Monthly Archives: April 2012

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Michigan hospital opens anti-bullying center

By Tony Briscoe and J.T. Bohland
Staff writers

Michigan was the 48th state to pass anti-bullying legislation, but it may be one of the first to develop clinical treatment for those affected by bullying.

William Beaumont Hospital, of Royal Oak, is expected to open a clinic to help victims of bullying, bullies, bystanders and families on May 4.

Kevin Epling, a major proponent of Michigan’s anti-bullying law, said the concept is on the cutting-edge of bullying therapy.

“I’ve not heard of anything like this taking place in a hospital,” said Epling. “Most of these are providers that parents would have to find such as counselors or someone at the general community health office.”

Dr. Marlene Seltzer, director of the No Bullying Live Empowered (NoBLE) Center, stumbled upon the idea while practicing gynecology through the years.

Next wave: anti-hazing laws

By Hayley Beitman
Staff writer

As states and universities adopt more anti-hazing laws, there is evidence that hazing is a legal issue around the world. The Philippines, for example, has a national anti-hazing law. In the United States, hazing is regulated at state and local levels.

Hazing laws vary by state, so one collective definition does not yet exist. Hazing as defined by Jacinda Boucher, author of Hazing and Higher Education, “encompasses an extensive range of behaviors and activities, ranging from seemingly innocuous activities such as blindfolding and scavenger hunts, to more dangerous and extreme physical punishments, including sleep deprivation and excessive exercise.”

Hank Nuwer, hazing author and public speaker, defines bullying as mean or dangerous behavior meant to exclude someone from a group; His contrasting definition of hazing is bringing someone into a group, even if it is silly or demeaning. The problem according to Nuwer is that hazing can also be bullying in such cases like a football team not wanting a member to join.

Glenn Stutzky, clinical social worker at Michigan State University, defines hazing as group bullying. Everyone’s definition is a little different which makes talking about the same thing difficult.

Media ease taboo on suicide news

By Joe Grimm
Staff writer

The connection between bullying and suicide is elusive, but news coverage of suicide has clearly become more acceptable.

Erosion of the old taboo leads to more coverage of suicides and the natural impression is that they must be increasing.

Main headline on front page describes a teen's death. Photo by Hayley Beitman

According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control, a decline in youth suicide rates from 1990 to 2003 was followed by a rise in 2004 and, from 1999 to 2009, attempts by students in grades 9–12 requiring medical attention decreased 26.9%.

However, suicide news has become more frequent and more prominent as newsrooms continue to relax what had been a largely unwritten rule against covering suicides.

The Hastings Star Gazette in Minnesota described its policy change in January, 2012.

The newspaper told readers, “Essentially, we were sweeping the problem under the rug.”

“This week we changed that policy. We will write about mental health issues in the police report … It’s a significant use of police resources, and the public ought to know how their department is spending its time. …

Cartoon Network takes a stand

By Devyne Lloyd
Staff writer

Children’s television channel Cartoon Network realized how important bullying is and decided to take a stand. It started with a definition. According to the Cartoon Network website, bullying is “when someone repeatedly hurts or threatens another person on purpose. Bullying comes in many forms. And it can happen in person, in writing, online, on cell phones, in school, on the bus, at home, anywhere.” The last part of the definition is the most important: “Wherever it happens, it’s NOT acceptable.”

During the fall of 2011, Cartoon Network created and marketed a campaign to promote anti-bullying. It started with a few commercials starring Ali, Jackson and CJ from the show “Dude, What Would Happen.” They present a situation where a newcomer is bullied by another child, and an innocent bystander runs to an adult for help. At the end, they say bullying is wrong and if you see something, say something.

A few months later, more and more anti-bullying commercials began airing on the network. The commercials feature cartoon characters, actors from various shows and celebrities who have been bullied, all joining together for the Stop Bullying, Speak Up initiative. Programming suddenly switched from the Dude commercial to a huge variety: there was an anti-bullying advertisement being played almost every commercial break.

Suicides spurred global anti-bullying strategy

By Tommy Franz
Staff writer

Dan Olweus, a psychology professor in Norway, is often cited as the first major researcher of bullying.

Olweus began thoroughly researching the subject in the early 1980’s following the suicides of three boys aged 10-14, all three were potentially consequences of bullying in school.

Following these suicides, Olweus went to work to prevent bullying. According to the program’s website, the method led to a reduction of 50% or more in student reports of bullying in Norway. The report also provided evidence for marked reductions in student reports of general antisocial behavior, such as vandalism, fighting, theft and truancy.

Following such success in Norway, the Olweus Program to prevent bullying in schools has been implemented elsewhere. In 1999, after the killings at a school in Columbine, Colo., the U.S. Department of Justice selected the Olweus Bully Prevention Program as a model for its national violence prevention strategy.

Bullying and rampage school shootings

By Lynn Bentley
Staff writer

Since the school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, parents, educators and government officials have been worried about a link between bullying and school shootings.

Before killing themselves in the school library, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 11 students, one teacher and wounded 23 others. The number of students and faculty killed would have been in the hundreds if the bombs they had planted in the cafeteria and their cars had gone off as planned.

Initial reports on the Columbine shooting indicated that the shootings might be in retaliation for the two boys having been bullied. Because it made people fear that there was a connection between bullying and school massacres or suicide, Columbine changed the way many people treat bullying. In Georgia, those fears soon led to the passage of anti-bullying legislation. Almost all states have since followed. Bill Belsey, the Canadian educator who created and, says that Columbine helped motivate him to be an anti-bullying activist.

However, 13 years later, after reviewing journals, videos and other evidence, psychologists, law enforcement officials and other experts have concluded that the shootings were the actions of individuals with personality disorders.

“It gets better” for bullied LGBTQ youth

By Dustin Petty
Staff writer

Billy Lucas, a freshman at Greenburg High School in Indiana, hanged himself in his grandmother’s barn after allegedly being taunted by classmates. Friends and family of the 15 year old said he was bullied because he was perceived to be gay.

Lucas was one of at least 34 American students to take their own lives in 2010 after dealing with an instance of bullying.

When Dan Savage, a syndicated advice columnist and blogger, read about Lucas’ suicide and the suicides of other young people who were bullied for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) or because others believed they were, he and his husband decided to take action. On September 21, 2010, they posted a video on YouTube. They told their experiences from high school, coming out and finding happiness in their adult lives. The message, he said, is simple: it gets better.

He explained his motives in sharing the message in a 2011 interview with National Public Radio.

“I believe when a 13- or 14- or 15-year old gay kid kills himself what he’s saying is that he can’t picture a future with enough joy to compensate for pain he’s in now,” he said. “And watching the suicide crisis unfold last fall, my husband and I decided we weren’t going to be shamed out of speaking to LGBT youth anymore. And the idea behind the project was for gay adults to talk to queer kids about our lives to give them hope for their futures.”

Exploring the suicide connection

By Lynn Bentley
Staff writer

When journalist Neil Marr and his co-author, Tim Field, coined the word “bullycide” in their 2001 book, “Bullycide: Death at Playtime,” they brought the world’s attention to the devastating link between bullying and suicide.  Bullycide: Death at Playtime was first published in the United Kingdom but has since been published in 30 countries including the United States.

Since then, some 49 states have enacted some form of anti-bullying legislation, leading schools to review, rewrite or create anti-bullying policies in hopes of preventing bullying and the devastation of suicide sometimes brought on by bullying.  And the word bullycide has become the accepted term to describe the bullying-related suicide of a child or young adult.

The re-release of Marr’s book in February of 2011 on the 10th anniversary of its release has prompted a re-examination of this use of bullycide to describe a suicide linked to bullying.

Suicide prevention professionals call the term bullycide misleading because it implies a direct link between the bullying and the suicide when a direct cause-and-effect link is hard to establish.

School transitions are trouble spots

By Hayley Beitman
Staff writer

Most people are familiar with classic “first day of school” movie scenes where freshmen are portrayed carrying seniors’ books, doing their chores or being pushed around.

The transition from middle school to high school, or even elementary to middle school, can be a difficult one, already filled with changes and uncomfortable situations. The American Civil Liberties Union has worked to eliminate racial and gender hazing, and protect children who are the most vulnerable, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

An 8th grade history teacher at a private middle school in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. shared his views on the difficult transition to high school and how pressures to fit in are a factor. He said that bullying is a problem in all types of schools, in all grades, in all social groups.

He said the major reason for bullying is that kids go from being “top dog” of their school to the bottom of the social ladder.