Alonzo Lewis

Michigan hospital opens anti-bullying center

Dr. Marlene Seltzer and Alonzo Lewis are building an innovative center to combat bullying from the medical perspective at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. Video, story. More »

Glenn R. Stutzky, Michigan State University

Next wave: anti-hazing laws

With virtually all states having adopted anti-bullying laws for public schools, the next wave of legislation seems to be anti-hazing laws for schools and colleges. Glenn Stutzky and others say hazing is More »

Middle school students talk about bu;yinig

Students talk about bullying

Middle school students talk on video about the bullying they see or have experienced and what they think can be done to stop it. More »

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Military Hazing: Rite or Wrong?

Hazing has been used as an initiation rite in the military for years and still goes on today. It is protected by a shield of silence and shame. Few will talk about More »

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The case for bullying legislation

Activist Kevin Epling fought for years after the suicide of his son for passage of a school anti-bullying law in Michigan. Passage of Matt's Law made Michigan the 48th state with such More »

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 cyberbulling.ca and bullying.org, 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.”

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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.

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Bullying legislation through the years

Forty-nine states have bullying legislation on the books. This timeline shows when each state signed their bills into law. Illustration by Alethia Kasben. (Please click image to enlarge.)

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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.

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Workplace bullying: Every day is Monday

By Lynn Bentley
Staff writer

“It’s like every day is Monday,” said one executive assistant who works for an insurance firm in New York City.  “I just dread going to work and my work days seem endless.” She feels she is the target of a workplace bully. Work projects get delayed by her boss but the delay is publicly blamed on her.  She will often come to work an hour or two at his request only to find that he hasn’t completed his part of the project or, worse, he isn’t coming in at all.   Conversely, he will impulsively demand that she stay late, and if she can’t due to other commitments, he will complain about her lack of dedication to her job.  He has taken his complaints to HR many times.

This executive assistant is one of an estimated 53.5 million Americans or 35% of the U.S. workforce who are bullied at work each year, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, an organization created 15 years ago to study workplace bullying and advocate for its remedy.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, workplace bullying is defined as “persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behavior or unfair actions directed at another individual, causing the recipient to feel threatened, abused, humiliated or vulnerable.”

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Trying to define bullying

By Dustin Petty
Staff writer

The national debate about bullying starts with a simple question: what is it?

Like many organizations, schools and legislatures across the county, the Obama administration tried to come up with a definition at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in March 2011.

Kevin Epling, who lost his son Matt to suicide after being bullied by older students,was part of the panel asked to devise a definition. Epling remembered sitting in a White House office for hours because no one could agree on one definition.

“The funny thing is that with all of the discussion of the definition,” said Epling, “there was not consensus. There are several definitions available. I tried to cut out the fluff and get to the heart of why people bully – not how they bully.”

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Team building toppling hazing one coach at a time

By Seth Beifel
Staff writer

Hazing rituals, long a part of some college and high school sports teams, is getting more scrutiny

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which governs college sports, now monitors hazing.

In 2007, it published a report titled, “Building New Traditions: Hazing Prevention in College Athletics.” The report outlines roles for everyone involved with collegiate athletics ranging from school administrators to coaches to players. Recognizing behaviors of the past, the NCAA recommends a departmental approach to hazing prevention. “The effort to create a change in attitudes and behavior will be worth the effort if it prevents one student-athlete from a humiliating or degrading experience, physical injury or psychological harm, as a result of a hazing incident!”

The need to prevent bullying is being discussed at the high school level, as well.

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Facebook fights bullying

By Dustin Petty
Staff writer

Katie Springer has just joined the social networking website Facebook.  She was 11 years old, two years younger than the site’s required age to gain membership.

“Most of my friends were already on,” she said, “so it wasn’t a big deal.”

Katie’s mother, Karen Springer, agreed to allow her to sign-up for an account as long as Karen were given the password and allowed to regularly check on her activity.

It wasn’t more than a few months until Katie started receiving taunts on Facebook from girls her age and in her neighborhood.  One night, her classmates were so cruel that Karen was forced into action.

“The girls were at a slumber party or something and they just wouldn’t leave her alone,” she said.  “So I went and kind of screamed at the parents of the one girl about what they were doing.  Her defense was that kids will be kids.”

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Military Hazing: Rite or Wrong?

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By Tony Briscoe
Staff writer

When Sean Paul Brinston joined the Navy, he didn’t know that piling charred human feces would be how he would serve his country.

While in Afghanistan, Navy corpsman Brinston’s platoon was ordered by a sergeant to tidy up a burn pit — a landfill of garbage, thrown-out food and human defecation.

“All of the stuff down there is anything you can think of, and at night coyotes get down there,” said Brinston, who is based at a naval medical center in Portsmouth, Va.

The company reluctantly began the daunting task, an experience that Brinston now considers hazing.

“We used to burn the ‘wag bags’ (bags of feces) at night, but some of them weren’t burned that day because everyday bags get thrown down there,” he said. “It smelled horrible.”

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