence between the bully and the bullied because the victim wouldn't accept the tormentor's obviously fake apology. This sort of crap is pretty commonplace.

And we wonder why kids shoot the hell out of their classmates.

Regarding the million dollar question, I'd say unless you're in prison, you will never be as helpless as an adult to deal with bullying as you will while you are a schoolchild. In fact, making kids think the 'real world' is like school is the unrealistic expectation. If school were like life, high grades and being liked by the teachers would get you promoted to a position where you could fire people for bullying you. Like the new saying goes, It Gets Better.

Anybody who thinks it's worse now was probably a popular kid to some degree. I don't know how I escaped too much - I only got assaulted once (just shoved over a table). But I did come home crying a few times when I was younger, and when I started playing violin, I got called a f** roughly 4,982 times. My dad has stories about kids beating the hell out of him, and he in turn just passed it down the ladder (in the 1950s).

I think the first step is to equip the children to handle it.

There is some amount of bullying that, frankly, is simply practice for adult life. I can't tell you how many 45 and 50 year old (men, mostly, but now always) people I've stopped who think they can simply bully me until I don't give them a ticket. It's obviously worked for them, or they wouldn't try it on a cop. I think that therefore, you need to try to equip your child with reasonable ways to handle a bully and to deal with the emotional aftermath in their own lives. It's not like they're going to hit college and suddenly bullying stops, so to try to shelter them from everything is unrealistic.

I think that beyond that, children should be encouraged to discuss these issues with their parents, and schools need to be willing to look at the issue from all sides. This kind of discussion needs to include the alleged bully's parents as well as the victim child. I don't know what professional steps are reasonable - you can't send every kid who teases somebody to a shrink.

Mostly, though, it's a system of action-reward. The bully feels bad about himself, he teases somebody else, he can see them get upset, it raises his self esteem because he feels like he had an effect on the world. In other words, he/she learns that they get what they want through the emotional belittling of others. That's why it's so important to talk to your kids about it, so they can learn how to give these kids less of what they need through those channels. And don't forget - once your kid's self esteem is lowered, he might become a bully as well: Even in my super-nerd circles, we just passed the abuse right down the chain to the next lowest rung of the social ladder when we were feeling crappy about life.

I don't think you can stop it. It's part of children developing social norms and values. I think that you need to guide the children through it so that their norms and values are acceptable instead of anti-social.

InspectorFowler wrote:

I think that therefore, you need to try to equip your child with reasonable ways to handle a bully and to deal with the emotional aftermath in their own lives.

One thing we should keep in mind is that this would be just as new as trying to shelter our children. Our approach to children handling a bully in the past was very much 'sink or swim': not a lot effort was made to ensure that children acquired healthy was as opposed to maladaptive ways of handling bullies.

We also have to remember that we've taken a very potent tool for dealing with bullies out of the hands of kids: beating the sh*t out of the bully. Someone bullies you and you punch them in the face, you're the one getting expelled these days. There's no Stand Your Ground law for children.

Paleocon wrote:

Frankly, I think the explosion of bullying has more to do with the incompetence of school administrators than anything else. Bullies continue bullying because they know there are few if any meaningful repercussions to their acts of intimidation. Their victims can't get away, call the cops, or resort to legal action like adults would. And since administrators are more often concerned with shielding themselves from liability, they have a vested interest in pretending the situation doesn't exist.

This is all true. The sad fact is that it's simply easier for school faculty to ignore the problem than to try and resolve it.

Paleocon wrote:

Frankly, I think the explosion of bullying has more to do with the incompetence of PARENTS than anything else. Bullies continue bullying because they know there are few if any meaningful repercussions to their acts of intimidation. Their victims can't get away, call the cops, or resort to legal action like adults would. And since administrators are more often concerned with shielding themselves from liability, they have a vested interest in pretending the situation doesn't exist.

I saw a part of the movie in which the school principle attempts to draw some kind of moral equivalence between the bully and the bullied because the victim wouldn't accept the tormentor's obviously fake apology. This sort of crap is pretty commonplace.

And we wonder why kids shoot the hell out of their classmates.

I made a small correction for you.

Ironic though, bullying didn't seem to be as big an issue when teachers were allowed to slap the snot out of you!

I think it's just a case of it getting more attention. It was very bad in the 70's too, I can assure you of that.

I agree with Paleocon, in that the blame lies in the school system, and that there are not sufficient methods of dealing with it.

Bullying is a good learning experience, and I think the school system ought to allow the kids the proper reaction to a bully - slap down with extreme prejudice.

The problem is both parents who are bullies themselves, and school authorities who are not reprimanded for allowing bullying to occur in their schools.

Private schools take bullying seriously. It can be a problem, but there's a built-in incentive for school authorities to take it very seriously - a bully can hurt their bottom line directly by causing children to opt for other schools who have better anti-bully measures.

LarryC wrote:

Bullying is a good learning experience, and I think the school system ought to allow the kids the proper reaction to a bully - slap down with extreme prejudice.

This is how I learned to deal with bullies in school. As I moved around a rather large amount while in school I was always the new kid. It took me a few years to learn not to do that once I became an adult. Kicking the sh*t out of someone for trying to intimidate you or others isn't exactly an acceptable response. It did teach me how to fight to the death against multiple enemies however.

plavonica wrote:
LarryC wrote:

Bullying is a good learning experience, and I think the school system ought to allow the kids the proper reaction to a bully - slap down with extreme prejudice.

This is how I learned to deal with bullies in school. As I moved around a rather large amount while in school I was always the new kid. It took me a few years to learn not to do that once I became an adult. Kicking the sh*t out of someone for trying to intimidate you or others isn't exactly an acceptable response. It did teach me how to fight to the death against multiple enemies however.

Sort of in the same position. If school is supposed to socialize you and inform you about acceptable behavior in wider society, this is one area where it falls down in spectacular fashion. The ONLY way to deal with bullies in a school context is to jump in their laps and beat the everloving snail snot out of them because going to the authorities (administrators) invariably results in negative consequences. Nothing good come from it. And if, after you graduate, you live anywhere else besides prison or the ghetto, this response is not only unacceptable. It's criminal.

It is precisely the failure of schools to deal with this sort of thing in a meaningful manner that creates monsters like Sung Wie Cho or Harris and Klebold.

My son was attacked by a classmate a few years ago. Fortunately Ben is a big boy for his age and sustained nothing but a few scratches but the kid basically jumped on his back and started trying to punch him in the head. His response, with a couple of his friends was to basically hold the kid down until one of them could get a teacher. Now this kids actions aren't new, apparently this type of behavior happens on a weekly basis yet this hyperactive, hyperaggressive freak still continues to be mainstreamed because they don't want to hurt his feelings or impact his self esteem.

He came home with a bunch of scratches, told us what happened and I asked him if he got any shots in. He told me they aren't supposed to do that. When I asked why he told me that they're told if someone starts a fight they're supposed to "curl into a fetal position and scream "I DON'T WANT TO FIGHT". When I asked him where he heard this he told me "it's what the teachers told him to do". I told him that if he does this he's just setting himself up to get kicked in the head and that there's a HUGE difference between walking away, defending yourself, and setting yourself up as a human punching bag. His mom didn't like it but I told him that if he's attacked he has every right to defend himself. I told him that I never want him to be the aggressor or the person that initiates a fight but he has every right to defend himself and I'll stand by him 100%. I was absolutely blown away by the fetal position revelation.

That's our current response to bullying. When I was in school, the aggressor would have received a proper beat down and a lesson in social order.

Yep. I was picked on constantly as a kid, partially because I was just a nerdy weakling and partially because or a horrendous nickname my parents decided to use as my common name back then because I share the same real name as my father. The position of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board on the issue was (and as far as I know still is) that if there's a fight, both parties get suspended. It doesn't matter if you have an army of witnesses on your side or if you were fighting with someone who has a known history of bullying or that you have no history of violence yourself. You get in a fight, you are both suspended, no questions asked. So you either refuse to fight and paint a bright red target on your back or you do fight and are treated the same as the bully as far as "the system" is concerned. The only thing you can do is appeal the suspension which takes time and if you need a lawyer, money and all that does is remove it from your record, it doesn't get the bully dealt with and it doesn't make up for the education you have to miss because you dared to defend yourself. There is no doubt that the bullying I endured (both at school and from my father) severely impacted my social development and frankly, I hope those who bullied me have gone on to have miserable lives. Some would say I'm a bad person for thinking that and maybe I am but I don't care. Among the myriad reasons why my girlfriend and I don't want kids is that we don't want to have to send our children into a school system that permits this kind of thing to happen (and that's only 1 of the many ways it fails kids).

Came across this article this morning by coincidence. Thought this part was interesting regarding suicide clusters: "Understand the “circles of vulnerability” in order to identify those most at risk after a suicide has occurred in the community. Circles of vulnerability include individuals who: Had a negative interaction with the victim shortly before the suicide occurred and who perhaps even encouraged it."

What about preventing bullying for the bully's future sake? Is it responsible of us as adults to let a bully engage in clearly wrongful behavior he might regret when he matures? I bet there are a lot of bullies who really wish they could take back what they did when they were young and who have the right to ask why the people in charge let them get away with acting like that.

Here's another question: would we ever accept that kind of behavior directed as us, the adults in authority? So why are we giving it a free pass just because it's directed at the vulnerable and young? What kind of message does that send to the bully? What does it say about us that we've focused on whether we should defend the victim instead of focusing on correcting the unacceptable behavior of the violator?

Bullying isn't American culture it's human nature. As long as there has been people someone's been getting the short end of the beat-stick.

All of this hand-wringing that's going on over bullying is basically an out of touch school system combined with out of touch parents who want to blame something external when someone commits suicide.

I was picked on until about 2nd grade when I learned that I had to occasionally risk an ass-whupping to assert my place in the class. This is old school "lord of the flies" type of human behavior that is going to exist in this setting in perpetuity.

I'm not going to go on the "wussification of the American Male" tangent here and I do think that some types of bullying cross the line into hate crime. There is a difference between bullying someone for the hell of it and being racist or homophobic. Not a huge difference, but a palpable one.

At one point I remember coming home after begin jumped after school and asking my mom what to do and she said "Honey, you got big strong legs you need to kick someone's ass with 'em."

There are times in life when you have to stand up for yourself. Physical conflict should be a last resort but no matter how genteel our society sometimes you just have to powerslam a bully and let everyone know that you aren't the one they should be f*cking with.

Bear wrote:

My son was attacked by a classmate a few years ago. Fortunately Ben is a big boy for his age and sustained nothing but a few scratches but the kid basically jumped on his back and started trying to punch him in the head. His response, with a couple of his friends was to basically hold the kid down until one of them could get a teacher. Now this kids actions aren't new, apparently this type of behavior happens on a weekly basis yet this hyperactive, hyperaggressive freak still continues to be mainstreamed because they don't want to hurt his feelings or impact his self esteem.

He came home with a bunch of scratches, told us what happened and I asked him if he got any shots in. He told me they aren't supposed to do that. When I asked why he told me that they're told if someone starts a fight they're supposed to "curl into a fetal position and scream "I DON'T WANT TO FIGHT". When I asked him where he heard this he told me "it's what the teachers told him to do". I told him that if he does this he's just setting himself up to get kicked in the head and that there's a HUGE difference between walking away, defending yourself, and setting yourself up as a human punching bag. His mom didn't like it but I told him that if he's attacked he has every right to defend himself. I told him that I never want him to be the aggressor or the person that initiates a fight but he has every right to defend himself and I'll stand by him 100%. I was absolutely blown away by the fetal position revelation.

That's our current response to bullying. When I was in school, the aggressor would have received a proper beat down and a lesson in social order.

I agree with the lessons you're teaching your son but I'm still very impressed by his behavior. Doing what he was told to do instead of getting heated and losing his cool is awesome.

I'm concerned about bullying in regards to my son...not necessarily about whether he'll be bullied but more about how he will handle it. Due to some past traumas he suffered (he's adopted), he carries around a lot of rage. So I'm worried about what bullying will do his self-esteem, which is weak, and whether he'll seriously hurt the kid if he snaps, which will have its own repercussions.

I do laugh a bit, however. He is currently in karate. Of the kids in his class, some 40% or so of them are Indian (of the Asian variety). As I remember a bunch of Indian kids getting picked on when I was young, I imagine that a few bullies will have their asses handed to them when they try bully these kids.

Of course, since every kid these days seems to be taking martial arts, it may not matter that much.

From my perspective as someone who bridges the technology gap, bullying is "new" or "worse" thanks to the internet, cell phones. With facebook, twitter, texting, e-mail a bully can reach far beyond the schoolground. It has gone far from a little hell at school, to a constant fear of harassment offline, online, on your phone. Couple that with the normal isolation teens feel from puberty alone, and you certainly have something new.

I am very thankful I was never a teenager with all of the tools out there. My parents certainly would not have had the arsenal to combat cyber bullying.

KingGorilla wrote:

From my perspective as someone who bridges the technology gap, bullying is "new" or "worse" thanks to the internet, cell phones. With facebook, twitter, texting, e-mail a bully can reach far beyond the schoolground. It has gone far from a little hell at school, to a constant fear of harassment offline, online, on your phone. Couple that with the normal isolation teens feel from puberty alone, and you certainly have something new.

I am very thankful I was never a teenager with all of the tools out there. My parents certainly would not have had the arsenal to combat cyber bullying.

How can parents combat cyber bullying? Aside, of course, from physically threatening the little douches who do it...which has its own consequences.

I always thought that learning to deal with bullies was part of my education. I never had to deal with cyber-bullying, but I feel like a kid has a ton of tools at their disposal to shield themselves from that sort of thing.

Trying to prevent bullying is not the right way to approach this. It's going to happen. It's part of human nature. Kids are terrible.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

Bullying isn't American culture it's human nature. As long as there has been people someone's been getting the short end of the beat-stick.

All of this hand-wringing that's going on over bullying is basically an out of touch school system combined with out of touch parents who want to blame something external when someone commits suicide.

I was picked on until about 2nd grade when I learned that I had to occasionally risk an ass-whupping to assert my place in the class. This is old school "lord of the flies" type of human behavior that is going to exist in this setting in perpetuity.

Damm right! It is just human nature. That is what I try to tell those upitty bitches who complain about rape! I is just old school "lord of the flies" type of human behavior and it is going to exist in perpetuity! Get over it! Right! Your with me right? Why should we try to change or improve upon human nature? It worked for cromagnons so it should work for us!

Seriously do you see when I put it that way how ridiculous your argument appears? Just because something has been going on for a long time in human interaction doesn't mean we accept it as ok.

LobsterMobster wrote:

I always thought that learning to deal with bullies was part of my education. I never had to deal with cyber-bullying, but I feel like a kid has a ton of tools at their disposal to shield themselves from that sort of thing.

Trying to prevent bullying is not the right way to approach this. It's going to happen. It's part of human nature. Kids are terrible.

Humans are terrible, and kids typically just model their parents, or in some cases are untrained due to any parenting at all.

Society breaks down quickly, even for adults, without enforced laws. For the same reason, the internet when left unchecked quickly becomes a cesspool.

Personally, I don't 'get' cyber-bullying. I would just classify that as 'evidence'.

farley3k wrote:

Damm right! It is just human nature. That is what I try to tell those upitty bitches who complain about rape!

You know, considering women are going to enter a workforce where they will encounter the Herman Cain's of the world, maybe we should just stop trying to prevent male teachers from having sex with their female students. I mean, in the real world women are going to have to deal with creepy old dudes in positions of authority trying to get it in at the office: we should just make sure they learn how to handle sexual harassment and not shelter them from the truth about what it's like for grown-ups.

TheArtOfScience wrote:
farley3k wrote:

Damm right! It is just human nature. That is what I try to tell those upitty bitches who complain about rape! I is just old school "lord of the flies" type of human behavior and it is going to exist in perpetuity! Get over it! Right! Your with me right? Why should we try to change or improve upon human nature? It worked for cromagnons so it should work for us!

Seriously do you see when I put it that way how ridiculous your argument appears? Just because something has been going on for a long time in human interaction doesn't mean we accept it as ok.

You act like I'm the one making outrageous assertions when you just compared school bullying to rape? Who said anything about rape in this topic? If you think they are equal then...I guess I'm really glad I didn't go to your school. You also conveniently left out the part where I made an exception for hate crime. Stuff like, y'know, rape.

I was bullied periodically in school. I turned out fine. In some regards I think having experienced an honest to goodness ass-whupping at one point in your life can be a valuable experience to draw upon when you get older.

I think you guys are making a mistake in trying to draw parallels between rape/harassment/molestation and the simpler power structure that dictates school social hierarchy.

That wasn't the parallel being made. The parallel was the acceptance of things because they're human nature and have always existed.

Also rape/harassment/molestation are almost entirely about power and are pretty relevant to this kind of discussion. The line between "honest to goodness ass-whupping" and "terrible thing to happen to you" is pretty damn small, if it actually exists at all.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

I think you guys are making a mistake in trying to draw parallels between rape/harassment/molestation and the simpler power structure that dictates school social hierarchy.

I say part of a school's mission should be to teach kids a better way of forming and inhabiting power structures, even ones as simple as a school social hierarchy. What they learn about power and hierarchy in school may be what they take with them into adult life.

Like I said before: stopping bullying isn't just about the victim, it's about the bully--no kid deserves to be allowed to act like a terrible person. Even if they do grow out of it into a decent adult, then they'll just wind up regretting the things they did as a kid.

farley3k wrote:

Damm right! It is just human nature. That is what I try to tell those upitty bitches who complain about rape! I is just old school "lord of the flies" type of human behavior and it is going to exist in perpetuity! Get over it! Right! Your with me right? Why should we try to change or improve upon human nature? It worked for cromagnons so it should work for us!

Seriously do you see when I put it that way how ridiculous your argument appears? Just because something has been going on for a long time in human interaction doesn't mean we accept it as ok.

You act like I'm the one making outrageous assertions when you just compared school bullying to rape? Who said anything about rape in this topic? If you think they are equal then...I guess I'm really glad I didn't go to your school. You also conveniently left out the part where I made an exception for hate crime. Stuff like, y'know, rape.

I was bullied periodically in school. I turned out fine. In some regards I think having experienced an honest to goodness ass-whupping at one point in your life can be a valuable experience to draw upon when you get older.

I think you guys are making a mistake in trying to draw parallels between rape/harassment/molestation and the simpler power structure that dictates school social hierarchy.

This is basic human behavior. As much as you want to abhor it or say to yourself "That is soooo 18th century" it is still very much how human society organizes itself. The internet is no different. There are bullies everywhere on the internet and even here. If someone comes into P&C and espouses an unpopular opinion people can't wait to line up and tell them how stupid creationism/tea partyism/car-humping dragonism is. That's Lord Of the Flies at work in our very own tightly knit community. It's much more obvious elsewhere.

How many of you work in an office with bullies? The ones that start rumors behind your back or steal your lunch or take credit for your work? They'd still be giving you swirlies if society let them and they had no fear of reprisal.

Saying "stop school bullying" is akin to saying "stop high school sex". The crassness of school bullying is a product of an inexperienced mind trying to understand how our complex social hierarchy is derived.

I'm not saying that bullying is good, I'm saying that it is natural. You have to communicate and talk with your child and understand what their life is like. You have a responsibility as a parent to know if something is amiss or is crossing the line. I don't buy that "they won't talk to me" schtick. As the parents we hold the cards (credit and otherwise) and shouldn't allow our children to hide their lives from us.

Now stop comparing this stuff to rape. Violent crime is violent crime. A wedgie's just a wedgie.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

How many of you work in an office with bullies? The ones that start rumors behind your back or steal your lunch or take credit for your work? They'd still be giving you swirlies if society let them and they had no fear of reprisal.

You say yourself that adult bullies are not allowed to give swirlies because society doesn't let them. Why does school society let them when they are kids?

Now stop comparing this stuff to rape. Violent crime is violent crime. A wedgie's just a wedgie.

How is being beaten up not a violent crime?

If kids do it to other kids, it's not violent?

TheArtOfScience wrote:

If someone comes into P&C and espouses an unpopular opinion people can't wait to line up and tell them how stupid creationism/tea partyism/car-humping dragonism is. That's Lord Of the Flies at work in our very own tightly knit community. It's much more obvious elsewhere.

As someone who often espouses unpopular opinions in P&C, it doesn't feel very Lord of the Flies to me (ironically, because some of it is due to people who don't understand what that book is actually about).

SixteenBlue: So rape is part of human nature? I dispute that.

CheezePavilion: Have you ever tried to teach a group of middle school kids....anything? It can be....a challenge. What is this better way that you speak of? If there is a better way we sure haven't figured it out yet because we're still bombing the sh*t out of people who live in huts and caves. Kind of bullyish, isn't it?

No kid deserves to be allowed to act like a terrible person? What if the kid is just an asshole? Some people are born that way. I think you are well intentioned with what you are saying but you are talking about kids like they aren't people. Kids are just little people and they do all the same petty sh*t us grownups do to each other.

All we can do as parents is stay involved in our child's life and teach them love and respect in the home. It's not a school's job to tell our kids what is "good" and "evil" behavior. If someone has to tell little Timmy that jamming someone's head in a toilet is bad then somewhere along the way little Timmy's parents didn't do their job.

I'd also wager that most bullies don't grow up to regret it. They grow up into bigger bullies.

EDIT: There's a difference between getting beaten up in 5th grade and getting assaulted by a grown man. Did you guys go to school in a monastery or were you vat made? You're posting about kids like you never were one.

I wish you guys would stop bullying up on me. QQ

TheArtOfScience wrote:

CheezePavilion: Have you ever tried to teach a group of middle school kids....anything? It can be....a challenge. What is this better way that you speak of? If there is a better way we sure haven't figured it out yet because we're still bombing the sh*t out of people who live in huts and caves. Kind of bullyish, isn't it?

No.

No kid deserves to be allowed to act like a terrible person? What if the kid is just an asshole? Some people are born that way.

Yes, I know:

I think you are well intentioned with what you are saying but you are talking about kids like they aren't people. Kids are just little people and they do all the same petty sh*t us grownups do to each other.

No, they're also less capable of controlling their actions and understanding the consequences of those actions. They're not just little people: they're as *human* as any adult, but they're not just miniature or toy versions of adults.

All we can do as parents is stay involved in our child's life and teach them love and respect in the home. It's not a school's job to tell our kids what is "good" and "evil" behavior. If someone has to tell little Timmy that jamming someone's head in a toilet is bad then somewhere along the way little Timmy's parents didn't do their job.

If the parents aren't doing their job, then we need to do it for them.

I'd also wager that most bullies don't grow up to regret it. They grow up into bigger bullies.

I'll take that bet.

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