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.

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?

Wisconsin town fines parents for kids’ bullying

In a small Wisconsin town, parents will be held liable if their children repeatedly bully or harass others, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Parents could face a $114 fine.

Linda Lee, president of Greendale Against Bullying, doesn’t think “a punitive approach” will work.

The advocacy group was formed after a high-profile bullying case in which a 17-year-old Greendale High School student scrawled a bomb threat on a bathroom wall. Prosecutors recommended a misdemeanor instead of a felony charge because the student had been repeatedly teased and bullied.

Often by the time parents learn of the bullying, it has already escalated to a serious situation, Lee said. The group has prioritized training peer ambassadors — teens who spread the anti-bullying message to their fellow students.

“Our focus and emphasis is on taking positive, constructive approach,” she said.

Before a parent or guardian can be ticketed, police officers must inform them in writing of a prior bullying offense within the past 90 days.

Schools choose not to expel a bully aren’t liable for the bully’s actions, a divided appeals court ruled in Pittsburgh.

A student who bullied and assaulted the Morrow sisters was suspended, adjudicated delinquent and repeatedly told to stay away from them, but wasn’t expelled. She continued to bully the Morrow sisters till they switched schools. The Morrows argued their equal protection rights were violated. The court majority said the school didn’t create the danger; dissenters said the school contributed to the danger by not expelling the bully.

Dodgeball banned as ‘human target’ game

Due to concerns about bullying, dodgeball and other “human-target games” are now banned in Windham, New Hampshire schools, reports the Eagle-Tribune.

“We spend a lot of time making sure our kids are violence free,” Windham superintendent Dr. Henry LaBranche said. “Here we have games where we use children as targets. That seems to be counter to what we are trying to accomplish with our anti-bullying campaign.”

The banned “human target” games include prison ball, slaughter, bombardment and others.

Dodgeball is “an elimination game,” said Andrew Mead, program manager of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. “Games like dodgeball and tag don’t keep kids involved and physically active. They objectify slower students who don’t catch as well.”

I always hated dodgeball (though I was OK with bombardment). But don’t all games objectify students who are slow, clumsy, etc.?

Two school board members said some human-target games have inappropriate names, reports Ed Week. They probably were thinking of  “slaughter,” which was popular at Windham Middle School.

Bullying books

Publishers are “flooding the market” with books on bullying, reports the New York Times.

The books are aimed at all age groups — from “Bully,” a picture book for elementary-grade students, to the “The Bully Book,” for middle school children, about an average kid who suddenly becomes everyone’s favorite victim, to Sticks and Stones by Emily Bazelon, a recent release for adults that includes both stories and analysis.

. . . Two young-adult authors, Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones, assembled an anthology of personal essays, called Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories(HarperTeen 2011) by prominent writers like R. L. Stine, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity.

I don’t remember much bullying from my school days. I never was a victim.

Anyhow, here’s a review of Sticks and Stones.

Mickey Mouse, bane of bullies

Mickey Mouse was conceived as a little guy who’d stand up to bullies, reports PJ Lifestyle, which is printing excerpts from Leonard Mosley’s Disney’s World.