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Just ignore it?CyberbullyingWhen Victims Can't Fight BackBullied to DeathNo Legal RecourseIt Takes a Community




Mean Kids Part One : The age-old parental advice to just ignore bullies has little credence when children are killing themselves to escape continual abuse.
Statistics show bullying has been tapering off nationwide. But the problem in Northeast Ohio remains worse than the national average, and in one local school district, the families of two students say their children were bullied to death. WKSU’s Vivian Goodman looks at the extent of the problem in this first part of the series: Mean Kids.



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Vivian Goodman

Mean Kids Part One

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Todd Walts of Campus Impact says bullying doesn't end in the lower grades.

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Todd Walts , Executive Director of Campus Impact, says his group recently surveyed 4,000 Northeast Ohio students and found bullying is worse here than in the nation as a whole.

Todd Walts , Executive Director of Campus Impact, says his group recently surveyed 4,000 Northeast Ohio students and found bullying is worse here than in the nation as a whole.

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Todd Walts, the executive director of Campus Impact Ohio, says bullying in Northeast Ohio is worse than in the nation as a whole.

CBS’s Early Show produced “Death by Bullycide” about Eric Mohat. That special can be seen here.

The PBS special "Cry for Help" covers teen depression and suicide.

Additional Statistics:

The U.S. Department of Justice reported in March of this year that children who reported being physically bullied declined from 22% in 2003 to 15% in 2008.

Todd Walts says their survey of 4,000 students over 2 years shows that 48% of students report being called names as a form of bullying. The average national statistic is 28%. He also says that Northeast Ohio averages 15 - 20% higher than the national average on all aspects of bullying.

 

Ohio’s law defines bullying as any repeated, intentional act that targets a particular student and is “sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment.”
 
By Vivian Goodman and Alison Ritchie
 
 
Eric Mohat's sister found him lying in a pool of blood. And Sladjana Vidovic's sister found her hanging from a rope outside her bedroom window.
Both Eric and Sladjana attended Mentor High School, a school with an internationally-recognized anti-bullying program. But their families claim in lawsuits against school officials that, from 2005 to 2008, they and two other students at Mentor High were bullied to death.
Sladjana left a suicide note saying she couldn't take it anymore. Bill Mohat said he didn't know what his son had been going through until too late. 
“The only thing that he told us was six days before the actual suicide itself,” said Bill Mohat. “Eric came to us, to my wife and I. We were up in our bedroom and he sat on the bed. He was saying that there were some kids in the math class that had really been making his life a hell there.”
Violence in the media, including video games, indicates ours are not the gentlest of  times to grow up in. There’s even a video game called “Bully,” from the same folks that brought you “Grant Theft Auto.” Players can dunk heads in toilets, photograph students and teachers naked and physically assault them.
 
Know is when they feel it 
There’s no law against such virtual bullying, but 44 states now have laws against the real-life variety --  all of them passed since 1999, when two Colorado boys lashed out in a massacre at Columbine High School, believed at the time to be connected to bullying.
Anti-bullying laws, as well as school programs instituted since Columbine, may be having an impact. A recent U.S. Department of Justice study found a 7 percent decline from 2003 to 2008in children reporting being bullied. 
Still, nationwide, 38 percent of students say they have either been bullies, or been bullied. In Northeast Ohio, it's 41 percent, according to a recent survey by Todd Walts’s group, Campus Impact.
 “The statistics are showing us that the kids in Northeast Ohio are being subjected to bullying more often,” said Walts. “Yet, they are reporting it less often to adults both in and out of the school.”
Campus Impact surveyed 4,000 students over two years. So far the research provides no solid clue as  to why bullying is worse in Northeast Ohio – nor why kids here are less likely to tell an adult. Nationwide, 36 percent told an adult. In Northeast Ohio, only 24 percent told.
 
Who’s doing it?
Walts said the “mean girls” stereotype apparently also holds truer here.
“Nationally when you pose the question: Do girls bully more than boys? The answer is no,” said Walts. “But locally we’re finding in all of our surveys that our girls are bullying more than our boys are.”
Michaela Smith is in 11th grade at Mentor High School.
 “I don’t like girls that much just because they’re so mean,” she said. “ I have a lot more guy friends just because of it. But guys can be just as mean. Kids in general are mean to each other.”
Boys are more likely to be "direct bullies" attacking openly, often physically. Girls go in more for what sociologists call "indirect bullying," the kind that excludes and socially isolates the victim. 
Walts said most bullying in Northeast Ohio is indirect.
“The most common form here is the name calling,” said Walts. “Making fun of, teasing in a hurtful way. To give you an idea the local statistic for that is 48 percent report being bullied in that way. The corresponding national statistic is 28 percent.”
Indirect bullying can be just as harmful as physical attacks, but with no bruises or scars, victims can more easily conceal it from adults. If they do tell parents or teachers that they're being teased or shunned, they might be advised to just ignore it, although that's changing.
Working on solutions
Sue Limber, an Olveus professor at Clemson University, has been in the field for 14 years. And she’s seen a shift in attitudes since Columbine.
“I think it’s a minority of adults and certainly educators who think you know, ‘It’s a natural part of growing up; kids will be kids; it is best to let kids deal with these issues on their own; they’ve got to toughen up,’ Those kinds of attitudes exist but I think they’re a lot less common than they used to be,” Limber said.
Parents may be more tuned in to the problem of school bullying, but Limber says teachers are often unaware.
“The note-passing or the eye-rolling or the whispering. It can be very difficult to determine if something is just rough-housing, kids being kids, or whether it may be a bullying situation,” she said.
A recent Canadian study documented 400 cases of bullying in 52 hours of playground exchanges. Teachers intervened in only four percent of those incidents.
Most bullying takes place in front of young witnesses, like Felicia Freeney, a ninth grader at Brush high School.
 “It can be in the classroom. Someone will just sit there quiet and someone will turn around like ‘Hey do you see that girl over there? What is she wearing? Look at her hair,’” said Freeney. “Or it could be in the hallway like ‘What is that girl wearing? She’s so ugly. Why is she here?’ It just really makes me feel bad for our generation. Because what’s the point in doing that? How does that make you feel better as a person talking about someone else that you don’t know?”
Despite the four suicides, Mentor High School officials deny they have a bullying problem. Eleventh graders Pam Taylor and Michaela Smith agree.
“I mean you do see it, but it’s not like every time you turn a corner someone’s being bullied.” Taylor said.
“Yeah like she was saying, you don’t really see it,” said Smith. “But I think it’s more the texting and like over the internet type of thing. So it doesn’t really happen that much in school.”
 
An extended problem
But bullying is not isolated to Mentor. Jermond Garvey is in tenth grade at Cleveland’s John Adams High School.
“There’s a lot of hate and a lot of stuff going on, so people really much don’t get along,” said Garvey, adding that it’s often focused on “the way they look. The things they have, things they don’t. Stuff like that.”
The Campus Impact survey found schools are vastly different in the problem and approaches. The research team not only documents bullying, they go into the schools and talk to kids about how to stop it. 
Walts had an eye-opening experience at a middle school in Lakewood.
“We talked about some of the ways that students bully,” said Walts, “ that guys might look at another guy and say, ‘You’re gay.’
“The kids looked at us and their eyes got really big. And we said, ‘What?’ And they said, ‘We’re not allowed to use that word here.’ That is awesome. … We do have schools out there that are being pro-active and understand that that is not appropriate, and we should not allow our students to do it.”

Related Links & Resources
The link between bullying and Columbine

Listener Comments:

To (Considering) Tallmadge:

Well said regarding the constant, incorrect association of Columbine being a result of bullying. Dave Cullen's "Columbine" was an excellent and thorough investigation into the mindset of the Columbine killers. He showed that one of the Columbine shooters was a sociopath and actually thought he was superior to most people, not inferior. Their actions had nothing to do with being bullied, but rather wanting to pull off the deadliest domestic terror massacre in U.S. history.

As for bullies themselves, it is not about feeling insecure and making themselves feel more secure by making fun of others. It's about them already feeling superior. They do it because they know they can get away with it.

I truly wish the media and so-called experts would not continue to incorrectly use Columbine as an example of the result of bullying as well as use the worn out pop-psychology theory that bullies bully others because they themselves are feeling insecure, when in reality, it is the exact opposite.


Posted by: Barb (Cleveland, OH) on October 13, 2010 11:10AM
I am an elementary guidance counselor. I would like to use your series in my guidance lessons. Are transcripts available?


Posted by: Susan Hilbert (wooster, oh) on October 7, 2010 8:10AM
I was wondering if there are transcripts available?


Posted by: Ritu (Canton) on October 7, 2010 8:10AM
Learn more about bullying prevention at the Crossroads Stop Bullying Now! conference on Nov. 5. Todd Walts is one of the presenters. For detials visit www.crossroads-lake.org.


Posted by: Ed (Mentor) on October 5, 2010 11:10AM
Ohio lacks enforcement of Anti-bullying laws.
In schools it is up to each buildings principal to enforce as they see fit. Though districts are requied a minimal response to bullying complaints they are not required to follow these low standards.
Students can not learn if they don't feel safe.


Posted by: Considering (Tallmadge) on October 4, 2010 12:10PM
Bit of a nitpick here:

This piece mentioned anti-bullying laws being written in 1999 as a result of the bullying that led to the Columbine shootings that year. While that may have been the declared rationale behind the legislation, many people get it wrong that bullying was what ultimately caused those shootings to take place.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not bullied, and were actually rather well-liked in their school; they were not social outcasts, Harris could have been diagnosed as a genuine clinical psychopath with narcissistic personality traits, Klebold was depressed and unfortunately looked to Harris as a sort of leader. The media got just about everything wrong about that event. Read Dave Cullen's Columbine. It does a fine job in presenting all the facts as they should be, and does so with an engaging narrative.


Posted by: Rob (Akron) on October 4, 2010 7:10AM
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