School Bullying Council

School Bullying Resources for Administrators, Teachers, Parents, and Students

School Bullying Council - School Bullying Resources for Administrators, Teachers, Parents, and Students

School Districts To Add Bullying Rules If Bill Passes

A bill in the state House committee requires the school board of
each school district to adopt a policy prohibiting bullying.

One of the hot topics at the final crackerbarrel on Saturday, the
Bully Bill, makes each school district define bullying, and set
rules in place to protect students from its harmful effects.

According to state Representative Jacqueline Sly, South Dakota is
the only state that does not have a policy in place that mandates
each school district have rules governing bullying in schools.

She says currently there are 13 districts in South Dakota with no
rules for bullying.

Jacqueline Sly, Representative of District 33, says, “Some of the
school districts have a definition of bullying, and then they
also have steps that they need to take. How do they report it?
What procedure does it go through? Who does it go to? At what
point do they contact law enforcement or parents, or bring the
students in and speak to them? I think that’s key to have some
process in place, that they know what they need to do.”

Senate bill 130 has already passed the senate, and is currently
in the House Education Committee.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46529669

Recognise the bully within by how you take insecurities out on friends

Rather than fists and stones, their weapons of choice are their tongue and their thumbs, with which text messages are sent out to the gang of friends.

In an instant, someone is unfriended and a systematic programme of verbal abuse and ostracisation begins.

Last week I wrote about this relational aggression among girls. This week I want to make some suggestions about what parents can do about it.

First, look to thine own self. We don’t always think of it but adults are often bullies. If you bully colleagues or friends, ignoring their phone calls, dismissing their ideas publicly, leaving them out of social events, your daughter is bound to see this as a model for social interactions. “Ah, so that’s how I deal with my insecurities. Strengthen my standing in the group by turning the others against a common enemy,” she might think.

Next, have a pre-emptive conversation with your daughter about bullying, preferably around age 10 when it most commonly starts. Talk to her about what relational aggression looks like, ask if she has seen it around her – and talk about strategies she can use if it does happen one day. Teach and model healthy assertiveness.

Make it clear to her and her friends that not only will you not tolerate relational aggression, but you will always be there for them if they need to talk about it. This increases the chance that a victim you know will ask for your help before things get too bad, bearing in mind that victims of relational aggression often keep silent.

Advise your daughter not to invest her all at school, in one group of friends or one area of activity. Encourage her to have some friends and interests away from school. School can be a hothouse of insecurities and jealousies, sealed off from other influences. A girl who has friends and activities out of school has a better chance of keeping her perspective on bullies in school.

One of my clients was a teenager who really struggled to integrate with other girls at her new school. Somehow she just couldn’t crack the codes of behaviour and be accepted.

“I honestly don’t know what I’m doing wrong,” she would say. She turned out fine in the end – not so much because of anything I did or said, (although counselling is another important remedy) but because she was highly involved in the equestrian world, where she had other friends, from other schools and earned commendations for her achievements.

For the same reason (having other areas of emotional investment) a girl excelling at a particular academic or extra-mural activity in school might suffer less when she is harassed by her social group.

Then there’s writing. Jassy Mackenzie, a Johannesburg crime novelist, says that writing her first novel helped her to come to terms with a brush with crime. In the same way, journaling or keeping a private diary helps many girls to clarify their feelings, record incidents and have a safe place just to be. Encourage your daughter to write about all her feelings, and to include writing about positive experiences and emotions too.

Also, listen to your daughter and don’t minimise her feelings. I am reminded of Alice Sebold’s autobiographical account, called ‘Lucky’, about her rape at Syracuse University.

When she reports the crime to the police, the first thing they tell her is that she is lucky because another girl was raped and murdered in the same spot. Minimising feelings in this way is a failure to understand an individual’s particular experience, added to the fact that adolescence has a unique character and intensity that adults can rarely fully remember and understand.

Of course, remember that any story you hear will only be part of the story. While you listen, keep an open mind and don’t jump to any hasty conclusions.

But it is always important to take action.

Encourage your daughter to report bullying and harassment, with your active support if necessary. Often people are afraid that reporting and intervening will make the problem worse.

But it is important that you bring these issues to the attention of the school’s management. Schools need to take relational aggression as seriously as physical aggression. All schools should have comprehensive anti-bullying policies and positive social behaviour programmes in place.

For while sticks and stones may break girls bones, words (and malicious rumours and cyber harassment and social ostracisation) can break their spirits and their hearts.

http://www.timeslive.co.za/opinion/columnists/2012/02/26/recognise-the-bully-within-by-how-you-take-insecurities-out-on-friends

Filmaker ‘disappointed, distressed’ over ‘R’ rating applied to bullying …

LOS ANGELES — The Weinstein Company has lost an appeal of the “R” rating given to upcoming documentary “BULLY” by the Motion Picture Association of America — the film, an urgent and intimate look at America’s bullying crisis by award-winning filmmaker Lee Hirsch is scheduled for nationwide release this Spring.

This alarming and powerful documentary provides an unflinching look at how bullying has touched five kids and their families, but the “R” rating would restrict anyone under the age of 17 from watching the film without an adult.

“To say that I am disappointed and distressed would be a grave understatement,” said Hirsch.

“It is my great hope that Bully reaches the audience for whom it was made: kids, the bullied and the bullies and the 80 percent of kids who can make the most impact by becoming upstanders rather than bystanders.”

Although more than half of the appeals board felt that the movie should be rated PG-13, the MPAA rules stipulate that a two-thirds vote is necessary to overturn. The final tally was one vote short of the number needed to reverse the decision.

Filmed over the course of the 2009/2010 school year, Hirsh is given rare access to the Sioux City Community School District, where he captured “up close and disturbing on the ground footage of bullying in classrooms, playgrounds, cafeterias, and school buses,” and in some cases, the overwhelming grief when bullying ends a life.

The film documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy “kids will be kids” cliches, and it captures a growing movement among parents and youths to change how bullying is handled in schools, in communities and in society as a whole.

Watch the trailer:

The MPAA gaive “Bully” an R-rating on the basis of some language that is used in the film.

Writing for NPR, Linda Holmes calls it a “grotesque irony in declaring that what is portrayed in ‘Bully’ should be softened … because it’s too much for kids to see.”

“Of course it’s too much for kids to see. It’s also too much for kids to live through, walk through, ride the bus with, and go to school with. That’s why they made the movie.

“The entire point of this film is that kids do not live with the protection we often believe they do — many of them live in a terrifying, isolating war zone, and if you hide what it’s like, if you lie about what they’re experiencing, you destroy what is there to be learned. It seems grievously beside the point to worry that the film is too much for kids.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Safe and Drug-Free Schools estimates that over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the nation.

“With school-age children of my own, I know this is a crucial issue and school districts across the U.S. have responded in kind,” said TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein. “The Cincinnati school district signed on to bus 40,000 of their students to the movie – but because the appeals board retained the R rating, the school district will have to cancel those plans.”

Originally titled “The Bully Project,” the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April 2011. The film is scheduled for release on March 30, 2012.



Tags: Bully, Bullying, Film, Lee Hirsch, Suicide, Teen Suicide, The Bully Project, Weinstein Company

Filed under: LGBTQ Life

http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2012/02/filmaker-disappointed-distressed-over-r-rating-applied-to-bullying-documentary/

Rochester anti-bully educator named to governor’s task force – Post

Vangie Castro, youth education program manager for the Diversity Council, was named to the Governor’s Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying on Friday.

Gov. Mark Dayton established the task force to examine the best practices and policies that currently exist to prevent bullying and provide recommendations.

“I’m really excited to lend a voice,” Castro said.

Castro works with Rochester school students on anti-bullying efforts through the Diversity Council’s Spark program. Through that work she said she’s seen what works well here, including availability of health and social services and outreach, which could be implemented in other parts of the state where bullying has lead to suicides, she said.

The 15-member task force includes the commissioners of the departments of education and human rights,members of the legislature and people with experience or expertise in psychology, education, pediatrics and anti-bullying advocacy. A start date has not been set for the task force’s first meeting.

http://www.postbulletin.com/news/stories/display.php?id=1488097

Braintree’s Rachel Padell in World Premiere Play in Boston About Anti-Bullying

Bullied, ridiculed, misunderstood and gay. This was the life of Cumberland, Rhode Island high school student Aaron Fricke, a teenager whose unprecedented civil actions forever changed the lives of gay and lesbian students.   

Boston Children’s Theatre (BCT) is proud to be the first children’s theater in the country to produce the World Premiere play REFLECTIONS OF A ROCK LOBSTER about a gay teenager and his fight to defend his life and preserve his civil rights in the wake of bullying, prejudice and intolerance.  

REFLECTIONS OF A ROCK LOBSTER features the talents of 16-year old Rachel Padell from Braintree. Rachel was last seen in BCT’s World Premiere musical “Calvin’s Monster” as ‘Cinderella.” With BCT, she has appeared in “Little Women,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “A Year with Frog and Toad,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” and “The Drowsy Chaperone.” She was also seen in the Boston Actor’s Theatre production of “Hence the Tears.”  

About REFLECTIONS OF A ROCK LOBSTER

Based on the true story of Aaron Fricke, and adapted by BCT Executive Artistic Director Burgess Clark for the stage, REFLECTIONS OF A ROCK LOBSTER is a compelling and entertaining production about tolerance, understanding and acceptance. 

The year is 1980 and Aaron is gay. Being gay makes Aaron different. With that stigma, he is subjected daily to violence and rejection–leaving him feeling dejected and with thoughts of suicide. Rising from his despair, Aaron strikes back by suing his Rhode Island high school for the right to escort his boyfriend to the prom.  

By standing up for his personal and civil rights and for refusing to apologize for who he is, Aaron not only wins in court, but he also wins in the hearts and minds of his peers and his community. His strength and ultimate victory help pave the way for legions of gay and lesbian students.   

Currently living in San Francisco, Fricke is working closely with BCT on the production. “I am thrilled that a new generation of young people is being introduced to my story,” revealed Fricke. “To be honest, it’s not really my story, it’s everyone’s story. I think everyone will be able to relate to what I experienced. The fact that bullying and prejudice still exist today in our society, makes this play even more relevant and powerful.”  

An important chapter of civil rights history, REFLECTIONS OF A ROCK LOBSTER is told with humor and great sensitivity. “As one of the America’s oldest children’s theatres, Boston’s Children’s Theatre is extraordinarily proud to lead the national charge for greater understanding, healing and harmony among today’s youth,” said Clark, who is also directing the production. “By enlightening audiences with positive messages about tolerance and acceptance, we hope to encourage families and students to talk more openly about the emotional and physical effects of bullying and how we can all prevent it from happening in our communities.”  

REFLECTIONS OF A ROCK LOBSTER is already making a national impact. In support of this powerful new production, Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon said, “The largest challenge one can face is to lead an authentic life when to do so is to be isolated from our “tribe”, your peers, especially at a time when that “tribe” seems to be everything. To stand up takes great courage and it is important to celebrate such courage.”  

Locally, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino also recognized the importance of bringing this production to the public. “I applaud Boston Children’s Theatre for producing a World Premiere play that addresses issues that have such a profound impact on our community,” said Mayor Menino. “Bullying, prejudice and anti-gay sentiments cannot be tolerated in our schools or in our society. ‘Reflections of a Rock Lobster’ teaches us all the importance of acceptance and tolerance in an entertaining, creative and powerful way. I congratulate their efforts and I encourage everyone to experience this ground-breaking production.”    

In addition to a student cast of 27 actors from 20 area communities and Sweden, the production also features veteran Boston stage actors Paula Plum, Richard Snee, Doug Bowen-Flynn and Allan Mayo.  

Performances are in the Wimberly Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA on March 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11. Tickets are $35.00 and can be purchased by visiting the BCT website at www.bostonchildrenstheatre.org or calling the BCT Box Office at 617-424-6634, x222.

REFLECTIONS OF A ROCK LOBSTER is supported by lead sponsors Vivian Shoolman and Jim Stone, and producing sponsors BNY Mellon and The Fireplace Restaurant.

High School groups can also reserve tickets for weekday performances by contacting the BCT Box Office.  REFLECTIONS OF A ROCK LOBSTER contains mature subject matter and content.  BCT recommends parental discretion.

–Boston Children’s Theatre

http://braintree.patch.com/articles/braintree-s-rachel-padell-in-world-premiere-play-in-boston-about-anti-bullying

Superintendent: Bullying can play role in suicides – Post

MINNEAPOLIS — The superintendent of Minnesota’s largest school district acknowledged this week that bullying can be a factor in student suicides, but stopped short of saying it directly led to any of six student deaths in his district.

Anoka-Hennepin Schools Superintendent Dennis Carlson made the comments in a statement dated Tuesday and posted on the district’s website Thursday. In it, he clarified the reasons behind a statement he made about the suicides more than a year ago, and apologized to those who felt his prior statement was insensitive.

“I absolutely meant no disrespect to any of our students and the adults who care about them and love them,” he wrote.

Carlson issued his December 2010 statement to staff after six students in the district committed suicide in less than two years. Family members and gay advocacy groups have said some were bullied. At that time, Carlson said there was no evidence bullying played a role in any of the deaths.

http://www.postbulletin.com/news/stories/display.php?id=1488079

W.Va. considers updates to new anti-bully law

By AMANDA IACONE
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – Changes to a statewide education policy to protect gay and lesbian students from bullying have spurred legislation that would tweak a 1-year old state law also addressing bullying.

The Senate Judiciary committee sent a bill altering the law to the full Senate Friday. The bill would revise the definition of bullying and would reinforce that enforcement and educating student about the bullying law and policies should not limit the free speech, religious or political beliefs of students.

State education officials are tracking the bill’s progress to see if it would trigger the Board of Education to revisit its anti-bullying policy. Adopted in December, the policy provides stronger protections to all students, including gay, lesbian and bisexual students. It would also address online and digital bullying that extends beyond the bricks and mortar of school grounds.

Opponents of the board’s new policy claimed it promoted the homosexual agenda and now groups like the Family Policy Council hope the proposed statute changes would prevent teachers and school administrators from censoring the speech of students whose religious beliefs don’t accept homosexuality.

Jeremiah Dys, president for the family council, argues the state policy and the law should govern the bully’s behavior, not subjective thoughts. Also, certain classes of victims should also not receive more protection than other students, he said.

“We think the rules covering bullying in the state should apply equally to all students,” Dys said.

Dys said the current policy gives teachers and administrators too much power to determine what is considered offensive and outside the bounds of accepted social behavior – that could lead to censoring students.

“They shouldn’t be afraid of sharing the gospel to other students who hold themselves out to be homosexual,” Dys said of students.

The current version of the bill would bring West Virginia’s law more in line with court precedents that protect student speech but the council is still hoping to change the bill further if it moves through the House of Delegates, he said.

Alyson Clements with the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia said the references to free speech included in the bill are redundant because all state laws must comply with the U.S. Constitution.

“We feel the bill passed last year was really strong. It was broad enough and still included First Amendment protections,” Clements said.

The proposed definition of bullying is narrower than current law but the intent of the law would not be altered, she said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

http://www.wowktv.com/story/17014254/wva-considers-updates-to-new-anti-bullying-law

OUR OPINION: Anti-bullying bill advances in South Dakota Legislature

South Dakota may be poised this year to join every other state in the nation and adopt anti-bullying legislation for its schools.

Earlier this month, the South Dakota Senate approved an anti-bullying bill on a 27-7 vote. Such legislation stalled in each of the last three legislative sessions. We urge the House to join the Senate in passing the bill, which requires all school districts to adopt a bullying policy, and send the measure on to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his signature.

We commend Attorney General Marty Jackley and State Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, for demonstrating leadership in moving this bill forward. Lederman is a longtime advocate for anti-bullying legislation in the state.

No child should be afraid to go to school and no child should have to face the abuse and shoulder the mental and physical burdens of bullying at school, but some 160,000 children do in fact stay home from classes each day because they fear being bullied (according to the U.S. Department of Education). This is, in a word, unacceptable.

Our collective goal as Americans should be to provide a safe, supportive and welcoming environment in our schools so our children may learn and realize their full potential. As a society, all of us – individuals, families, parents, students, educators … and government share responsibility.

Keep pushing this bill in Pierre, Sen. Lederman. Tell your colleagues to send this important message in one strong, clear, united voice: Bullying is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in the state of South Dakota.

 

http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/news/opinion/editorial/our-opinion-anti-bullying-bill-advances-in-south-dakota-legislature/article_e54284e4-03b9-5f73-a6da-9473610c82ef.html

Bullying in Our Schools: What’s Your Experience?

Let’s talk about bullying in schools.

It can be tricky, because if it doesn’t get reported there’s often nothing the people in charge can do about it. Enter cyberbullying, where some parents might not even have access to know what’s being said about their children.

That’s why it’s important for the schools here to be proactive, said Michele Newswander, director of Pupil Personnel Services at Lincoln-Way East. She spoke to the Lincoln-Way High School District 210 board last week to give a brief update on what the schools are doing.

“It’s changed a lot in the last 5, 10, 15 years,” she said of bullying pointing directly to cyberbullying. “They can post something immediately without having any thought to the impact it can have.”

She said it’s important for school districts to provide opportunities for education and outreach so students feel comfortable. Many of those are things District 210 already does, Newswander said, including staff development, the Asset Program and peer mentoring.

“We all need to be involved,” she said.

Read more about what local schools are doing to combat bullying.

At a special meeting in January, the Lincoln-Way school board discussed its policy for bullying to determine whether it adequately addressed cyberbullying. Board member Christine Glatz asked that it be put on the agenda.

“I know it’s happening and it happens online moreso than not unfortunately,” Glatz said. “Some parents some don’t have access to see what’s going on.”

Supt. Larry Wyllie said the most important thing a student or parent can do is escalate the problem to a school officer or principal. Specific guidelines for reporting bullying are explained in the district’s student-parent handbook.

“The difficulty with that is a lot of students and parents in the schools are afraid of retaliation,” Wyllie said.

One parent echoed that concern during the forum. She said her daughter was bullied last year while participating in a sport. The male coach, who wasn’t in the girls locker room, said “he didn’t believe it was happening,” according to the parent.

“I didn’t tell the building principal because I thought it would be to the detriment of my daugher,” the parent said.

Your Experience

Have you faced this dilemma before? If your children have been bullied in school, how did you react and who did you tell? Let us know you experience in the comments below.

http://frankfort.patch.com/articles/bullying-in-our-schools-what-s-your-experience

Bully Gets R-Rating Prompts Weinstein Rebellion

The Motion Picture Association of America has once again infuriated the Weinstein Company over an aggressively conservative rating decision. In their latest battle, the organization that defines movie ratings has deemed the documentary Bully–formerly The Bully Project–worthy of an R-rating, which would discourage if not bar school children from seeing the film that was made to educate them about the dangerous consequences of bullying. The MPAA has cited concerns over “some language” to explain their decision, but it’s likely the very words they object to having children hear, are the same offensive words being hurled daily by children and at children across the country, including Bully‘s tormented subjects, who bravely share their stories of abuse.

Hoping for an appeal of the R-rating, Harvey Weinstein brought one of these kids, 14-year-old Alex Libby, to speak on the film’s relevance to his peers. But despite Libby’s noble efforts and ardent plea, the MPAA decided to keep the R-rating by a margin of one vote. Weinstein, who memorably tussled with the MPAA last winter over Blue Valentine‘s initial NC-17 rating, offered a shocking response in the form of this press release:

“As of today, The Weinstein Company is considering a leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future. We respect the MPAA and their process but feel this time it has just been a bridge too far.

I have been through many of these appeals, but this one vote loss is a huge blow to me personally. Alex Libby gave an impassioned plea and eloquently defended the need for kids to be able to see this movie on their own, not with their parents, because that is the only way to truly make a change.

With school-age children of my own, I know this is a crucial issue and school districts across the U.S. have responded in kind. The Cincinnati school district signed on to bus 40,000 of their students to the movie – but because the appeals board retained the R rating, the school district will have to cancel those plans.

I personally am going to ask celebrities and personalities worldwide, from Lady Gaga (who has a foundation of her own) to the Duchess of Cambridge (who was a victim of bullying and donated wedding proceeds) to First Lady Michelle Obama (whose foundation has reached out to us as well), to take a stand with me in eradicating bullying and getting the youth into see this movie without restriction.”

Unfortunately, the MPAA doesn’t seem concerned, as one snooty insider told Deadline, “[Harvey Weinstein] is not a member so he can’t take a leave. He might choose not to have his films rated, which is his right. It is up to theaters if they want to show unrated films. Some do. Others don’t.” This shady figure dismissed TWC’s press release as “pure publicity.”

Now I won’t disagree that Weinstein’s statement isn’t a publicity tactic, but it is also a call to arms, and not just to activists looking to tackle America’s troubling bully epidemic. This controversy will also attract those who have long believed that the MPAA, which began the rating system in 1968 to prevent government intervention, has devolved into a dinosaur with an outdated moral code that regularly suffocates and censors groundbreaking new cinema. Weinstein is practically a patron saint in the fight to bring change to the MPAA. And despite the diplomacy in his statement, he’s clearly looking for some powerful new allies in his war against the organization, like the First Lady. I mean, come on, that’s a pretty ballsy move.

In a statement of their own, the MPAA defended their decision, relying on their tired claim that they speak for the parents of America, despite the fact that the organization is notoriously secretive about the members of its board. At this point, it doesn’t seem the MPAA will be budging, but it will be interesting to see what Weinstein’s next move will be and whether or not Bully will open on March 9th with an R rating, or no rating at all.


http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Bully-Gets-R-Rating-Prompts-Weinstein-Rebellion-29627.html

Family says bullying led to teen’s fatal leap at L.A.-area school

School district officials and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators on Wednesday stood by their earlier statements that bullying did not factor into a 15-year-old student’s decision to jump to his death at a San Fernando Valley high school this month.

Their statements came on the heels of an interview the parents of the student, Drew Ferraro, gave KCBS-TV, in which they claimed recently discovered journal entries had revealed their son was the target of harassment at school, including name-calling and pushing, and that the incidents might have been a factor in his death.

Drew jumped from the roof of a three-story building at Crescenta Valley High School into a cement courtyard during the lunch period on Feb. 10, horrifying witnesses and stunning the larger community.

“The fact that he did do it at school, to me, was a huge statement,” his mother, Deana Ferraro said during the television interview.

The Ferraro family’s assertions that Drew was bullied stand in stark contrast with those of law enforcement and Glendale Unified officials, who maintained their assessments that bullying played no role in the incident.

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Lt. John Corina on Wednesday said the bullying issue was not raised by friends, teachers or family members during the early hours of the investigation. Instead, it only came up after members of the media descended on the school, he said.

Corina also said Drew did not reference

bullying in any of the four suicide notes found on his body.

“His suicide notes were very telling” Corina said. “They didn’t mention anything about being abused or being bullied. He gave a different reason for doing what he did.”

Investigators were not aware of the existence of Drew’s journal until it came out in the media this week, Corina said, adding that investigators did not plan to review them.

“This is a kid here who had problems,” Corina said. “I think he was suffering from deep depression. I think the parents were working with him and were aware of the problem. But we will never understand why he chose to take his life the way he did. That was his decision.”

Deana Ferraro told KCBS-TV that Drew’s journal entries were only recently discovered, and that they recalled incidents of name calling and pushing that were “just tormenting him.”

Glendale Unified spokesman Steven Frasher on Tuesday declined to comment on whether school officials were aware of any possible harassment or depression, but said “we stand by our initial statements.”

“And, yes, bullying has been looked into,” he added.

An internal investigation is ongoing, Frasher said, adding that a final report would be made to the school board during a closed meeting some time in the future.

John and Deana Ferraro said they are planning a fundraiser in memory of their son to take place March 4 at Leo’s All Star Sports Bar and Grill in La Crescenta. Proceeds will help establish a new, local anti-bullying foundation to be called “Drew’s Voice.”

——

(c)2012 the Glendale News-Press (Glendale, Calif.) Visit the Glendale News-Press (Glendale, Calif.) at www.glendalenewspress.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_20028471

Anoka-Hennepin superintendent: ‘No doubt’ anti-gay bullying can be factor in some suicides

A week before Anoka-Hennepin school leaders are due back in court to try to mediate lawsuits still against the district, Superintendent Dennis Carlson issued an apology to those he might have offended with his comments about the district’s past student suicides.

In a one-page statement posted Thursday on the district’s website, Carlson said he meant “absolutely no disrespect” to students or parents who might have taken issue with his past remarks on the matter. Earlier, he had said the district’s investigation into seven student suicides from November 2009 to July 2010 hadn’t found a connection to anti-gay bullying.

Parents of those who died and others in the district have said at least four of the students were bullied for their real or perceived sexual orientation before their deaths.

Some have claimed the district’s Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy contributed to a hostile environment for gay students.

The lawsuits pending against the district also mention the suicides.

In his statement, Carlson addressed the possibility that bullying could be a factor in a student’s suicide.

“Although no one can ever be absolutely certain of the specific event that leads to a student’s suicide, there can be no doubt that in many situations, bullying is one of the contributing factors,” he wrote.

Carlson declined requests by the Pioneer Press to clarify his statement.

Tammy Aaberg, a district mother who lost 15-year-old her son, Justin, to suicide in

2010, said Carlson’s statement seems suspiciously timed given what might be an approaching settlement on the lawsuits.

Six former and current students who claim they were bullied for their real or perceived sexual orientation sued Minnesota’s largest district last summer. Including relief for the students, the lawsuits seek a repeal of the district’s Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy. That policy was replaced this month.

The district is scheduled to meet in mediation on the lawsuits again Thursday.

“With the policy change, and now this, I just have a feeling that things must be coming to an end on the lawsuit,” Aaberg said. “This just feels like another check on their checklist.”

With that in mind, Aaberg – who has become a crusader for gay rights in the district since the death of her son, who was gay – said the apology didn’t seem sincere.

“He does address that bullying can contribute to suicides, but he still doesn’t mention if he believes it did for the students in the district. That’s what matters,” Aaberg said.

In defense of his earlier statements, Carlson said they were made because the district’s investigation into the deaths did not uncover evidence to suggest bullying was “the main reason” for the suicides, and also to encourage others who knew or believed otherwise to come forward, his statement this week said.

That explanation fell short for Michele Johnson, who lost her 13-year-old daughter, Samantha, to suicide in 2009 after she was bullied by other students at Anoka Middle School for the Arts because they thought she was gay.

Before Samantha’s death, Johnson said, she complained to several administrators about the bullying after finding out her daughter had stopped going to volleyball practices. Nothing was done, she said.

“When Dennis Carlson made that first statement about the investigation, I was just devastated,” Johnson recalled. “There was no investigation. Nobody talked to me; nobody talked to Samantha’s closest friends….They were just trying to cover their butts.”

She said she believes similar intentions prompted his latest statement.

“I feel like he is just covering his tracks because they are so exposed right now with the lawsuit stuff going on,” Johnson said. “I do believe he probably feels bad, but that doesn’t change what he said in the first place….It doesn’t change what happened.”

Carlson’s statement Thursday said he has “learned a lot in this process, particularly from talking to some of the mothers of our students who have died. If my December 2010 statement was perceived as dismissive or insensitive to victims of bullying or suicide, I deeply and sincerely apologize. I absolutely meant no disrespect to any of our students and the adults who care about them and love them.”

Anoka-Hennepin board member Scott Wenzel said neither of the lawsuits seeks a district apology for previous statements made about the suicides.

As far as his own interpretation of the reasons the superintendent made the latest remarks, Wenzel said he didn’t know.

“I keep telling everyone we need to keep moving forward and continue focusing on the progress we’re making,” he said.

Board Chairman Tom Heidemann did not return a call for comment on the matter Friday.

A representative for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the two organizations representing the students suing the district, said the groups could not comment because of the mediation.

Sarah Horner can be reached at 651-228-5539. Follow her at twitter.com/hornsarah.

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_20035736

Suit: Sandburg staff  ignored team’s bullying – Chicago Sun

BY CASEY TONER
ctoner@southtownstar.com

February 24, 2012 11:36PM




The family of a former Sandburg High School basketball player is suing the school, claiming their daughter was injured in practice by bullies who had harassed her and her sister for years. The girl suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and transferred out of state as a result, according to the lawsuit, filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court.

Kathleen Mulvey severed a tendon in her right foot in June 2009 when a teammate who had been bullying her pushed her from behind while she was making a layup at practice, the suit says. It says the bullying began when her older sister, Meghan, transferred to Sandburg as a junior from Providence High School and Kathleen entered as a freshman.

Sandburg girls basketball coach Chris Hellrung told the girls’ parents, Joseph Mulvey and Ellen Hogan-Mulvey, their daughters would be welcomed on the team, but other players immediately began bullying the sisters, and their parents told Hellrung that they worried a specific girl might injure one of their daughters, the suit says.

Hellrung assured the parents their daughters were safe, but two days later Kathleen was injured by the girl whom her parents had warned the coach about, according to the suit.

“As Kathleen writhed in pain, the girl stood over and glared at her, never offering any assistance…” the lawsuit said.

Hellrung told them it was an accident, the lawsuit says. Kathleen had surgury and underwent eight weeks physical therapy because of the injury.

The lawsuit claims the bullying later got worse, and Kathleen was diagnosed in April 2011 with post-traumatic stress disorder and was treated for depression. To escape the bullying, she transferred to a private school in Connecticut, the only school that would accept a senior transfer, the suit says.

The transfer cost her family $50,000, the suit says.

“(Sandburg) officials did nothing to stop the bullying. After three years, some half-hearted effort was made to stop the bullying, but school personnel seemed to work against the efforts to stop the bullying,” according to the lawsuit, which seeks more than $500,000 in damages.

Consolidated School District 230 Supt. James Gay did not return multiple messages left Friday. Hellrung and District 230 spokeswoman Carla Erdey declined comment.

Sun-Times Media

http://southtownstar.suntimes.com/news/10861933-418/suit-sandburg-staff-ignored-teams-bullying.html

Trial Under Way For Rutgers Student Accused Of Bullying

POSTED: 11:50 am EST February 24, 2012UPDATED: 8:50 pm EST February 24, 2012(CNN) — A former Rutgers University student went on trial Friday in New Jersey on hate crimes charges and other counts for allegedly using a webcam to spy on his roommate’s sexual encounter with another man.

The roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge just days after Dharun Ravi allegedly streamed the encounter remotely and allowed others to view it.

“That viewing lasted, depending upon who you want to listen to, two to five seconds,” said defense attorney Steven Altman. “The back of two people from the corner of the room, embracing. … That was it.”

Ravi, 19, faces a 15-count indictment in connection with Clementi’s 2010 death that includes charges of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, tampering with physical evidence, witness tampering, and hindering apprehension or prosecution.

The jury will be confronted with the question of whether Ravi’s alleged bullying was borne of a gay prejudice that prompted him to intimidate Clementi because of his sexual orientation.

“These acts were purposeful, they were intentional, and they were planned,” prosecutor Julia L. McClure told the jury on the first day of the trial.

The highly anticipated case drew more than 100 people inside the courtroom.

Last year, Ravi turned down a plea deal that would have allowed him to avoid jail time.

The deal offered by Middlesex County prosecutors would have required the former student to undergo 600 hours of community service, counseling and to dispose of any information that could identify the man that appeared in the web video with Clementi.

Prosecutors also offered to help Ravi avoid deportation, though they said they could not guarantee it. Ravi is a citizen of India who had been studying on a visa at the New Jersey university.

A second student charged in the scandal, Molly Wei, 19, reached a plea deal that requires her to testify against Ravi.

If convicted, Ravi could face up to 10 years behind bars.

On Friday, Wei’s roommate Cassandra Cicco testified about the alleged video stream.

“I could only really see one of them and his back was to the camera and he appeared to be shirtless,” she said. “Someone pressed end on the feed. It ended abruptly and we were all just like — oh, OK, that happened. And that was the end of it.”

Less than a month after Clementi’s suicide, President Barack Obama released a taped video message condemning bullying.

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Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Apologizes, Clarifies Comments on Bullying and …

COON RAPIDS, Minn. – Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Dennis Carlson is apologizing to anyone offended by a statement he made more than a year ago in regard to a series of student suicides in the district.

Six students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District — the largest in Minnesota — committed suicide within a two year span.

Family members, led by Tammy Aaberg, alogn with gay advocacy groups, said some of those suicides were related to bullying. But in December 2010, Carlson said there was no evidence bullying played a role in any of the deaths.

Carlson clarified his pat remarks in a Feb. 21 statement posted on the school district’s website, saying what he said more than a year ago has been “widely quoted, misquoted and stated out of context.”

Carlson’s statement goes on to say:

”I made the original statement for two reasons. In trying to gain an understanding of the student suicides we had dozens of conversations with staff from multiple buildings. We brought in professional help for grieving students and staff. During those conversations we did not hear or receive evidence that bullying was the main reason for the suicide. We did hear of other causes – ongoing mental health issues, a break–up of a significant relationship, and other unique and difficult family issues. The second reason I made the statement was to encourage people to come forward if they did have evidence of bullying because we had heard the rumor that staff had witnessed it and done nothing. Four people originally came forward – two ultimately would not speak to us and the other two did not have evidence of bullying in the suicides.”

”What suicide prevention experts have repeatedly said is this, each suicide is a unique and complicated tragedy. Hundreds of news articles have been written about Anoka-Hennepin, but only three or four have treated the topic of suicide with the complexity that it deserves. Experts generally cite multiple causes of suicides, rather than just bullying, and often, mental health related issues are present.”

”Although no one can ever be absolutely certain of the specific event that leads to a student’s suicide, there can be no doubt that in many situations bullying is one of the contributing factors. Gay students are especially vulnerable to anti-gay bullying and so are other students that are unique in some way that leads to verbal attacks by students. These are often students with features or attributes that seem to make them a target. Students that have a visible disability, students that are overweight/underweight, very tall/small, gay or wearing non-conforming gender clothes, and students of color are often repeatedly targeted. I tell students as often as I can that they must speak up if we ever expect to end bullying in schools. We – the adults in school – know our role clearly is to foster an environment where students feel it’s safe to voice their concerns. Once a report is made to an administrator, he or she takes appropriate action and works with our families, the victims and the bullies to stop the behavior.”

”I have learned a lot in this process, particularly from talking to some of the mothers of our students who died. If my December 2010 statement was perceived as dismissive or insensitive to victims of bullying or suicide, I deeply and sincerely apologize. I absolutely meant no disrespect to any of our students and the adults who care about them and love them.”

”My daily commitment is always to protect and ensure the safety of each of our students, especially those who have felt marginalized in the past. It is a fundamental understanding of educators that students cannot learn if they do not feel safe, welcomed and affirmed in their school. Every Anoka-Hennepin school must provide that kind of safe environment for ALL students who walk through our doors – each and every day.”
 

http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/minnesota/anoka-hennepin-superintendent-bullying-suicides-feb-24-2012

Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Apologizes, Clarifies Comments on Bullying and …

COON RAPIDS, Minn. – Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Dennis Carlson is apologizing to anyone offended by a statement he made more than a year ago in regard to a series of student suicides in the district.

Six students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District — the largest in Minnesota — committed suicide within a two year span.

Family members, led by Tammy Aaberg, alogn with gay advocacy groups, said some of those suicides were related to bullying. But in December 2010, Carlson said there was no evidence bullying played a role in any of the deaths.

Carlson clarified his pat remarks in a Feb. 21 statement posted on the school district’s website, saying what he said more than a year ago has been “widely quoted, misquoted and stated out of context.”

Carlson’s statement goes on to say:

”I made the original statement for two reasons. In trying to gain an understanding of the student suicides we had dozens of conversations with staff from multiple buildings. We brought in professional help for grieving students and staff. During those conversations we did not hear or receive evidence that bullying was the main reason for the suicide. We did hear of other causes – ongoing mental health issues, a break–up of a significant relationship, and other unique and difficult family issues. The second reason I made the statement was to encourage people to come forward if they did have evidence of bullying because we had heard the rumor that staff had witnessed it and done nothing. Four people originally came forward – two ultimately would not speak to us and the other two did not have evidence of bullying in the suicides.”

”What suicide prevention experts have repeatedly said is this, each suicide is a unique and complicated tragedy. Hundreds of news articles have been written about Anoka-Hennepin, but only three or four have treated the topic of suicide with the complexity that it deserves. Experts generally cite multiple causes of suicides, rather than just bullying, and often, mental health related issues are present.”

”Although no one can ever be absolutely certain of the specific event that leads to a student’s suicide, there can be no doubt that in many situations bullying is one of the contributing factors. Gay students are especially vulnerable to anti-gay bullying and so are other students that are unique in some way that leads to verbal attacks by students. These are often students with features or attributes that seem to make them a target. Students that have a visible disability, students that are overweight/underweight, very tall/small, gay or wearing non-conforming gender clothes, and students of color are often repeatedly targeted. I tell students as often as I can that they must speak up if we ever expect to end bullying in schools. We – the adults in school – know our role clearly is to foster an environment where students feel it’s safe to voice their concerns. Once a report is made to an administrator, he or she takes appropriate action and works with our families, the victims and the bullies to stop the behavior.”

”I have learned a lot in this process, particularly from talking to some of the mothers of our students who died. If my December 2010 statement was perceived as dismissive or insensitive to victims of bullying or suicide, I deeply and sincerely apologize. I absolutely meant no disrespect to any of our students and the adults who care about them and love them.”

”My daily commitment is always to protect and ensure the safety of each of our students, especially those who have felt marginalized in the past. It is a fundamental understanding of educators that students cannot learn if they do not feel safe, welcomed and affirmed in their school. Every Anoka-Hennepin school must provide that kind of safe environment for ALL students who walk through our doors – each and every day.”
 

http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/minnesota/anoka-hennepin-superintendent-bullying-suicides-feb-24-2012

Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Apologizes, Clarifies Comments on Bullying and …

COON RAPIDS, Minn. – Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Dennis Carlson is apologizing to anyone offended by a statement he made more than a year ago in regard to a series of student suicides in the district.

Six students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District — the largest in Minnesota — committed suicide within a two year span.

Family members, led by Tammy Aaberg, alogn with gay advocacy groups, said some of those suicides were related to bullying. But in December 2010, Carlson said there was no evidence bullying played a role in any of the deaths.

Carlson clarified his pat remarks in a Feb. 21 statement posted on the school district’s website, saying what he said more than a year ago has been “widely quoted, misquoted and stated out of context.”

Carlson’s statement goes on to say:

”I made the original statement for two reasons. In trying to gain an understanding of the student suicides we had dozens of conversations with staff from multiple buildings. We brought in professional help for grieving students and staff. During those conversations we did not hear or receive evidence that bullying was the main reason for the suicide. We did hear of other causes – ongoing mental health issues, a break–up of a significant relationship, and other unique and difficult family issues. The second reason I made the statement was to encourage people to come forward if they did have evidence of bullying because we had heard the rumor that staff had witnessed it and done nothing. Four people originally came forward – two ultimately would not speak to us and the other two did not have evidence of bullying in the suicides.”

”What suicide prevention experts have repeatedly said is this, each suicide is a unique and complicated tragedy. Hundreds of news articles have been written about Anoka-Hennepin, but only three or four have treated the topic of suicide with the complexity that it deserves. Experts generally cite multiple causes of suicides, rather than just bullying, and often, mental health related issues are present.”

”Although no one can ever be absolutely certain of the specific event that leads to a student’s suicide, there can be no doubt that in many situations bullying is one of the contributing factors. Gay students are especially vulnerable to anti-gay bullying and so are other students that are unique in some way that leads to verbal attacks by students. These are often students with features or attributes that seem to make them a target. Students that have a visible disability, students that are overweight/underweight, very tall/small, gay or wearing non-conforming gender clothes, and students of color are often repeatedly targeted. I tell students as often as I can that they must speak up if we ever expect to end bullying in schools. We – the adults in school – know our role clearly is to foster an environment where students feel it’s safe to voice their concerns. Once a report is made to an administrator, he or she takes appropriate action and works with our families, the victims and the bullies to stop the behavior.”

”I have learned a lot in this process, particularly from talking to some of the mothers of our students who died. If my December 2010 statement was perceived as dismissive or insensitive to victims of bullying or suicide, I deeply and sincerely apologize. I absolutely meant no disrespect to any of our students and the adults who care about them and love them.”

”My daily commitment is always to protect and ensure the safety of each of our students, especially those who have felt marginalized in the past. It is a fundamental understanding of educators that students cannot learn if they do not feel safe, welcomed and affirmed in their school. Every Anoka-Hennepin school must provide that kind of safe environment for ALL students who walk through our doors – each and every day.”
 

http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/minnesota/anoka-hennepin-superintendent-bullying-suicides-feb-24-2012

Stop the Cycle of Bullying

On 22 September 2010, the wallet of Tyler Clementi – a gay freshman at Rutgers University – was found on the George Washington Bridge; his body was found in the Hudson River the following week. His roommate, Dharun Ravi, was charged with 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, and tampering with witnesses and evidence tampering. Ravi pleaded not guilty.

Ravi’s trial officially begins this week, but in the court of public opinion, he has already been convicted. This is a terrible irony, since the case itself is about bullying.

Wading through the news reports, it’s hard to tell exactly what happened in the hours leading up to Clementi’s suicide. Some facts are unknown. What seems apparent is that Clementi asked Ravi to have his dormroom to himself on two occasions – September 19 and 21 – so that he could have alone time with an older gay man. On the first occasion, Ravi appears to have jiggered his computer so that he could watch the encounter from a remote computer. Ravi announced that he did so on Twitter. When Clementi asked Ravi for a second night in the room, Ravi invited others to watch via Twitter. It appears as though Clementi read this and unplugged Ravi’s computer, thereby preventing Ravi from watching. What happened after this incident on September 21 is unclear. A day later, Clementi’s body was discovered.

The media-driven narrative quickly blamed Ravi and his friend Molly Wei, from whose room Ravi watched Clementi. Amidst a series of other highly publicized LGBT suicides, Clementi’s suicide was labeled as a tragic product of homophobic bullying. Ravi has been portrayed as a malicious young man, hellbent on making his roommate miserable. Technology was blamed for providing a new mechanism by which Ravi could spy on and torment his roommate. The overwhelming presumption: Ravi’s guilty for causing Clementi’s death. Ravi may well be guilty of these crimes, but we have trials for a reason.

As information has emerged from the legal discovery process, the story became more complicated. It appears as though Clementi turned to online forums and friends to get advice; his messages conveyed a desire for getting support, but they didn’t suggest a pending suicide attempt. In one document submitted to the court, Clementi appears to have written to a friend that he was not particularly upset by Ravi’s invasion. Older digital traces left by Clementi – specifically those produced after he came out to and was rejected by those close to him – exhibited terrible emotional pain. At Rutgers, Clementi appears to have been handling his frustrations with his roommate reasonably well. After the events of September 20 and 21, Clementi appears to have notified both his resident assistant and university officials and asked for a new room; the school appears to have responded properly and Clementi appeared pleased.

The process of discovery in a lawsuit is an essential fact-finding exercise. The presumption of innocence is an essential American legal principle. Unfortunately, in highly publicized cases, this doesn’t stop people from jumping to conclusions based on snippets of information. Media speculation and hype surrounding Clementi’s suicide has been damning for Ravi, but the incident has also prompted all sorts of other outcomes. Public policy wheels have turned, prompting calls for new state and federal cyberbullying prevention laws. Well-meaning advocates have called for bullying to be declared a hate crime.

As researchers, we know that bullying is a serious, urgent issue. We favor aggressive and meaningful intervention programs to address it and to prevent young people from taking their lives. These programs should especially support LGBT youth, themselves more likely to be the targets of bullying. Yet, it’s also critical that we pay attention to the messages that researchers have been trying to communicate for years. “Bullies” are often themselves victims of other forms of cruelty and pressure. Zero-tolerance approaches to bullying don’t work; they often increase bullying. Focusing on punishment alone does little to address the underlying issues. Addressing bullying requires a serious social, economic, and time-based commitment to educating both young people and adults. Research shows that curricula and outreach programs can work. We are badly underfunding youth empowerment programs that could help enormously. Legislative moves that focus on punishment instead of education only make the situation worse.

Not only are most young people often ill-equipped to recognize how their meanness, cruelty, and pranking might cause pain, but most adults are themselves are ill-equipped to help young people in a productive way. Worse, many adults are themselves perpetuating the idea that being cruel is socially acceptable. Not only has cruelty and deception become status quo on TV talk shows; it plays a central role in televised entertainment and political debates. In contemporary culture, it has become acceptable to be outright cruel to any public figure, whether they’re a celebrity, reality TV contestant, or teenager awaiting trial.

Tyler Clementi’s suicide is a tragedy. We should all be horrified that a teenager felt the need to take his life in our society. But in our frustration, we must not prosecute Dharun Ravi before he has had his day in court. We must not be bullies ourselves. Ravi’s life has already been destroyed by what he may or may not have done. The way we, the public, have treated him, even before his trial, has only made things worse.

To combat bullying, we need to stop the cycle of violence. We need to take the high road; we must refrain from acting like a mob, in Clementi’s name or otherwise. Every day, there are young people who are being tormented by their peers and by adults in their lives. If we want to make this stop, we need to get to the root of the problem. We should start by looking to ourselves.

danah boyd is a senior researcher at Microsoft Research and a research assistant professor at New York University. John Palfrey is a professor of law at Harvard Law School.


Follow Danah Boyd on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/@zephoria

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danah-boyd/dharun-ravi-jury_b_1298354.html?ref=college

Stop the Cycle of Bullying

On 22 September 2010, the wallet of Tyler Clementi – a gay freshman at Rutgers University – was found on the George Washington Bridge; his body was found in the Hudson River the following week. His roommate, Dharun Ravi, was charged with 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, and tampering with witnesses and evidence tampering. Ravi pleaded not guilty.

Ravi’s trial officially begins this week, but in the court of public opinion, he has already been convicted. This is a terrible irony, since the case itself is about bullying.

Wading through the news reports, it’s hard to tell exactly what happened in the hours leading up to Clementi’s suicide. Some facts are unknown. What seems apparent is that Clementi asked Ravi to have his dormroom to himself on two occasions – September 19 and 21 – so that he could have alone time with an older gay man. On the first occasion, Ravi appears to have jiggered his computer so that he could watch the encounter from a remote computer. Ravi announced that he did so on Twitter. When Clementi asked Ravi for a second night in the room, Ravi invited others to watch via Twitter. It appears as though Clementi read this and unplugged Ravi’s computer, thereby preventing Ravi from watching. What happened after this incident on September 21 is unclear. A day later, Clementi’s body was discovered.

The media-driven narrative quickly blamed Ravi and his friend Molly Wei, from whose room Ravi watched Clementi. Amidst a series of other highly publicized LGBT suicides, Clementi’s suicide was labeled as a tragic product of homophobic bullying. Ravi has been portrayed as a malicious young man, hellbent on making his roommate miserable. Technology was blamed for providing a new mechanism by which Ravi could spy on and torment his roommate. The overwhelming presumption: Ravi’s guilty for causing Clementi’s death. Ravi may well be guilty of these crimes, but we have trials for a reason.

As information has emerged from the legal discovery process, the story became more complicated. It appears as though Clementi turned to online forums and friends to get advice; his messages conveyed a desire for getting support, but they didn’t suggest a pending suicide attempt. In one document submitted to the court, Clementi appears to have written to a friend that he was not particularly upset by Ravi’s invasion. Older digital traces left by Clementi – specifically those produced after he came out to and was rejected by those close to him – exhibited terrible emotional pain. At Rutgers, Clementi appears to have been handling his frustrations with his roommate reasonably well. After the events of September 20 and 21, Clementi appears to have notified both his resident assistant and university officials and asked for a new room; the school appears to have responded properly and Clementi appeared pleased.

The process of discovery in a lawsuit is an essential fact-finding exercise. The presumption of innocence is an essential American legal principle. Unfortunately, in highly publicized cases, this doesn’t stop people from jumping to conclusions based on snippets of information. Media speculation and hype surrounding Clementi’s suicide has been damning for Ravi, but the incident has also prompted all sorts of other outcomes. Public policy wheels have turned, prompting calls for new state and federal cyberbullying prevention laws. Well-meaning advocates have called for bullying to be declared a hate crime.

As researchers, we know that bullying is a serious, urgent issue. We favor aggressive and meaningful intervention programs to address it and to prevent young people from taking their lives. These programs should especially support LGBT youth, themselves more likely to be the targets of bullying. Yet, it’s also critical that we pay attention to the messages that researchers have been trying to communicate for years. “Bullies” are often themselves victims of other forms of cruelty and pressure. Zero-tolerance approaches to bullying don’t work; they often increase bullying. Focusing on punishment alone does little to address the underlying issues. Addressing bullying requires a serious social, economic, and time-based commitment to educating both young people and adults. Research shows that curricula and outreach programs can work. We are badly underfunding youth empowerment programs that could help enormously. Legislative moves that focus on punishment instead of education only make the situation worse.

Not only are most young people often ill-equipped to recognize how their meanness, cruelty, and pranking might cause pain, but most adults are themselves are ill-equipped to help young people in a productive way. Worse, many adults are themselves perpetuating the idea that being cruel is socially acceptable. Not only has cruelty and deception become status quo on TV talk shows; it plays a central role in televised entertainment and political debates. In contemporary culture, it has become acceptable to be outright cruel to any public figure, whether they’re a celebrity, reality TV contestant, or teenager awaiting trial.

Tyler Clementi’s suicide is a tragedy. We should all be horrified that a teenager felt the need to take his life in our society. But in our frustration, we must not prosecute Dharun Ravi before he has had his day in court. We must not be bullies ourselves. Ravi’s life has already been destroyed by what he may or may not have done. The way we, the public, have treated him, even before his trial, has only made things worse.

To combat bullying, we need to stop the cycle of violence. We need to take the high road; we must refrain from acting like a mob, in Clementi’s name or otherwise. Every day, there are young people who are being tormented by their peers and by adults in their lives. If we want to make this stop, we need to get to the root of the problem. We should start by looking to ourselves.

danah boyd is a senior researcher at Microsoft Research and a research assistant professor at New York University. John Palfrey is a professor of law at Harvard Law School.


Follow Danah Boyd on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/@zephoria

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danah-boyd/dharun-ravi-jury_b_1298354.html?ref=college