Schools without bullies

Five years after the Columbine massacre, legislators are trying to prevent school violence by banning discrimination against transgender students. That misses the real problem, writes Kay Hymowitz in the LA Times.

What legislators don’t seem to grasp is that kids bully — and turn, in some cases, to more serious forms of violence — not because they are prejudiced in any familiar adult sense but because they are crude, Darwinian creatures trying to stake out territory and proclaim their dominance.

A UCLA study published in the December issue of Pediatrics found that bullies are usually “cool” kids “high in social status.” These are kids who reinforce their social power by lording over their peers who are for whatever reason perceived as weak or vulnerable. This explains why so many bullies are jocks and so many of their victims are 90-pound weaklings.

. . . In order to deal with bullying, harassment and violence, educators have to smash the peer-driven hierarchy that sets the tone in most middle and high schools. Schools without bullies — and though rare, there are such things — are places where dynamic principals build a supportive but serious community whose norms are set by adults.

A community where norms are set by adults. Yes!

About Joanne


  1. Won’t work.

    The human condition will remain the same. My dad knew the answer to this, and the answer hasn’t changed. Learn self-defense. Be physically fit. When you must fight, win.

    The world changers and saints among us will forever natter at us that the solution is to make the world a perfect place.

    Fat chance. Realists take my dad’s advice.

  2. Mike Roemer says:

    I will never understand the apparent need by some to deny what most can see right in front of their face.

  3. Ummm, did we read the same article? I understood the point of the article to be that the adults need to be in charge. I guess just surrendering control and telling the kids to just go ahead and settle matters with their fists is one solution. I don’t disagree with the concept of kids who are being bullied should stand up for their self but I don’t think that excuses the adults from doing what can reasonable be done to reduce the bullying in the first place.

  4. Ross, we read the same article.

    For some time, I seemed to have a running conflict with a young gay man in our office. I couldn’t figure out what in the world his bitch was until I showed up one day carrying my basketball gear. He reacted with incredible hostility. It amazed me. He was infuriated that I continue to maintain my athleticism.

    Over time, I learned that he believed that sissification of all men should be our goal. If everybody is sissified, according to his argument, then violence will cease to exist and nobody will ever get hurt again. This ideology is apparently quite widespread in colleges.

    In our office, we now have a contingent of young gay men who have deliberately eschewed any type of physical development, and are, consequently, unsightly dough boys. They carry this as a sign of moral superiority.

    I grew up in a community where adults were very much in charge… rural Illinois in the 1950s. The trouble with all this malarkey is that school ends at 3:00 p.m. Once school is over, the adults are gone, the walk home is strewn with goblins, and those goblins will be doubly enraged if you’ve resorted to authority in your battle with them.

    Until Utopia becomes reality and we can all be fat, clumsy sissies in peace, I think that my dad’s solution will prevail.

  5. Richard Donley says:

    “…bullies are usually “cool” kids “high in social status.”

    Exactly the opposite of my personal experience, altho that was many years ago (1940s) when norms were quite different. Then it was resentful lower-class types who physically bullied the weak and unpopular. In addition, those who picked on black students (not a very common happening) seemed to fall into the same category of the socially envious.

    In the case of Columbine, it appears that the two terrorists brought trouble upon themselves by harassing the athletes and others. They too seemed resentful, for whatever basic reason, and deliberately went about developing grievances so as to justify their vengeful actions.

  6. The essay Joanne wrote about was in response to three school board members at the Westminster School District refusing to adopt California state-mandaged non-discriminatory language. I have written about it as has Dr. Shapiro:

    The more I think about the Westminster issue, the more it reminds me of Gavin Newsom’s granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

  7. I forgot to say that I thought Kay Hymowitz came down on the wrong side in the Westminster matter–she thought the school board majority did the right thing–but Hymowitz is correct about yet another layer of mandate from above will not fix what is wrong with education in California.

  8. theAmericanist says:

    Methinks you should get to know some gay jocks, Stephen: better yet, hire some.

    Of COURSE kids bully, and adults should stop it. The thing is to stop it with a moral lesson, not just law enforcement.

    So I can’t resist passing along the single scariest moral lesson about bullying I’ve ever heard — which involves basketball, in fact.

    When the great Bill Russell was a kid, he was very tall and skinny — 6′ at 9, I think. So of course he wound up a target for older kids cuz they were closer to his size (especially playing basketball), and just as naturally they bullied him — and finally he ran home crying because 4 or 5 of these kids, in their early ‘teens, had beat him up.

    He ran home to … Momma Russell.

    She packed Bill in the car, drove back to the playground, took him by the arm, marched up to the kids and said: Point them out.

    Bill, still sniveling at little, points out I think it was four of the kids (who were already a little scared of Momma Russell) who were still there, and she says okay: You will now fight them, one at a time, while I watch to be sure they don’t gang up on you. (Fat chance, with her there.)

    Now — Russell is a skinny 6’ 9 year old, and these kids are teenagers. But that didn’t phase his Momma. You may lose, Bill, she said: BUT YOU WILL NOT RUN.

    (Later, Bill got bigger.)

  9. Michelle Dulak says:

    Hymowitz has it EXACTLY right. The thing to stop is not bullying on grounds of race, gender, “perceived” gender, or anything else. The thing to stop is bullying, period. These are kids who want a target, and they’ll take any one they can find. And establishing an ever-longer list of “protected” categories is an incredibly inane way of addressing the problem. Bullies will attack fat kids, skinny kids, kids with glasses, kids with speech impediments, nerds, kids with particular hobbies or outside interests, kids poorer than themselves, kids richer than themselves. Anyone isolated, anyone different. I don’t see why getting beaten up for wearing a skirt is any different from getting beaten up for, say, playing the violin.

    Not that all bullying is physical violence, either. There is harassment that amounts to psychological torture. I suffered a great deal of it in high school, and I suppose I could have claimed “sexual harassment” (there was a lot of sexual content), but for the fact that all my tormenters were other girls. Bummer. See what I mean?

  10. Walter Wallis says:

    If you upset someone at work your company gets sued for millions. Schools should train for that environment.

  11. Countdown to when Stephen brings up his gay best friend dying of AIDS to prove he isn’t a homophobe…
    (Really, he’s not!)

  12. I used to be the personal punching bag for a bully in 7th and 8th grades because I was a nerd and a geek (i’m still a geek today, but that’s another story). I wasn’t a big kid, so I wound up simply taking it, but in the 11th grade, I was BIGGER than he was, and when he tried to push me around, I beat the crap out of the guy for no less than 10 minutes (circa 1980).

    After that, I don’t think he EVER bothered anyone else ever again (and I have to admit to this day, it sure felt good beating the tar out of that bully who had caused me so much grief) 🙂

    Bullies may rule the playground in K-12, the geeks and nerds will rule them at the 20 year reunion 🙂

  13. Seriously Stephen,

    You need to get out more.
    Have you been to a health club or gym in a major city lately??? There are LOTS of gay jocks… who work out, play team sports, etc… and not all of us do it just as a ruse to pick up guys… some of us sincerely care about our health
    (just waiting for you to twist this into gays all being narcisistic or something…)
    you know what, Stephen?
    Some of us actually watch professional sports on TV for the competition and athleticism, not just to ogle the cute jocks (well, that too…)
    So please, spare us your idiotic stereotyping… every time you do it, you make yourself look even more like a fool.

  14. Silly jab.

    I was accustomed to my gay friends who are over 40 being jocks. The gay activists grads of the 90s turned it on its head.

    As to whether you think I am a homophobe or not… stick it where the sun don’t shine.

    I could care less.

  15. infamouse says:

    jab, this is funny. There’s absolutely nothing homophobic about anything Stephen said in his post. He pointed out that these were the young gay men in his office, not all young gay men in the world. In fact, it sounds almost like he was getting harrassed by a gay guy for playing sports.

  16. Speaking of bigotry against gays.

    Notice how jab assumes that every statement made about a gay man is a statement about all gay men. He makes this assumption without the slightest thought.

    This moron is absolutely right. My friend just went through very serious surgery. You might be surprised to know that he is a national leader of the mens activist groups. He fought all his life against precisely what jab does… assume that gay men must be a certain way. My friend is conservative, probably votes Republican, was a body builder until his health went south, and he fought all his life for the rights of men.

    I was a feminist until my friend, and his gay and bisexual friends got hold of me and taught me that men are good people. He introduced me to a group of men who work everywhere to tell the truth about domestic violence. Men and women both commit it. He gave me Warren Farrell’s books.

    I owe a tremendous debt to this man. I’m going to go have lunch with him next week. We’re going to pray together. Yes, he’s religious, too.

    jab, it is rank bigotry against gay men to assume that every descriptive statement about gay men is intended to be a description of all gay men.

    Maybe you ought to drop the wise ass routine and learn something.

  17. Not so fast Stephen…
    You clearly were using that story of of one gay guy as an example… and definitely implied that it was a wider phenomena:

    Here are some quotes from you:
    “This ideology is apparently quite widespread in colleges.”
    “In our office, we now have a contingent of young gay men…”
    “Until Utopia becomes reality and we can all be fat, clumsy sissies in peace…”
    “The gay activists grads of the 90s turned it on its head.”

    As for diversity in the gay community… I’m already fully aware of it… I have gay friends who are catholic and conservative… others who are mother-earth-worshipping hippies… some who are as masculine as can be, jocks, athletes, etc, others who are proud “queens”…

    Maybe I’m reading too much into this one post, by I recall run-ins with your previous posts where you rant and rave on how sissy homosexuals and feminists are trying to destroy western civilization… and you always bring up your gay friend in an attempt to shield yourself…
    if I recall correctly, wasn’t it you who even blames gays for the terrorist attacks? you said it was one of the chief reasons that isalmic radicals attacked the U.S., because we are tolerant of homosexuality.

    just like in EVERY thread on race, you bring up the fact that you are married to a non-white woman (philipina, I believe) right before you launch into a diatribe on the failures of black culture…

  18. Walter Wallis says:

    Remember, I am old. Is telling a Gay to stick it where the sun don’t shine an insult?

  19. I’m teaching my son violence as we write these posts. If he is bullied then he is to beat the crap out of them. If you notice when you beat the crap out of the bully, people leave you alone.

  20. theAmericanist says:

    (curious) F’r real, Stephen? It’s hip for young gay men to be, er, fat slobs now? Is it also attractive — or is that sorta the point, that it’s unattractive?

    (I will never understand fashion.)

  21. Margaret says:

    Back to the original discussion of bullying: I am worried sick about my son heading off to middle school (6th grade) this fall. He is a really smart kid with a condition called apraxia. It affects his speech, fine/gross motor skills and coordination pretty badly. At first glance he walks and talks like a “reeetard,” although once you spend more than ninety seconds it becomes clear that he’s not. He will probably be a prime target for bullies. The “fight back” solution proposed by some on this list will get him exactly nowhere, because his physical skills are about three years behind his chronological age. All I can do for now is desparately hope that his middle school is as well-run as his elementary school. Right now, my son is a seriously happy kid, with real friends at school, because the environment of the elementary school is such that any kind of bulling (physical or verbal) will land you in hot water really fast. The kids there have pretty much decided it just ain’t worth the bother, which leaves my son free to actually make friends with the other kids. I can only hope middle school offers him a similarly safe environment, but I’m not holding my breath.

  22. Margaret, if his friends travel along with him to that middle school, he’ll probably be OK. But be ready to go to the principal if you need to. As I’ve posted before, my daughter has been the subject of physically bullying at middle and at high school. Each time, one visit or phone call to the assistant principal put an immediate stop to it. And don’t let your kid talk you out of doing it. Good luck to him.

  23. If the cause of bullying is “Darwinian creatures trying to stake out territory and proclaim their dominance” then why are we suprised? We have done a good job teaching our kids that they are nothing more than hairless apes. We have done a good job teaching our kids that everything is relative and there is no right or wrong. Our kids are really good learners; they have picked up these ideas quickly; and acted them out.

    Margaret, if you are concerned about your son, try to find a school that believes, and teaches that humans are more than animals because they were created with value and dignity. Bullying is a moral issue but until there is recognition of a moral standard there will be no cure.



  24. Walter Wallis says:

    Very few fights go on to any extent. Most times the instigator is so surprised when his own nose gets flattened that the show is over. Remember the nose. The nose is about the only part of the face you can hit where you hurt less than the nose owner. Just charge to the guns.

  25. theAmericanist says:

    Yo, W-squared: get a grip. REAL violence is way past a punch in the nose. One thing that’s vital to get across to kids — including bullies — is that they have no idea just how quick and lethal real violence can be. Talking like all ya gotta do is stand up and fight, like this is some Dead End Kids black and white movie, is just out of it.

  26. Jason,

    In theory, your idea is terrific. Yes, I would love to find a school for my son that explicitly promotes the innate dignity of the human person. It’s certainly part of what my husband and I try to inculcate in our children at home. Sadly, the reality is, parental choice in pubclic schooling ranges from limited to non-existant. We were extremely fortunate to find an excellent “alternative” public elementary school and literally “win the lottery” the district holds to determine admission. My son has thrived there. I have been able to find out far less about the philosophy governing the two middle school options that were available to him and had to simply pick based on what I could glean from other parents and my own gut instinct. I am going to have to be extremely watchful and be ready to go into “Mama Bear” mode if necessary with the middle school administration.

    True parental choice would doubtless lead to the creation of more schools like you described, but for right now, those of us who cannot shell out the bucks for private school have pretty limited options.

  27. To the Mother above and her son with apraxia and her worries about next year, there is one ray of hope that I have observed. Thanks to inclusion the kids are brought up with the handicapped kids and those with other disorders and have much more contact with them then they did when I was in middle school. I have observed that the bullies tend to leave those kids alone mostly and stick with the weaker ones out of the “normal herd.”

    One of my problems with today’s schools is “zero tolerance.” In many schools the kid who defends himself gets the same suspension as the kid who instigated it. This is wrong.

    Greatest moment of my junior high career? I was an underweight kid who had trouble adjusting to this mega school from my little Catholic elementary. One day I was at my locker when some big (fatter mor than muscular) 9th grader decided to body block me into my locker. I did not hesitate I turned around and clocked him with a roundhouse right to his jaw. He could have broken me in two, but he saw the look in my eyes and he moved on, presumably to an easer target!

    Today I would have been suspended as well, had this incident escalated into a full scale fight.

  28. Actually, Bob D., you’d get suspended for making a fist and looking at the student at the same time.

    There’s no magical formula to dispel bullying. Fighting back, ridiule, bullying others, informing school officials, ganging up against bullies, and other techniques all can work or not.

    I was a bully and I was bullied. There’s popularity in power, and there’s despair in being powerless. Maturity is the best antidote, but that takes time and guidance. And a good place to grow.

  29. jab,

    The reason I almost state that I am married to a Filipina woman is that white women punish me virtually every day for it. It is never not an issue. One of the most basic underlying principles of feminism is that white men marry Asian women in order to “oppress” them. If you are going to be married to a Filipina woman, you’d better learn self-defense. Otherwise, the white men will make your life a living hell as they defend white women for the sin of not marrying one of them.

    Your confusion about what I have to say about gay married is the result of your relentless search for bigotry. This makes you absolutely impervious to reason or common sense.

    There are a number of possible options for gay men, and you must take into account that many or most gay men are actually bi-sexual (or wish they could be if they could find a tolerant female partner):

    1. Out of the closet and outspoken about being gay.

    2. In the closet and quiet.

    3. Married to a woman and very much in the closet.

    I have gay friends who fit each of these descriptions and there are arguments to be made for each. In the traditional cultures, like Filinpo, the third alternative is in the majority. It works, too.