tv State of the Union CNN October 11, 2010 2:00am-3:00am EDT
they think the dater is too attractive for uglyschmux.com. ten votes will get a person booted. so far no one has been rejected. sign of the times. and beauty's in the eye, right? i'm don lemon at the cnn headquarter in atlanta. thanks for watching. see you back here next weekend. have a good night and a great week.
thanks very much for joining us. we've been planning this special for a long time, for a number of months, and i've been covering this topic for years really, but given what's happened in just the last few weeks it feels like this next hour is more important than we even thought. it just in the last couple of weeks we've seen headlines of kids killing themselves after years of bullying. why is this happening, and how do we stop it? that's what we want to try to learn tonight. no child should be scared in school. no child should be harassed online at home. no child should have to bury their child because he or she took their own life because other kids made it hell. it doesn't have to happen. what we've learned though is that it does happen in part because of what parents simply don't know and what some kids simply can't bring themselves to share. we did a special survey of polling people, interviewing hundreds of kids and adults. 37% of kids that we asked, more than one in three, say they have been bullied. but take a look at this. 65% of parents we asked say bullying is either a minor problem or no problem at all, so there's a dangerous disconnect here, and kids are hurting because of it. take a look. >> i came out of closet as gay in eighth grade. a kid had a knife on school premises and said i'm going to kill him. i want that faggot dead. >> i've been verbally abused because of my religion. i'm a muslim girl. >> i didn't even see him coming. he just came out of nowhere and hit me. >> bullying not only at school. it follows kids home, online, on their cell phones. there's nowhere to hide.
>> people can just post things anonymously. it's for bullies who are afraid to say it to your face. >> you're a fashion. you should just kill yourself. the world will go on without you. >> other kids bystanders, scared into silence. is there fear talking to teachers or talking to the principal? >> yes. >> yes. >> how so? >> can you just get called a snitch. >> it can actually make it worse? >> yeah. >> as for the victims, a long day at school or back at home. >> you just think i have to go face them again. i have to spend another eight hours in that prison, and no matter what you do, you can't escape. >> death is your only escape because if you kill yourself, it's done. you don't have to do any more. >> you heard jonathan say it there. for some kids death seems like the only escape. meet asher brown. he lived in texas. he was 13 years old. about two weeks ago he was found dead in the bottom of a closet
in home. he had shot himself in the head with her step-dad's gun. he was taunted for the clothes he wore, being small, his religion and being gay. phoebe prince, bullied in school and online. her suicide resulted in criminal charges against six teenagers. carl joseph walker hoover, he hanged himself. the kids called him gay even though he never said that he was. he was just 11 years old. 13-year-old hope whitsell made a simple mistake. texted a topless photo of herself to a boy. he circulate it had all around. the bullying from that was too much to bear and she hanged herself in her room. four kids with dreams and desires and lives to grow into, and there are so many more just like them. in fact, all the kids that you see behind me are kids who took their own lives because they were bullied. this is a problem that has gone far beyond isolated incidents, and there are so many more kids right now being tormented.
so tonight, along with "people" magazine and the cartoon network, we're going to talk as much as we can about solutions and about prevention. we've got kids who are being bullied. kids who have been bullies as well as educators and exporter. paul walker-here's mother is here and so is carl's sister dominique and hope's mother donna also joins us from florida, dr. phil mcgraw is with us making children and family issues the folk afl his syndicated show and also here with us, a globally recognized expert on children, teens, parenting and bullying. "american idol"'s crystal bowersock joins us to talk about her own experiences of being bullied in school. first of all, how are you doing? >> try to take it one day at a time. it's very difficult. especially when you know that there are other families that are suffering. it's very hard. >> did you have any idea how bad the bullying was that carl was experiencing? >> carl informed me that he was being bullied at school, so i had some idea.
i went to the administrators and i informed them that this was happening to carl, but carl was afraid to identify his -- the people that was bullying him because he was afraid he'd be labeled a snitch, a fink, so it was very difficult, and i thought the school was handling the situation. >> and donna, how are you doing? >> i'm the same. it's one day at a time. it's basically all that you can do. you have your highs and you have your lows. it's -- there's a void, and there will always be a void. >> in the days before your daughter hope took her own life, the school had met with her. she had actually met with a counsellor, but they didn't inform you about that. what happened? >> there was an incident the friday before the saturday that my daughter committed suicide. she was actually called into the
office to speak with the social worker. the social worker and my daughter actually filled out and signed a no harm contract, and the school did not notify me. >> and a no harm contract is something that she had pledged that if she thought she was going to harm herself she would talk to an adult before doing so? >> exactly, and there was actually a phone number of the social worker on that paper. there was also a 1-800 suicide help line card which was folded up with the no harm contract. >> and i understand that after her death you actually found that contract in the garbage can in her room. >> yeah. >> dominique, what sort of things would kids call your brother? >> well, i found out that some of the peers -- of his peers
called him faggot or just called him anti-gay slurs and to hear from my view it really hurts because my brother wasn't any of those things. he didn't real classify himself as being gay so i can understand the level of hurt and pain that he was probably going through. >> dr. phil, when you hear this, it seems like we're hearing more and more. just in the last weeks kids taking their lives, 11-year-old children, 13-year-old children. >> it's the loneliest time -- can you imagine the lead up to how bad it has to get for a child to take their own life, to even know what that means, to contemplate and plan out taking their own live. they are too alone because the adults are not tuned in enough to how terrible and how viable this is just because it's all object internet, in addition to what's on the school. we used to have schoolyard
bullies but now they go home with the kid and get in the kid's room and there's nowhere to escape these kids. >> and we'll focus on cyberbullying in just a few moments. rosalind, you work with students. dr. phil was talking about adults. adults in the schools, do administrators and do teachers get it? >> i think some do, but i think what teachers do is they feel overwhelmed and they feel like i don't want tonight counsellor so one thing i say to teachers all the time is you do not have to be the counsellor, but if you are a good teach, if you're a science teacher, a math teacher, a student will come to you because of the relationship they have to you. you are the bridge to somebody that can help this kid. they are maybe not going to go to a counsellor with 400 kids on their list and all these kids to administer. >> if we're going to ask these teachers to do this, we've got to help them. look, teachers are the most overworked and underpaid profession in america. we pay them so little and we turn our greatest assets over to them during the day, and if we expect them to be able to
recognize this, intervene, remediate, then we've got to give them the training to do that, the funding to do that. we've got to put it in the curriculum in a structured way so we're educating the students that this is not okay. a kid that's 13, 14, 15 years old. the brain is not done growing yet and the last part that grows is the ability to predict the consequences of your actions. these kids don't think they are killing somebody. they don't think they are destroying somebody's life. so that -- we need to not just punish them. we need to counsel them and educate them, but to do that we've got to train these teachers and give them the funding and the time and the curriculum to do it >> you actually went to carl's school. you sat in on a classroom. you were involved. >> yes, i was. >> did you feel the school took it seriously? >> i don't think the school took it seriously, and i'd like to also make a comment on the last day of carl's life he was -- it was an incident at school, and the school did not inform me, and to this day i don't know why
the school did not call me and say that my son was threatened, his life was threatened, and the mediation for that day was he had to sit down with the person that was bullying him and for the rest of the week they had to have lunch together, and when i asked the director of the school why would you allow -- allow this to happen, she said that's what we do for mediation. >> well, that's actually incredibly irresponsible, and it's a real -- it doesn't help your kid and it makes the problem worse actually when a school does something like that. what i would say also is, you know, schools have been very focused on wanting to do assemblies for kids, but we don't as much want to do it for the faculty, so one of the things i do when i'm working with kids i say to them i just met, if it's true, right, i just met with your faculty for four hours or six hours or i met with them for three days and we're in an ongoing process as a community to be able to address this issue because it's not just -- we're not just putting
this on you because it's not fair to the kids. >> and, again, i think what we have to do is not just criticize them. we've got to train them. we've got to fund them and make it part of curriculum. we can stand up and talk about it, but until we do something about it, until we go to the -- to the legislature and get the funding to put it into the curriculum, it's not going to change. >> and that's what you've been campaigning since carl's death to try to do. >> very effectively, by the way. >> safe schools improvement act, and that would be federal legislation that would mandate professional development and training for our teachers. it would mandate reporting the data of who is being bullied and who are the perpetrators. it would provide a resource for our teachers. i think that what's important is it's important for us not to be reactive but to be proactive. it takes a collective effort from everyone, and we have to build a sense of community. if we build a sense of community, we won't have bystanders standing by and
allowing a child to be picked on and be bullied. we have to build a sense of community. >> there's got to be a partnership. thanks very much for being with us. you'll be in the audience, dr. fill and rosalind will stay with us and crystal bowersock from the bullying she endured in school. >> it gets better and i'm proof that a lot of people have been bull ed and celebrity types and public figures. it's okay. there's a light at the end of the tunnel. ♪
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♪ a new way of living [ female announcer ] multigrain pops with pringles. ♪ why can't you just let it be i'm all right ♪ >> crystal bowersox, "american idol." you would think the worst anyone could ever call her would be runner-up but she was called far worse in high school. she was bullied for the way she looked, dressed, how her classmates perceived her to be
or how they wanted to paint her. she hasn't forgotten the pain of that. it's important to point out she made it through, and i'm glad she's here with us. tonight i also want you to meet daniel harrison, a tenth grader from kalamazoo, michigan. daniel used to be on the other side of this equation. i say used to be. he was a bill, taunting some of his fellow classmates for years. also with us, dr. phil mcgraw and rosalind wiseman. what would people say to you in school? >> i got a lot of different things. i guess i'll start off by saying i had a chaotic home life, and that carried over into school with me. in the hallway, a lot of the -- i don't want to single anyone out, but, you know, just the more popular kids, i guess, would just make fun of me and call me names and -- because i was different. i dressed differently. when you're in high school, you're really searching for who you are and trying to find your place in the world. and, you know, you go through phases and things, and instead of accepting differences, i think kids are --
>> i went to a high school reunion a couple of years ago and realized the kids who were the most unusual in high school are the most interesting now. and the ones who were popular are dull and boring frankly. >> serving the punch at the punch bowl. you know. >> but, i mean, you know, you can kind of laugh about it now but in retrospect at the time i read you were writing suicide notes in poem form. >> yeah. i never attempted, thankfully, but the thought was in my mind constantly. coming home from dealing with bullying at school and then dealing with bullying at home as well. so i often spent time in my room and my escape was music. if it weren't for having a guitar or a pen and paper to write it out and get it out of my head and out of my being, i'm not sure if i would have made it through. i would have been one of these tragic stories. >> daniel, first of all, i got to say it takes a lot of guts to actually say, you know, i used to bully people. so i appreciate you being here. you no longer do bully people. but at the time that you did,
what -- why do you think you did it? >> i did it because i thought it made me happier. i thought taking somebody else's power would just add on to mine. >> so it actually made you feel powerful? >> yeah. i felt like people looked up to me, and i felt like i always had crowds, you know, laughing with me at the victim. and it just -- it felt good. >> did you ever worry about being bullied yourself? >> i had been bullied a little bit. about a year or two prior to when i started bullying, but it wasn't serious enough. i wasn't hurt too bad. >> but the fact that you had power over others made you feel good. >> oh, definitely. >> and, crystal, i guess you must have just felt powerless. >> yeah. it definitely steals you of any kind of confidence and power that you may have had. you know, it's -- it's just such a hard position to be in. >> did you think, daniel, at the time about the effect on the kids or not really?
>> oh, no, never crossed my mind once. >> what was it that made you change? you read a book, i understand. >> yes. i was suspended because i had harassed a girl so bad that she came to school just sobbing, and i was in suspension and they let me read a book, "touching spirit bearer" and it really connected with me, and it kind of just taught me how to be a better person. >> and you actually wrote to the author and told him that. >> yeah. >> have you done it since then? have you bullied? >> no, i have not. >> what do you think the key is to getting kids to stop bullying? >> i think one of the things we have to really connect with is that lots of kids are thinking that it is entertainment to humiliate somebody. and that comes in all different kinds of ways. and we need to address that directly. the second is, i think, we need for bullies, is we need to give them a way to come back into the community that combines consequences with -- but we still want to be in a relationship with you. so i mean, i work with kids of all different who have moments
like yours are on the longer road to basically being decent human beings. and sometimes it really takes a pretty tough moment, when you're sitting in a room with a kid and saying, look, i think you're a man of honor, woman of honor, we've had this conversation that this is going to stop. but i need to be really clear with you that if you walk out of this classroom, out of this meeting with me and for whatever reason the life of the target becomes more difficult as a result of this conversation, you and i are in a whole different level of a problem. >> dr. phil? >> well, i think we have this misperception that bullies are actually -- have real inferiority, and so they just try to fluff themselves up, but that's not necessarily the case. we get bullying from all different kinds of personalty types, but they're generally perceive themselves to be powerful. and so they -- and they don't know how to manage that power. and we have to counsel them. we have to teach them to manage that power. many say we have a generation now that is growing up without empathy, without the ability to put themselves in someone else's shoes and say i'm inflicting pain on this person.
shoes and say, i'm inflicting pain on this person. i can imagine what this person is experiencing when they go home at night. and if a child can't go there, if they can't put themselves in that position, then they don't have a reason not to do it. >> that's interesting, actually, and i comment on that, with my home life, i'm not an expert on bullying by any means, but from my personal experience, empathy is such an important quality for us to have. and it carries through your entire life. and that starts in the home with parenting. if you teach your children tolerance, acceptance and the ability to empathize and not everyone has it, but even sympathy, it's such an important thing to be able to do. >> you being here is nice because i think it's important to also send the message to kids out there that, you know, while there may be no escape from this sort of 24-hour-a-day bullying that we get online and stuff, there is escape in that you grow up and it gets better. it does get better. >> it gets better. i'm living proof and i'm sure a lot of people have been bullied
and celebrity types and public figures. it's okay. there's a light at the end of the tunnel. >> and you've actually, some of your bullies actually have written to you now that you're famous. >> i have received some through fan mail, yes? >> do they want like concert tickets? >> everybody wants tickets now. >> that was a bad choice. >> i don't hold any disdain or hate in my heart for these people. i realize, it's high school. but the problem is when it also carries over into adulthood. there are adult bullies, too. >> daniel, crystal, appreciate you talking. thanks very much. as crystal says, there is hope. there's plenty to get through, and it's much worse than it was for previous generations as we've talked about. now the bullying follows kids home. it's online, it's texted, it's in video games, it's on social network sites. mobile devices. cyberbullying and what to do about it, next. >> it's basically like, oh, you should -- no one would care if you died. you should just go kill yourself. you're ugly.
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we're calling this program "bullying: no escape for a reason." it's because the taunts and jeers that used to be limited to places like schoolyards and locker rooms now follow today's kids around 24 hours a day. everywhere they go, everywhere there's an entire online social scene that your kids are using that you probably don't even know about. your kids could be the victim of these websites or could be doing the bullying on these websites. maybe have you heard about one called formspring or topix or 4chan or myyearbook.com. these are some of the sites experts tell us they see the most cyber bullying on. with me dr. phil mcgraw, rosalind wiseman, justin patchin, co-director of the cyberbullying research center. justin, you say the biggest site is formspring? >> formspring is maybe the most recent site that a lot of parents just don't know about in
terms of what it's about and why kids are interested in it. >> what is it? >> it's basically a social networking site where users have the ability to ask questions to those who have profiles. one of the key features is it's easy to be anonymous on this site, so people can ask you questions, maybe inappropriate questions about your sexual orientation or why you're so stupid or why you're so dumb, and when the students reply, they get posted to their profiles, but if they don't reply, then it's like, well obviously you must be gay or you must be stupid. >> i want to show, dr. phil, something we talked about, a student named jason, a middle schooler. he talked about formspring. let's listen. >> i would have a friend of mine that would call me basically every night and she would be literally crying and bawling her eyes out because of stuff that would go on formspring like you're fat, you should just kill yourself. we don't need you in our school, the world would go on without you. >> yet kids want to be on these sites which is one of the interesting things. you have to put up your own account on this site.
>> that's where the action is, and people want to know what's going on and get the buzz about music or, you know, what's happening with a movie or this or that. they want to be there because that's where people are going, but then if you get singled out there, and this is the problem that i was alluding to earlier, anderson, your child can be in your own home. i mean, it used to be the bullies were at the schoolyard. you would come home, okay, now you're safe at least in your own home. or if you were really getting picked on at school, you can say, you know what? we're going to leave this school. we're going to move to another school. but there are no boundaries to the internet. so it goes with you to the new school. and parents think, well, i limit the time that my child is on the computer, but a lot of the game controllers now for xbox and everything have internet capacity. they can get on -- you think they're playing a video game. >> you can be bullied on xbox or one of these games. >> yeah, you can be -- you can go online there. on the cell phones. now you can connect to the internet on the cell phone. so they can find these kids everywhere. that's the upside of the technology. but the downside is there are no
boundaries, and they can do it anonymously. >> and rosalind, when kids are bullying online, do they think that's somehow different than bullying face to face in school? >> they think it's different. they think it's not as bad. >> these internet companies know this is going on, but i guess they feel they're like the phone company, not responsible for how people are using it. >> well, some of the major companies now i think are realizing that cyberbullying is a problem, and they're trying to take some measures to educate the users and parents about what's going on. but you're right. i mean, in general some sites just take an approach that this isn't my responsibility. people are going to misuse our site, and there's nothing we can really do about that. >> you say, dr. phil, also it enters kids' internal dialogue. >> it does. you take over for the bully. i mean, somebody says this to you on the internet or whatever. you internalize that, and you might hear it from the bully ten times in a night, but they'll repeat it to themselves 1,000 times in their internal dialogue. and, anderson, the scars that
are left from verbal and emotional abuse run deeper and last longer than even physical abuse. you get a black eye, it heals up. but somebody burns your psychological skin, somebody damages your self-esteem, that can last the rest of your life. so this is serious, serious stuff. >> we've been talking about bullies and kids who are targeted, but there's another group of kids we need to talk about. bystanders. we touched on this a little bit. the kids who are witnesses to bullying but do nothing to stop it. you think being a bystander is not acceptable? >> it's almost as bad as being a bully. >> it's just a constant, vicious cycle, and the fact there are so many bystanders and the fact there are so many people that don't do anything and sit idly by and let it happen, that's why it doesn't get better. ♪
i'm don lemon with a look now at your top stories. it's just 23 days until the mid-term elections and president barack obama is trying to generate democratic enthusiasm. he addressed a huge rally in philadelphia on sunday. in a campaign-style speech, the president urged voters to head to the polls next month. absentee voting is already under way in many states. a troubling story out of central washington state. police in the small college town of clielam are investigating a mass overdose. all but one of the overdose victims were young women. some people who attended the friday night party say the women were targeted. >> people who were having fun and all of a sudden all the girls were puking everywhere. girls were outside like on their back, and people were so drunk they didn't know what to do. >> they were rufied so they were rufied, they were falling down and their drinks were going everywhere and we were picking them up. i carried four people downstairs. we go now to chile where 33
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do something. don't sit -- don't just sit there and don't do anything about it. you do that, you're a bystander. you're letting it happen. you're basically promoting it. >> a student's plea, if you see bullying, say something, do something. i've got to be honest, when i was in middle school and high school, i didn't get bullied, but i remember seeing kids being picked on and being made fun of, and i don't think i did anything about it. i think i was relieved frankly to not be the one being picked on. so take a look at this. 34% of teenagers we surveyed say most of their peers take no steps to stop a fight. 23% say they find an adult, 19% say they try to stop it. but get this, another 19% say they would encourage a fight to continue. back with me now, dr. phil mcgraw and rosalind wiseman, let's also bring in kevin jennings, who serves as assistant deputy secretary of
education, heading the department's office of safe and drug-free schools and dr. susan limber of clemson university. they're advisers to the cartoon network's stop bullying, speak up initiative and stuart snider, president of the cartoon network is here as well. so dr. limber, what is this bystander effect? >> it's interesting. my colleagues and i conducted a survey with more than 500,000 third through twelfth graders. what we found was fascinating. the vast majority of students tell us they feel badly for bullied students. they don't like it. unfortunately, that sympathy doesn't translate into action. we found that fewer than 50% said they would try to help a bullied student even though many felt really badly about it. >> there's also the pressure, dr. phil, of not saying anything, the pressure to kind of join in on the bullying. i want to show you what some of the students we talked to had to say. >> do i bully this person even though i know it's wrong so that i am accepted? or do i not, and go with what i believe in and risk the possibility that i become the victim over the next couple years?
>> do you think that's part of the reason some people bully, is that they're afraid if they don't they'll get targeted? >> yeah. >> the peer pressure has a lot to do with it. >> yeah. >> it sounds like for some kids it's almost a defense mechanism. >> it really is true. that peer pressure is a huge, huge factor in getting someone to just leave their values, leave their beliefs and do something that is really bad or evil. but here's the thing again. i don't want to sound like a broken record about this, but the research on a bystander just stepping up randomly here and there for a target is not really good. what we need is a structured program in the curriculum where you teach all the students that this is not okay. where the cool thing is to not bully. you know, one kid stepping up saying, hey, leave him alone won't necessarily deter the mob. but if you've got 30 kids who say, we signed a pledge that this wouldn't happen, and we're going to all come over here and say, look, we stand with him, you need to leave, you need to go away, that will make a
difference. we need structure. it needs to be part of the curriculum, and all the kids need to be educated. >> rosalind, do you agree? >> yeah, i do and i also want to go back to what dr. phil said in the beginning of the show and what some of the parents talked about, which is the kids don't want to come forward because they don't want to snitch. well, i think what happens is that kids will report. they will talk about what's happening if they have confidence in the adults in their community. and so if the adults have the training that we're talking about, then kids will meet us more than halfway. they have to think that what they're doing might have a good outcome. what they now know is, i don't know, because i'm seeing my teacher look the other way when it's happening in the classroom or in the schoolyard or in the -- during sports activities or anything like that. >> it's interesting, i talked to a young guy named matt. i want to play you some of what he said about adults being bystanders and standing by. you don't think adults these days really have a conception of how bad it is? >> no.
>> generally they don't take it seriously enough because what could eventually happen is quite possibly suicide. and if an adult is one of those bystanders that just chose not to do anything on that particular day, and that kid goes home and commits suicide, essentially their blood is on your hands. >> kevin, do you think some teachers don't get it? absolutely. i think that's very true. i think a lot of teachers think, as you said earlier, this is just something you go through, you'll survive. and one of the things we need to educate people about is that this literally can be fatal. one of the things the department has done is convene the first ever national summit on bullying in august because we want people to understand that we take this very, very seriously. the recent rash of suicides are unfortunately not the first, but we'd hope they'd be the last. >> you're wearing a button with carl's picture on it. >> absolutely. carl died the day i was offered this position, and carl was why i chose to go to washington. and i believe what we need to do is listen closely to the kids and what we're doing at the department is launching a new
program called safe and supportive schools. we're actually going to use student surveys to assign school safety scores to individual schools. if we ask the kids what's going on, they will tell us. as dr. phil pointed out, a lot of the stuff happens out of the view of the adults and adults don't even know. we adults need to listen to the experts, who are the students, and we're going to systematically collect their points of view from this program. >> stuart, why is empowering bystanders the focus of the cartoon network's efforts? >> first of all, 160,000 kids don't go to school every day because of bullying. and in our research that we looked at, over 75% of kids are aware of bullying that takes place. if we can develop a culture where everybody's working together and create an environment where it's okay to talk and to share and to speak up of that bullying is taking place, we can start making an impact to get those kids to
school, feeling comfortable and to hopefully make a dent in this epidemic. >> the question of course -- go ahead. >> one of the things i want to say also about teachers is when i'm talking to teachers and school resource officers, counselors, math teachers, math teachers will say to me, but i teach math. i don't know how to do this. but if we can teach them, and you can, very concrete things, the teachers relax, they feel better about it, and they feel empowered and feel like they are contributing to the culture of the school in a positive way. so it's not impossible. these are things that we really can do, and the teachers and that really the vast majority of teachers want to do. >> question, of course, who is ultimately responsible and accountable when bullying happens? to stuart snyder's point, how can we all play a role in trying to stop it? we'll talk more about both subjects ahead, and we'll hear from a student at a massachusetts high school where accused bullies are on trial now for the death of one of their classmates, a girl named phoebe prince. and as we go to break, a message from the cartoon network's stop bullying now, speak up campaign. >> dude, what would happen if
one of us was a bully? >> yeah, and you bullied one of us? >> we decided to do a bully situation and figure out what would be the best thing to do about it. >> i played the bully and hated it. >> what's going on, little guy? >> it felt awkward. >> you haven't grown at all. bullied, and that didn't feel so good either. >> i was watching it go down. i had to do something, and the best thing to do is get an adult. >> that's enough. back up. >> together we can make a difference. >> stop bullying. speak up. go to stopbullingspeakup.com for more. [ female announcer ] join yoplait in our commitment to fight breast cancer.
phoebe prince was 15 years old. she hanged herself in january after months of alleged bullying by classmates at her high school in south hadley, massachusetts. these are the six alleged tormenters now facing trial on a variety of felony charges. in the wake of phoebe's death, many parents came forward saying
the school administration ignored their complaints of bullying. state lawmakers subsequently legislation, and this summer the local school district adopted a more comprehensive anti-bullying policy. rosalind wiseman is working in that school to try to implement the policy. i'm also here with dr. phil mcgraw and also andre perry, ceo of the capital one new orleans charter school and alex parker, one of phoebe's classmates and on the school's anti-bullying task force and from our partners and corporate cousins at "people" magazine, managing editor, larry hackett. so, alex, have things gotten better in the school? i mean you said last year there was a fair amount of bullying, you would say. >> last year, yeah, there was quite a fair amount of bullying. as the year went on and up until phoebe's death, bullying was almost an everyday thing. >> so not just her, other people as well? >> it -- it was other people as well --
>> you say actually, years ago, you actually used to bully as well. >> yeah, i did. one of my -- she's now one of my friends, i would always like pick on her in middle school and at the vigil, the night of -- the night after phoebe's death, i personally took her out in front of everybody and apologized to her, and i subsequently went around and apologized to all the other students that i've ever picked on or made fun of. >> do you think change can really happen? do you think bullying can actually be -- we can cut down on it and stop it? >> i feel like we can cut down on it a lot, but with technology these days, it's going to be almost impossible to completely eliminate it because you can use facebook, you can use twitter, or formspring and just get to anyone at any time of the day. you can even text them and like harass them that way. >> rosalind, you're working at alex's school. >> i will be doing that. >> was it any different or is it any different than any other school?
>> look, i think all our communities are messy. and i think that what south hadley is going through happens at other places. i think what is important to really remember is that you don't just take ownership of your community when your kids are making you look good. you take ownership when you are struggling, when you have problems. when you don't know what to do. when kids are not doing things that make you so proud. that's when you step in and that's when you're present, and that's when you say, i'm the adult, and i am going to create a safe culture for this school. >> but to create a safe culture starts with curriculum and instruction, particularly in the school. when you have 30% of your students failing in math, guess what you do? create a better math course. >> exactly. >> when you have 30% of your students getting bullied, you create some type of social course. and unfortunately, our accountability systems do not address these very pragmatic ends. >> it seems when schools talk about doing an anti-bullying curriculum, it's a 45-minute assembly. >> check it off your list. >> once a year. >> if we're not teaching
students to -- students aren't learning good behavior of how to treat each other, what exactly are we teaching? the end is to get people to work together, to grow together. >> anderson, we've covered a lot of this story as you know from the very beginning when phoebe died. one of the things we discovered hopefully in a positive note that a nearby school system, west boylston, they've brought in folks and talked to the folks at south hadley. there, what strikes me as being most unique about it there, older kids team up with younger kids. it's kind of the my bodyguard effect. the younger kids are free to speak to the older kids about what they're experiencing. there are anonymous bully boxes in every classroom where kids can put in a note. they have an assembly every year where teachers, students, all the people gather together and talk about at students, as teachers, adults and youngsters, i was a bully. i was bullied. it ends the isolation. everything that's being discussed here is how these people are isolated. whenever we write stories about phoebe or other people, it begins and ends with this profound isolation. that's what's got to stop. these people -- all of us need to be part of this. we cover pop culture in "people"
magazine. to say that there is a kind of fear of humiliation that goes on in the programs we watch, reality programs and things like that, where it's okay to make fun of people, you cannot expect children to separate those things out. >> i talked to one student too about the importance of language and what language is tolerated. take a look at what he said. >> when a kid says that's so gay or that's retarded or bipolar or whatever they say, that -- and a teacher steps in and they say, that's not acceptable, i'm not going to accept that in my classroom because i know words can hurt, that's one of the simplest things you can do, but that can make the day of a child in need. >> do you think that can make a difference? >> oh, absolutely. it's that interaction between the teacher and the child that matters most. and i tell you what really has insignificant consequences are these no tolerance policies that kick people out of the school. we're seeing increases in expulsion particularly around
minority youth. >> thank you. >> particularly around minority youth, but it's not changing the violent culture in our schools, so we can't expect to just kick people out. we have to have that one-on-one engagement with the teachers. but again, teachers can't be everywhere, so that's where the peer group and peer work comes in. >> well, and bullying won't stop. bullying is aggression. it's as old as humanity. what you have to have is this zero tolerance program that runs all over the place, in the schools, among the parents, among the bullies and, you know, as part of the culture. >> when you try to stop it, it's got to be specific, it has to talk about words, it can't be this generalized. >> you should name the behavior. >> nobody should bully and you shouldn't be mean. >> right. because kids are like, whatever. who cares about that. and it's another policy, it's another assembly that doesn't mean anything. one of the things i would really want all of us to think about, we sometimes think that, okay, we're going to do this in seventh grade. just like we teach math all through a child's education, we also have to do this, age appropriately, all through their education. >> it's not enough to tell a child what not to do. and that's what's happening.
teachers, administrators say, don't do that. that's wrong. don't do that. we need to teach them what to do. if you're not going to do this, what are you going to do? how can you express yourself appropriately? how can you put in a program of inclusion where minorities or kids that are different can be included? but right now, there's a void. it's either do this or do nothing. we've got to teach them. >> to say don't say gay and not explain the whole concept of homophobia is ridiculous. >> why not say that and here's what to say instead. here's what you're saying, that's what i said about empathy. you can't teach empathy, but you can teach everything that leads to a child evolving. >> and that teaching has to be both in the schools but also in the home. >> it's not just one talk so you can say, okay, did that, so now we're proactive. no, you're not. you just started a dialogue, but now you need to continue it. >> we're going to have some final thoughts when we come back. >> so, ah, your seat good?
got the mirrors all adjusted? you can see everything ok? just stay off the freeways, all right? i don't want you going out on those yet. and leave your phone in your purse, i don't want you texting. >> daddy... ok! ok, here you go. be careful. >> thanks dad. >> and call me--but not while you're driving. we knew this day was coming. that's why we bought a subaru.
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for more information, please go to our special website, cnn.com/bullying. cartoon network also has a special page at stopbullyingspeakup.com, and "people" magazine has more on bullying in their current issue. i want to thank everyone who made this hour possible, the people at the cartoon network, "people" magazine, dr. phil, rosalind wiseman, all our guests, and also the parents who have lost children and are working to make sure no other parent does. special thanks to all the young men and women also who lent their voices to this effort, for opening our eyes. we're going to continue to cover this issue because it is too important to ignore. and we urge you to talk to your kids, to be involved in their