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.

Calgary school: ‘We don’t condone heroics’

Seventh-grader Briar MacLean pushed a knife-wielding bully away from his victim — and was reprimanded for “playing the hero,” reports the National Post (Canada).  The Calgary, Alberta school “does not condone heroics,” the principal told MacLean’s mother.

Briar, 13, saw the bully poke and prod his victim, then put him in a headlock. He heard a flick and heard classmates “say there was a knife.” Briar shoved the bully into a wall, stopping the fight.

The teacher, who was at the other end of the room, noticed and called the principal. The boy with the knife was suspended. Several periods later, Briar was called to the office and kept there for the rest of the day. The police searched his locker. The vice-principal called Briar’s mother, Leah O’Donnell, to say he’d done the wrong thing by not waiting for the teacher.

“I asked: ‘In the time it would have taken him to go get a teacher, could that kid’s throat have been slit?’ She said yes, but that’s beside the point. That we ‘don’t condone heroics in this school.’ ”

O’Donnell says “she understands the school’s desire to keep students from getting hurt, but fears it is teaching the wrong lesson,” reports the Post. Students should learn to stand up to bullies and help each other, she believes.

Running away, tattling usually just make things worse. . . . Most of the time bullies back down when confronted, she added.

“What are we going to do if there are no heroes in the world? There would be no police, no fire, no armed forces. If a guy gets mugged on the street, everyone is going to run away and be scared or cower in the corner. It’s not right.”

“What are we teaching these children?” asked Briar’s mother in a letter to the Calgary Sun “When did we decide as a society to allow our children to grow up without spines? Without a decent sense of the difference between right and wrong?”

Update: An 11-year-old Maryland boy on a school bus said, “I wish I had a gun to protect everyone at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He was suspended for 10 days. His son “wanted to be the hero,” said Bruce Henkelman.

The boy was questioned by the principal and a sheriff’s deputy, who wanted to search the family home for firearms, Henkelman said. He refused. The suspension later was reduced to one day.

Standing up to bullies

In The Bully Effect, Anderson Cooper follows up on children and parents in Lee Hirsch’s documentary, Bully. The show will premiere on CNN tonight at 10 pm ET.  February 28.

When Alex Libby was a 12 year old in Sioux City, Iowa, the slurs, curses and threats would begin even before he boarded the school bus.

. . . Today Alex has become an anti-bullying rock star with appearances on national television and a visit to the White House. He also regularly delivers speeches to capacity crowds as an activist, and considers himself a spokesman for the bullied.

Kelby Johnson, who came out as a lesbian in middle school, feels empowered, but still encounters hostility in her small Oklahoma town.

Kirk Smalley’s 11-year-old son TY committed suicide after he was suspended from school for fighting back against a bully.  “I will fight bullying forever because my son will be 11 forever,” says Smalley.

Bullying: Crisis or panic?

Don’t panic about bullying, writes Nick Gillespie in the Wall Street Journal.

I have no interest in defending the bullies who dominate sandboxes, extort lunch money and use Twitter to taunt their classmates. But there is no growing crisis. Childhood and adolescence in America have never been less brutal. Even as the country’s overprotective parents whip themselves up into a moral panic about kid-on-kid cruelty, the numbers don’t point to any explosion of abuse. As for the rising wave of laws and regulations designed to combat meanness among students, they are likely to lump together minor slights with major offenses.

“Despite the rare and tragic cases that rightly command our attention and outrage,” things are getting better for children, Gillespie writes. In particular, school victimization rates are way down, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 1995, 12 percent of students said they feared “attack or harm at school” That declined to 4 percent in 2009.

Twenty-eight percent of children said they were bullied in 2005, according to NCES. That rose to 32 percent in 2007, then returned to 28 percent in 2009. That’s not a raging epidemic, writes Gillespie, though “new anti-bullying laws and media campaigns might lead to more reports” in the future.

Bully, a documentary showing victimized children and ineffectual adults, opened yesterday. It’s a powerful, disturbing movie, writes LA Times reviewer Kenneth Turan.

In one scene, a school administrator tells a victim that he’s just as guilty as the bully because he was insincere when he accepted the bully’s insincere apology.

 

Kids under 17 can’t see ‘Bully” documentary

Children under 17 won’t be able to see a new anti-bullying movie without an adult escort. Bully, which follows five victims and their families through a school year, has been rated R. Producer Harvey Weinstein is protesting the documentary’s rating, which is based on six expletives. The movie will be released March 23.

Stopped Clock lists classic movies about bullying, noting that school principals often are depicted as bullies.