Anti-bullying videos linked to suicides

Anti-bullying videos shown in school have been linked to two recent student suicides, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Brad Lewis’ son Jordan, 15, a sophomore at Carterville High School in Illinois, killed himself Oct. 17 by shooting himself in the chest. He left a note that ended, “Bullying has caused me to do this. Those of you know who you are.”

Lewis criticized investigators for not pursuing the bullies more aggressively, but also turned some of his questions toward his son’s school, which showed an anti-bullying video to students the day before Jordan killed himself.

“All I know is they were discussing the bullying, and showing kids bullying, and at the end of the show they showed pictures of kids that took their lives,” Lewis said. “When a child or a person is at the end of their rope, and they don’t think there’s anywhere to go, and they don’t think anyone’s doing anything about it, and they see something on video, and they relate.”

The video showed suicide as an easy way out, Lewis charged.

A week later in Sparks, Nev., 12-year-old Jose Reyes brought a gun to school, shot two classmates and killed a teacher before killing himself. Jose had been harassed in school, classmates said.

On Oct. 11, the documentary “Bully” reportedly had been shown to all Sparks Middle School students during their sixth-period class. The film, according to students, depicted two stories in which bullying drove one student to commit suicide by hanging and another to bring a gun on a school bus.

A new study suggests that anti-bullying programs may be backfiring.

‘Weird Al’ for the ‘Al’ Award

Weird Al Yankovic is up for the Al Copeland Award on Jay P. Greene’s Blog. The “Al” honors “an entrepreneur or activist who has significantly improved the human condition but has not been fully recognized for their contribution.”

“Weird Al” was a childhood nickname given to him by school bullies, writes Patrick Wolf.  His parody hits include “Like a Surgeon,” “Eat It,” “I’m Fat”, and “Smells Like Nirvana.”

“Yoda,” a takeoff on “Lola,” is my favorite Weird Al song:

Did anti-bullying video lead to shooting?

An anti-bullying video that showed a girl bringing a gun to school may have influenced the 12-year-old shooter at Sparks Middle School, reports KRNV-TV in Reno.

Amaya Newton, an eighth grader, said the video was shown on Oct. 11, the last school day before the shootings.

“It was an anti-bullying movie but it could have gotten into his head about the girl scaring the bullies with the gun. She brought a gun on the bus to scare them and threatened to kill them,” Amaya told News 4.

Asked about the video’s message, she said, ”That maybe it’s easier to scare your bullies than just to tell a teacher.”

The shooter was harassed by classmates, Amaya said. “Like tripping him in the hallways, bugging him for money . . . ” He never spoke up.

Teacher dies protecting students

A Marine veteran, Michael Landsberry survived two tours in Afghanistan with the Nevada Air National Guard. The Sparks (Nevada) middle school math teacher died trying to disarm a student yesterday. The 12-year-old shooter also wounded two boys, who are in stable condition, before killing himself.

“Mr. Landsberry’s heroic actions, by stepping toward the shooter, allowed time for other students in the playground area to flee,” said Washoe County School District Police Chief Mike Mieras.

Before opening fire, the boy said, “Why you people making fun of me, why you laughing at me?,” according to student Michelle Hernandez.

The boy used a Ruger 9 mm semiautomatic handgun that belonged to his parents, police said.

“The relentless, inflexible and unyielding focus on ‘test-taking’ and school rankings and scores” is to blame, writes Debra Feemster, a former Sparks principal, on Diane Ravitch’s blog. “If one teacher, counselor or administrator had had a few extra minutes to look into this student’s eyes and possibly connected with him in a meaningful way, maybe this catastrophe could have been averted.”

“Think of the children whose social and emotional needs are ignored in pursuit of test scores,” Ravitch writes.

Feemster and Ravitch are accusing Sparks Middle School staffers of ignoring students’ “social and emotional needs” and failing to prevent the shooting.

Let’s honor Mr. Landsberry’s courage and decency. Let’s not politicize a tragedy.

Cyber-bullies charged with stalking

Two Florida girls, ages 12 and 14, have been charged with aggravated stalking, a felony, for cyber-bullying a classmate.
Rebecca Sedwick
Rebecca Sedwick, 12, committed suicide in September.

“Witnesses said that the girls sent messages to Rebecca, calling her ugly, telling her to drink bleach and die, and saying Rebecca should kill herself,” reports the Orlando Sentinel.

The “tipping point,” Sheriff Grady Judd said, was when the 14-year-old wrote on a social media site,  ”Yes ik [I know] I bullied Rebecca nd she killed her self but IDGAF [I don't give a fuck] ?”

The girl’s parents deny she sent the message, claiming her Facebook site was hacked.

The girls “repeatedly and maliciously” harassed Rebecca while all three attended Crystal Lake Middle School in Lakeland, investigators said.

“Several students corroborated stories of both girls bullying Sedwick on different occasions, through name-calling, intimidation, threats to beat her up, and at least one actual physical fight,” a Sheriff’s Office report said.

Judd said neither family cooperated with investigators, so the girls were placed under arrest Monday and charged with the third-degree felony. The 12-year-old was released to her parents because she demonstrated remorse to the judge, but she can’t go back to school.

The 14-year-old is in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice until her next hearing.

Slate’s Emily Bazelon is the author of Sticks and Stones, wonders “why are we blaming two young teenagers instead of holding the adults around them—their parents!—responsible?”

Bazelon asked readers why kids write cruel taunts online like “Can u die please?” Caitlin Armtrong, the counselor at Unaka Elementary School in Elizabethton, Tenn., asked the question to 7th graders. Six of 22 said they’d been told they should die or kill themselves. They wrote:

“Its about popularity.  Sometimes, I think people do mean it.  They think it will make you feel like a loser if they tell you that you shouldn’t be alive…and it does.”

“People . . .  don’t know that most kids don’t let these things just roll off. They just aren’t thinking.”

“Kids are mean. It is a simple fact. I’ve been mean.  . . . No one is listening to us, they think we want attention. We don’t. Nobody cares, so it keeps happening.”

“Kids say to go kill yourself because they don’t really know you. And if they don’t know you, they really just don’t care what happens to you.”

“Some kids are just full of hate.”

“It makes them look cool. It is the meanest thing you can say, so they say it. The meaner you are, the cooler you look.”

“Honest conversations with kids” is “the first step to make suicide baiting online unacceptable,” writes Bazelon.

Bullies are narcissists with contempt for their victims, writes Paul Coughlin.

Photo not worth 1,000 words

chokehold
A Facebook photo of a principal restraining a girl who’d been fighting resulted in suspensions — for 10 students who “cyber-bullied” the girl.

Principal Todd Whitmire isn’t in trouble, despite a Facebook photo that appears to show him choking a ninth-grade girl. Ashley Johnson, 15, fell as he was pulling her away from a fight, Whitmire told the Contra Costa Times.

Ten students were suspended for “racist and derogatory comments” about the photo, the principal said. ”It was the reposting, the retweeting, and keeping it alive and assigning negative comments to it and creating a hostile environment.”

The fight apparently had been planned on social media, which is why the principal was right there.

Johnson and the boy she was fighting also were suspended. She’s now wearing a neck brace and blaming Whitmire. In an at-home interview, she claimed to be “unable to move,” but a classroom video taken the day before by a school resource officer shows her moving easily, the Times reports.

Building better bullies

Anti-bullying programs are backfiring, according to a new study. Students are more likely to be victimized by bullies if their school has an anti-bullying program, concludes University of Texas at Arlington criminologist Seokjin Jeong.

Many campaigns use videos to show examples of bullying and how to intervene. Students may be learning new ways to bully through social media and texting, says Jeong. Bullies learn how to get away with it, he fears.

As an intern with the California Department of Education, my daughter previewed an anti-bullying video by Peter, Paul and Mary, Don’t Laugh at Me.  She thought it would help bullies identify  more categories of  victims.

District monitors students’ social media posts

In hopes of preventing violence, drug abuse, bullying and suicide, a suburban Los Angeles school district is monitoring middle and high school students’ social media posts, reports CNN.

Glendale is paying $40,500 to Geo Listening to track middle and high school students’ posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

When the idea was piloted last spring, monitoring identified a suicidal student. “We were able to save a life,” said Superintendent Richard Sheehan.

Recently, a student posted a photo of what appeared to be a gun, but turned out to be fake, Sheehan said.

“We had to educate the student on the dangers” of posting such photos, Sheehan said. “He was a good kid. … It had a good ending.”

Geo Listening sends a daily report to principals on which students’ comments could be causes for concern.

A 12-year-old Florida girl committed suicide after months of bullying on social media, her mother says.

Gay-unfriendly student wins speech case

In a teacher-initiated discussion on anti-gay bullying, a Michigan high school student said he “couldn’t accept gays” because of his Catholic faith. The economics teacher equated the statement to saying he “couldn’t accept blacks” and kicked him out of class, writing up a referral for “unacceptable behavior.”

In a June 19 ruling in Glowacki v. Howell Public School District, a federal district judge ruled that the teacher violated the student’s right to free expression, reports Ed Week.

U.S. District Judge Patrick J. Duggan of Detroit awarded damages of $1 to Daniel Glowacki, who was a junior at Howell High School in the fall of 2010.  Howell Public School District, which took no action against the student and reprimanded the teacher, was not liable, the judge ruled.

“Public schools must strive to provide a safe atmosphere conducive to learning for all students while fostering an environment that tolerates the expression of different viewpoints, even if unpopular, so as to equip students with the tools necessary for participation in a democratic society,” Judge Duggan said.

Glowacki did not disrupt the class, the judge ruled. McDowell engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

When asked about the move by the remaining students, McDowell said a student could not voice an opinion that “creates an uncomfortable learning environment for another student,” according to court papers.

Imagine how lively class discussion would be if no student was allowed to make another student feel uncomfortable.

Glowacki transferred to another economics class.

Yearbook shows ‘creepy smile kid’

There are less than 100 students in this year’s graduating class at Hoosic Valley High School near Albany. For example, the year book names “Creepy Smile Kid,” “Some Tall Guy” and “Isolation Kid” earned their diplomas, along with a row of track team members identified as “Someone.”

Some parents say it’s bullying.” It was a “non-intentional, honest mistake,” claims Acting Superintendent Amy Goodell.

As a former yearbook staffer — and part of a class of 530-odd students — I have my doubts. In a small rural high school, they don’t know their classmates names? They don’t know how to double check? Nobody proofreaders?