Middle school bullies are the cool kids

Bullies who pick fights or spread nasty rumors are the “cool” kids in middle school, according to psychologists who surveyed seventh and eighth graders in Los Angeles, reports Live Science.

“The ones who are cool bully more, and the ones who bully more are seen as cool,” study researcher Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology, said in a statement.

The study is published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Anti-bullying campaigns should focus on persuading bystanders to show they disapprove of bullying, advised Juvenon.

Bullies often target unpopular children who are less likely to be defended by onlookers, notes Live Science.

Via Education News.

Boy arrested for doodling, tinkering

A 16-year-old New Jersey boy was arrested for having chemicals at home that could have been used to make a bomb but weren’t, reports the Press of Atlantic City. He also had electronic parts at home that weren’t being used to make a bomb. Police Chief Pat Moran said, “There was no indication he was making a bomb, or using a bomb or detonating a bomb.”

Nonetheless, high school junior was charged with possession of an explosive device and booked into Harborfields Detention Center. Later — it’s not clear how much later — charges were dropped, reports Salon. After all, he didn’t actually possess an explosive device. My house has chemicals that probably could be mixed to create a bomb. And we’ve got lots of electronic parts. I’m sure my husband is capable of building a bomb. All that stops him is a lack of homicidal intent. And, fortunately, he’s completed high school.

The Cedar Creek High School student’s teacher had reported him for doodling what might have been weapons in a notebook. The boy’s mother said he’d drawn a flaming glove. That’s why the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is publicizing the case, reports Reason‘s Hit & Run. Apparently, flaming gloves are a common comic book fantasy.

A former Boy Scout, her son  “volunteers to help senior citizens,” said the mother.

She says his passion for collecting old stuff, taking it apart and rebuilding things lead to this arrest.

“He takes the parts and he builds things with them. Good things,” she explained.

That’s probably why he attends Cedar Creek, a magnet school with an engineering focus and a stress on hands-on learning.
School officials said the student hadn’t made threats and wasn’t in conflict with anyone, but the superintendent praised the teacher for reporting the doodler to police. Post-Newtown hysteria will be with us for awhile.

Gossiping is also a criminal offense these days. The Press also reports:

A 15-year-old girl was arrested at Mainland Regional High School and charged with false public alarm after she allegedly sent a text message to a friend stating that she had heard a rumor that there would be a shooting at the school on Friday.

If she’d heard such a rumor, as opposed to making it up herself, wouldn’t she have a public duty to pass it on? After all, the Cedar Creek teacher who turned in the doodling student wasn’t arrested for “false public alarm.”

Anti-bullying law stresses NJ schools

A new anti-bullying law requires New Jersey schools to police campuses and online communications to protect students, reports the New York Times. But superintendents and school boards complain they’re being asked to do more with the same resources.

Under a new state law in New Jersey, lunch-line bullies in the East Hanover schools can be reported to the police by their classmates this fall through anonymous tips to the Crimestoppers hot line.

In Elizabeth, children, including kindergartners, will spend six class periods learning, among other things, the difference between telling and tattling.

And at North Hunterdon High School, students will be told that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to bullying: if they see it, they have a responsibility to try to stop it.

The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights “demands that all public schools adopt comprehensive antibullying policies (there are 18 pages of “required components”), increase staff training and adhere to tight deadlines for reporting episodes,” reports the Times.

Each school must designate an antibullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district must, in turn, have an antibullying coordinator; and the State Education Department will evaluate every effort, posting grades on its Web site. Superintendents said that educators who failed to comply could lose their licenses.

School officials also worry about lawsuits.

Most bullying complaints involve Internet comments that lead to campus confrontations, says Richard Bergacs, an assistant principal at North Hunterdon High. “It’s gossip, innuendo, rumors — and people getting mad about it.”

This summer, thousands of school employees attended training sessions on the new law; more than 200 districts have snapped up a $1,295 package put together by a consulting firm that includes a 100-page manual and a DVD.

Westfield Superintendent Margaret Dolan worries that students and their parents “will find it easier to label minor squabbles bullying than to find ways to work out their differences.”

The law was motivated by the suicide of a Rutgers freshman, Tyler Clementi, whose gay sexual encounter was secretly filmed and aired online by his college roommate.

 

 

 

Anti-bullying drive hits students’ rights

Anti-bullying campaigns are infringing on students’ rights to free association, argues attorney Hans Bader.

For example, some schools are trying to regulate birthday invitations: All classmates — or all classmates of the same sex — must be invited so unpopular kids don’t feel left out. (My mother told me I couldn’t invite almost all the girls in my kindergarten class. It was all or half.)

Using politically-correct psychobabble about “power relationships,” some psychologists have sought to redefine bullying to include wielding “popularity,” not just violence.  For example, a recent survey by a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia, Dewey Cornell, defined bullying as “the use of one’s strength or popularity to injure, threaten or embarrass another person on purpose,” and defined it to include “verbal” or “social” behavior, not just “physical” assaults and intimidation.

Nobully.com defines “eye rolling” as a form of bullying, Bader writes. “Relational bullying” includes disrupting “another student’s peer relationships through leaving them out, gossiping, whispering and spreading rumors.” It’s hard to imagine a school on Planet Earth in which everybody is friends with everybody else and nobody gossips, whispers or spreads rumors.

A victim of  violent bullying as a child — and one rarely invited to birthday parties –  Bader thinks “these overbroad definitions of bullying trivialize actual bullying.”

Flash: School teachers have sex

“Almost all public school teachers have sex,” writes PZ Myers on Pharyngula. “Most of them enjoy it and do it repeatedly.”

Public school teachers may be Democrats, Republicans, perhaps Communists. They are atheists, Episcopalians, Baptists, Scientologists. Above all, they’re human.

All of your public school teachers go home at the end of the school day and have private lives, where they do things that really aren’t at all relevant to your 8 year old daughter, your 15 year old son. That you pay taxes to cover their salaries for doing their jobs during work hours does not entitle you to control the entirety of their lives.

“Local prudes” fired a teacher who’d been a sex worker years after she gave up the trade. Myers remembers his geometry teacher, who was fat, sweaty, odd — and a fantastic teacher.

Every year he rewarded the best of his students with an invitation to his house for a formal party, with snacks and Nehi soda. He was single and weird, but there was no worry about impropriety — there’d be a score of us there, who would all be treated politely as adults, which was mind-blowing right there. He’d play music for us: opera and show tunes.

. . . The people who didn’t care that he was a fantastic, enthusiastic math teacher who taught students self-respect and to love math only saw a strange man who didn’t fit in, who was odd, who fit certain stereotypes, and who obviously could not be trusted.

After a whisper campaign, he was fired. Myers is still mad about it.