By Becki Cohn-Vargas, Special to CNN
Editor’s Note: Becki Cohn-Vargas, Ed.D., has spent more than 35 years as a teacher, principal, curriculum director and superintendent. Currently, she is the director of Not In Our School, part of the national nonprofit Not In Our Town. She is building a network of educators taking action to stop bullying and create safe, accepting and inclusive schools.
All of us have experienced cruel behavior, either as a participant, victim or witness. The Not In Our School “Break Bullying”public service announcement, donated by the MAKE ad agency, appears to bring back those bad memories. The announcement depicts adults in a professional environment re-enacting the personal middle school bullying experience of the director, Mike Nelson. His point: If we would not stand for this at work, why do we stand for it happening to kids in schools? The purpose of the PSA is to make us want to do something - to intervene, unlike the co-workers who watch their colleague pushed to the floor.
Not In Our School focuses on solutions. It provides positive films and resources to networks of schools, so when MAKE first presented the video, we weren’t sure we could use it. But then we saw what happened when people viewed it. They started talking about how it looked when adults felt the kind of pain children experience every day. We launched the PSA for Bullying Prevention Month as a wake-up call. Our goal was to reach as many people as possible (55,000 to date) and spark conversation about taking bullying seriously. Then, we would talk about ways to successfully combat bullying in our schools.
When the CNN Schools of Thought blog posted “Break Bullying,” it received more than 500 comments from viewers. Some were heartening; many were not. Well-meaning comments posed possible solutions to bullying: Some were practical and others were outright scary. One man proudly admitted to paying $50 to a man he found on the street to beat up the bully, who ended up “in a hospital for a month.” One person even stated that bullying is a necessary rite of passage based on animal instinct, echoing others who felt that no matter what we do, bullying will never change.
By Rande Iaboni, CNN
(CNN) - Toms River, New Jersey police charged a mother with simple assault, criminal trespassing, and terroristic threats after an altercation with two boys on a public school bus. Rebecca Sardoni, 28, claims the boys had bullied her daughter, according to reports from the Toms River Regional School District.
Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy told CNN today that Sardoni boarded the bus Friday morning and, according to witnesses, confronted two boys sitting in the back and slapped them both.
Sardoni claims she was protecting her 9-year-old daughter from school bullies and that three kids in her daughter's class have been harassing her daughter, even assaulting the student sexually.
Director of Communications for the Toms River Regional School District, Tammi Millar confirmed to CNN that Sardoni did report a bullying incident to the principal of East Dover Elementary School on Thursday afternoon. The incident would have been investigated that next day, "but she stepped on to that bus Friday morning" and took matters into her hands, Millar said.
By Donna Krache, CNN
Editor’s Note: Not In Our School offers resources to help adults empower students against bullying. You may also want to check out The Stop Bullying Speak Up campaign, sponsored by Cartoon Network, CNN and Time Warner, a student-centered approach that also offers educator and parent materials.
(CNN) - It’s an anti-bullying message designed to hit home with a different audience - adults. And it hits hard.
The set is an office breakroom. The office bully calls a coworker names, then pushes and threatens him, even as horrified colleagues pretend not to notice. One gets up from his table and scurries away. The victim is humiliated. The bully revels in the power.
In the end, the boss intervenes, but not to bring justice - just to tell the bully and the victim to "get back to work."
Anyone who watches the public service announcement, “Break Bullying,” would see no office would allow the scene to play out that way. In reality, it didn't: It was based on actual experiences from the producer's middle school years.
And that’s the point, according to the organization Not in Our School and Mike Nelson, the producer of the spot: If we wouldn’t stand for bullying as adults, why do we allow it to happen in our schools?
(CNN) - Her YouTube video started out innocently enough. The Canadian teen, her face obscured from the camera, held a stack of cards each filled with messages in black marker.
"I've decided to tell you about my never ending story," the card in Amanda Todd's hands read.
At this point the viewer may have no idea that they are about to be led on the most agonizing journey, one that pushed the premier of British Columbia to issue a stern warning against bullying, a journey that has birthed a Facebook page with thousands of people commenting many offering condolences.
In the soundless, black and white video, the teen showed one card after another. Each card painfully sinking the viewer deeper into the anguish too many teens have experienced.
"In 7th grade I would go with friends on webcam," the card in the teen's hand read.
The next few cards reveal that the teen began to get attention on the Internet from people that she did not know. People who told her she was beautiful, stunning, perfect.
"They wanted me to flash. So I did one year later," the cards said.
The teen then got a message on Facebook from a stranger who said she needed to show more of herself or he would publish the topless pictures he had taken of her.
"He knew my address, school, relatives, friends, family, names ..."
Read the full story
By Chris Welch, CNN
West Branch, Michigan (CNN) - Whitney Kropp, the teen thrust into the spotlight after her peers nominated her for the school homecoming court as a prank, attended coronation Friday night surrounded by cheering fans.
Donning a red dress, she beamed as she clutched a bouquet of flowers.
"I had thoughts about not coming [still tonight]," the 16-year-old told reporters after halftime of the homecoming game.
"I just thought maybe I won't have fun, but ... I'm having actually a lot of fun right now."
"I'm so happy - this is so much right now for me," she added.
By Carl Azuz, CNN
(CNN) - At Ogemaw Heights High School, one student shocked by the announcement of homecoming court was a girl named to be on it.
Whitney Kropp was not the most popular student at her West Branch, Michigan school. Described by the Detroit News as a “free spirit,” Kropp, with her bleached hair and alternative style, says she had been picked on in the past.
She’d shaken it off like so many others do, but the bullying she’d faced reached a new low earlier this month, when some of her classmates decided that nominating an unpopular girl to the traditionally popular court would be a good prank.
Kropp, of course, wasn’t in on the joke. When she heard her name announced in connection with homecoming, she was elated. Her mother said it never crossed Whitney’s mind that it could’ve been a prank; the 16-year-old was too happy.
Shortly after she discovered the truth that night, her mother found her in tears.
At the very least, Kropp was planning to skip homecoming. She said she’d felt betrayed and that she wasn’t a worthy student at Ogemaw Heights High.
Her mother and some of her friends had a different take: They told her to go to the dance anyway - that it would be the best way to get back at those who’d bullied her.
Kropp decided they were right. So did her community.
As word of the prank got around quickly in Kropp’s small town, her phone started ringing. People were calling just to encourage her.
Then, local businesses stepped in. One offered to cover the cost of Kropp’s homecoming dress. Another started planning her dinner. A local salon is picking up the cost of her hair, her makeup, her nails, and “anything else she wants,” according to the owners.
“Because so many people came together…it just turned right around,” said Bernice Kropp, Whitney’s mother.
by DaShawn Fleming, CNN
(CNN) The Department of Education held its third annual federal Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C. Monday and Tuesday. The goal of the event was to spread awareness ofand brainstorm initiatives to combat bullying, an ongoing issue facing many students. Bullying can result in tragic consequences including violent attacks, depression, and even suicide. Several notables attended the summit including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Senior Adviser to President Obama Valerie Jarrett, actress Marlo Thomas and Lady Gaga’s mom, Cynthia Germanotta.
Secretary Duncan made the keynote closing remarks on Tuesday. He urged the importance of adult involvement in students’ lives, saying “I think that our kids need a lot more time with adults”, and insisting that adults work together to “support individuality and empowerment.”
In recent months, President Obama has endorsed two anti-bullying bills in Congress, the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act—both efforts to protect students and end bullying in schools. Duncansays that the president has often stated that “bullying is not a harmless right of passage or an inevitable part of growing up.”
Although children are the ones who normally face these issues, Duncan has high hopes that a partnership with the Ad Council, a non-profit that distributes public service announcements, will help teach kids to be more than just bystanders. With only one-third of all incidents being reported to adults, the partnership hopes to stress that people of all ages can be part of the solution by speaking up against bullying.
According to stopbullying.gov, bullying can occur both on and off school grounds. A member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America asked how out-of-school service providers can cooperate with schools to prevent bullying and harassment.
By Robyn Barberry, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Robyn Barberry teaches English at an alternative high school and a community college in Maryland. With her husband, she manages Legends of the Fog, a haunted attraction with more than 200 teen volunteers. She has an Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College and blogs about motherhood for The Catholic Review.
(CNN) - Rather than spending their eighth-grade year at Athena Middle School, the three students who verbally savaged bus monitor Karen Klein have been suspended to the Greece, New York, school district’s reengagement center and will complete mandatory community service. Though their punishment exceeded Klein’s desire for the boys to lose their bus and extracurricular activity privileges, most people are satisfied with this story’s ending.
For people like me, this is where the story begins.
No matter how many poor choices teenagers make, only one - the decision to drop out - can prevent them from earning a high school diploma. Expelled students may lose the right to attend their home schools, but they are still legally entitled to an education. For this reason, public school systems have alternative programs, like the one in New York that the bus bullies will attend and the one in Maryland where I teach high school English.
Alternative education is widely misunderstood. It’s not prison. It’s not “let’s-talk-about-our-feelings” camp. It’s not a delinquent storage facility. It’s a second chance at learning, where the district curriculum is upheld, rules are enforced and rehabilitation can occur.
The alternative school atmosphere is not as tumultuous as one might think. It’s more like the day after a major storm has occurred. The tension has not fully evaporated. Shards of debris are all over the place. Loss is catastrophic. There is a genuine state of emergency, but the real danger has passed. It’s time to rebuild.
(CNN) - Four middle school students caught on camera verbally abusing their bus monitor have been suspended for a year and will be required to complete 50 hours of community service, school district officials said Friday.
Recorded by a student with a cell phone camera on what was the second-to-last day of school, the brazen bullying went viral and spurred international outrage.
The incident occurred in Greece, New York, near Rochester.
"Following individual meetings this week with school and district administrators, each family waived their right to a hearing and agreed to one-year suspensions from school and regular bus transportation," the Greece Central School District said in a statement.
The students will be transferred to the district Reengagement Center, it said. Each will also be required to complete 50 hours of community service with senior citizens and must take part in a formal bullying prevention program.
By Mike Honda, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Congressman Mike Honda represents Silicon Valley, California, in Congress. He is an educator of more than 30 years, the author of the landmark Commission on Equity and Excellence in Education now housed in the Department of Education and the Chair of the Congressional Anti-Bully Caucus.
(CNN) - My experience with bullying began with a presidential order.
At the height of World War II, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, incarcerating more than 120,000 Japanese Americans. My family and I were imprisoned behind barbed wire at the Amache internment camp in southeast Colorado. I was less than a year old.
Sadly, the internment of Japanese Americans spread fear and intolerance far beyond the wire and towers of the camps. After the war, during my early years of public school, I was often confronted and insulted because of my appearance and ethnic origin. As a result, I struggled as a student. I was shy to speak up. I lacked self-esteem.
In the 70 years since internment, our nation has made great leaps in providing reparations for the internment and ostracizing of Japanese Americans. But the mistreatment of people thought of as "outsiders" or "different" is a problem that has not gone away.
Today the health, safety, competitiveness and moral fiber of America is threatened by an epidemic that affects more than 13 million children each year.
These kids are teased, taunted and physically assaulted by their peers — reflecting racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism. This bullying epidemic also spreads far beyond classroom walls to strike countless communities from coast to coast in different social environments. Bullying is particularly acute in the elderly community. It is reported that one in 10 elders in America has experienced mistreatment in the past year. It has also been reported that for every case of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation or self-neglect reported to authorities, five more go unreported.
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org