By Robert Casey, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Robert Casey, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.
(CNN) - CNN and the Cartoon Network's presentation of the AC360° special feature, "The Bully Effect," spotlight a serious issue affecting children across our nation. The film underscores the damaging consequences of bullying and the need to prevent and respond to it.
Lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure that our schools are safe, which is why I have made addressing this problem a priority in the United States Senate. I firmly believe that all children have a right to an education free from fear of being bullied. The denial of this basic right is a betrayal of children who simply want to learn.
The impact of bullying for students and for our nation are severe. In an era when a quality education matters greatly in a competitive global economy, students must be able to focus on their studies. Bullying distracts students who worry more about surviving the day unscathed than about the grades on their report card. Research has indicated that bullying causes increased absenteeism, dropout rates and academic underachievement, all of which undermine a child's ability to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
I am particularly disturbed by stories of bullied youth who feel powerless to change their situation and who choose not to seek help from adults. A recent report from a newspaper in my home state of Pennsylvania told the story of a 12-year-old boy who regularly asks his parents not to report when he has been bullied because he fears possible retaliation. Rather than speak up about the threatening environment at school, he felt that his only option was to keep quiet or risk making things worse.
Putting an end to bullying will require a consistent message from adults, including lawmakers, that young people can make a real difference in their lives and the lives of others when they speak up about bullying and harassment.
Recently, I reintroduced bipartisan legislation to help prevent bullying and harassment - the Safe Schools Improvement Act. My bill, which I'm proposing with co-sponsor Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, will require school districts that receive federal funding to develop codes of conduct that specifically ban bullying and harassment.
Editor's note: Don't miss the premiere of "The Bully Effect" on "AC360" at 10 p.m. ET Thursday. Note graphic language in this story.
(CNN) - Brandon Turley didn't have friends in sixth grade. He would often eat alone at lunch, having recently switched to his school without knowing anyone.
While browsing MySpace one day, he saw that someone from school had posted a bulletin - a message visible to multiple people - declaring that Turley was a "fag." Students he had never even spoken with wrote on it, too, saying they agreed.
Feeling confused and upset, Turley wrote in the comments, too, asking why his classmates would say that. The response was even worse: He was told on MySpace that a group of 12 kids wanted to beat him up, that he should stop going to school and die. On his walk from his locker to the school office to report what was happening, students yelled things like "fag" and "fatty."
"It was just crazy, and such a shock to my self-esteem that people didn't like me without even knowing me," said Turley, now 18 and a senior in high school in Oregon. "I didn't understand how that could be."
A pervasive problem
As many as 25% of teenagers have experienced cyberbullying at some point, said Justin W. Patchin, who studies the phenomenon at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He and colleagues have conducted formal surveys of 15,000 middle and high school students throughout the United States, and found that about 10% of teens have been victims of cyberbullying in the last 30 days.
Online bullying has a lot in common with bullying in school: Both behaviors include harassment, humiliation, teasing and aggression, Patchin said. Cyberbullying presents unique challenges in the sense that the perpetrator can attempt to be anonymous, and attacks can happen at any time of day or night.
By Anderson Cooper, CNN
Editor's note: Don't miss the premiere of "The Bully Effect" on "AC360" at 10 p.m. ET tonight.
(CNN) - In the last few years, awareness about bullying has increased dramatically. Some adults may still think bullying is just a youthful rite of passage, but it seems worse than in previous generations for many parents, educators and kids.
It doesn't stop at the schoolyard or even a child's front door. Access to the Internet and social media websites mean kids can be bullied and tormented around the clock, even in the supposed safety of their own homes. The cruelty that can come with the strike of a button on a keyboard can hurt just as much as any punch or push in a playground.
We've produced a documentary called "The Bully Effect" which follows the stories of a number of people filmmaker Lee Hirsch introduced audiences to in his remarkable 2012 film "Bully." These are kids and parents who have taken their pain, their suffering, their grief and turned it into action. They are truly inspiring.
I first started reporting on the problem of bullying a few years ago when a rash of suicides of children propelled the issue into the national spotlight. Since then, I've interviewed far too many parents whose children took their own lives because they felt like it was the only way out of the pain. It's not just tragic, it's unacceptable.
By Chuck Hadad, CNN
Programming note: Learn more about Alex’s story and see how he has transformed from bullying victim to advocate in the AC360° documentary “The Bully Effect” on Thursday, February 28 at 10 p.m. ET.
(CNN) - The bullying Jackie Libby’s son, Alex, faced every day was so severe that she worried the emotional toll would drive him to suicide.
“I would lay up with my husband at night and … just cry and say … what if he decides he doesn’t want to be here anymore? I mean, at that point, there was really only one more way to disengage. He was failing out of school. He wasn’t involved with his family at all. He didn’t want to have anything to do with his siblings. He didn’t have any friends,” Libby said. “There was only one more way for him to get out.”
Alex first spoke about his tormentors not to his mother but on camera to documentary filmmaker Lee Hirsch in what would become the award-winning film “Bully.”
“They punch me in the jaw, strangle me. They knock things out of my hand, take things from me, sit on me,” Alex said in the movie. “They push me so far that I want to become the bully.”
The footage Hirsch captured of Alex being beaten on the school bus was so shocking that the filmmaker felt a moral imperative to show it to Alex’s mother and officials at his school in Sioux City, Iowa.
For Libby, it was the beginning of a battle for justice for her son. “My reaction was, I just started bawling, and then I got angry,” she said.
Programming note: The AC360° documentary "The Bully Effect" will premiere at 10 p.m. ET February 28 on CNN.
By Kelly Daniel, CNN
(CNN) - An extraordinary documentary called "Bully" captured a behavior adults hear about, but rarely see: the way some kids pressure and relentlessly harass their peers. Filmmaker Lee Hirsch was embedded in several schools for an entire year. What he filmed was so raw and eye-opening that the project catapulted a movement, sounding the alarm about the critical and dangerous issue of bullying.
Something profound has also happened as a result. In the time since "Bully" was released, a number of kids and parents profiled in the documentary, and the filmmaker himself, have been on life-changing journeys, and in some instances have experienced remarkable transformations.
AC360° has dedicated the past year to tracing the course of their journeys and personal missions. We want to share their stories with you in a powerful documentary called "The Bully Effect," premiering on CNN on February 28 at 10 p.m. ET.
When Alex Libby was a 12 year old in Sioux City, Iowa, the slurs, curses and threats would begin even before he boarded the school bus. It escalated to such a frightening degree that Hirsch put down his camera and got involved in his subject's life. He warned Alex's parents and school administrators that he feared for the student's safety.
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