April 14th, 2008
02:29 PM ET

Campus Rage: Has bullying gotten out of control?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/14/art.boudreau.jpg
caption="Watch CNN Special Investigations Unit's Abbie Boudreau report on campus rage tonight on 360°."]
Since we aired our Special Investigations Unit documentary "Campus Rage," we have received thousands of emails. Most of these responses are from teachers and parents who think bullying is getting out of control –- not just at school, but in cyberspace as well.

Of course, bullying is not a new problem.

I saw it when I was in school and I’m sure you did too. When my older sister was in the fourth grade, she was bullied so badly, my parents chose to take her out of school and send her to a different one in the middle of the school year. Her classmates relentlessly teased her for being “too smart.” In her case, it wasn’t just other kids who picked on her, it was her teacher as well. (She was able to overcome the bullying and by the time she was a senior in high school - she was the class valedictorian and homecoming queen!)

But the questions remain - Has bullying gotten worse? Or are the kids who are being bullied seeking out more revenge?

I want to hear from those of you who are being bullied. What is your day like at school? What do you want bullies to know about how they make you feel?

And for you bullies out there, why do you pick on other kids? I would love an explanation.

– Abbie Boudreau, Correspondent/CNN Special Investigations Unit

Program note: How do you stop a killer bent on revenge? Watch AC 360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?

Filed under: Campus Rage
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Michelle, Cincinnati

    Bullying? Don’t you mean harassment? Abuse? We would not allow this to occur in our adult society. Why then do we euphonize this abuse and call it bullying.

    Teachers, Principals, and students and even parents need to be educated. Just as we have sex ed. We need to have a class about proper behavior and consequences. As in Japan, students are required to take an ethics class, where proper behavior is reiterated.

    If we have a zero tolerance for bullying then this will be the standard that students can expect and will depend on. It is a matter of survival to some kids. We are allowing this to happen. We are allowing abuse in our schools. However, we would not allow it in any other area in a child’s life.

    April 15, 2008 at 9:34 pm |
  2. Representative nick Thompson

    HB 669 The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up For All Students Act, named for a Cape Coral teenager who committed suicide in 2005 as a result of being cyberbullied for more than two years, unbeknownst to his parents. It is on Second Calendar for the House as of this writing.This is the third year this bill has been introduced, it has passed the House previously but would die in the Senate. SB 790, as of this writing, has passed two comittees in the Senate and is headed to the Senate K-12 Appropriations Committee.

    April 14, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  3. Renee

    Hi Slater. Where do you suggest people send their children to school?

    The public education system in America should provide opportnities for each and every student. The problem is a key leadership issue. America has determined it will settle for less meaning it gives school the opportunity to provide mediocre education and a mediocre environment. Slacking has become a national phenomenon.

    We need to raise the bar for these kids and expect nothing less of them. Education in my opinion is the only way to erradicate poverty and to get this next generation working higher and better paying jobs.

    Slater, next time you need a nurse, EMT or a doctor please ask them if they were educated in public school? I bet they were. Personally I went to public schools and received a great education. There are pros and cons to everything.

    And yes, I am all about protecting our national borders. My husband dearly refers to me as Mrs. Lou Dobbs when I get on my bandwagon. I am sending in another tax payment today so I have on the what are my taxes doing for me bandwagon.

    See you on the live blog Slater!

    April 14, 2008 at 4:39 pm |
  4. Sharon

    I taught high school for thirty three years and saw more bullying than I care to remember. The major problem was spinless administrators who felt they didn't want to confront or insult parents by telling them the truth about their child or punish the errant child. One of my colleagues put it best. "The customer's always right." The best customer being the one who had the loudest complaint, the biggest mouth or the best threat of a law suit. Rarely, was it the parent of the victim.

    When confronted with the facts of a bully, most parents blamed the victim as being weird, or gay or odd and therefore deserving of such treatment. Administrators would nod their heads, serve up platitudes and do essentially nothing. It has been my experience that the bully usually came from a "good" home, was on a sports team, or felt he was "special" and untouchable for some reason. The privileged class in any high school is often the class most capable of excused evil.

    Faculty emembers who often dared to step in were "warned" by administrators to "stay out of it," and let the "kids handle it on their own." They handled it all right, it got worse and the inevitable fight brewed for days until it finally all blew up.

    The big question, of course, is how a child gets to believe he has the "right" to pick on others and why it is he or she thinks it's "fun." Their are multiple causations, but the most prevalent one is total lack of parental guidance which starts at a very early age.

    The playground bully grows up to be a life long bully.

    April 14, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
  5. Tita

    I work with teenage girls, and they tell me about the regular bullying and meanness they have to navigate through each and every day at public schools (jr. high to high school). If a teenager carries any extra weight, or is too thin, if they are too tall, too short, too smart, too 'stupid', too anything, they are hounded, verbally abused, and deeply hurt and all by their peers and so-called "friends". When allegiance can change over night, for no reason, it can be a very confusing and lonely time for teens. One day you have a dear friend, the next they turn on you and call you a whore. They have lost trust in each other. Everyone is out to get some thing or some one.
    It's a soap opera on steroids. No wonder there is more depression, suicidal ideation, and self injury at this age. It has gotten worse, and the options of bring about change take time and money.
    I sit with girls and listen to their horror stories and try to encourage them. To tell them they are not alone, they are beautiful NO MATTER WHAT. I do a lot of cognitive restructuring (CBT), so they can THINK their way through each day. For the moment or more, they do ok, and then when they have to walk into their hallways at school, they are back in homeroom hell, fighting to stay level and ok.

    More needs to be done for this generation, to bring awareness of the harm that they inflict on each other, or they will be remembered as the
    Bully Generation.

    April 14, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  6. John


    Great piece! I don't think bullying has gotten worse, but I believe the revenge has. I believe some kids who are bullied don't have good support (as your sister had) to stand up (or get away) from this type of behavior.

    I believe if parents do more to build the self confidence of their children and play an active role in their lives we will see less bullies looking for attention and fewer "revenge" scenarios.

    Very happy to have you on CNN! Great to see a familiar face on AC!

    April 14, 2008 at 4:31 pm |
  7. Lilibeth

    I had never heard of bullying until I immigrated to the States 24 years ago. In my country of origin, you were expelled from school if you were caught bullying someone else. There simply is no tolerance for it. School administrators in the U.S. should dispense serious punishments for bullies because if there are no consequences, the behavior will continue and more kids will suffer and seek revenge.

    Edmonds, Washington

    April 14, 2008 at 4:29 pm |
  8. Ricky Maranon

    As a high school senior I can say , its not that bullying occurs everyday out in the open at my school, but the many factors that cause a student to feel rage is clear and present. Students gossip about other students, students will work to see other students fail and feel embarassed, upperclassmen will remind the underclassmen of "thier place", some students coming from poorer families will be looked down upon by the more affluent students, and then slight differences in lifestyles (such as a student being a devout Christian or a student being gay) will be a cause for finger pointing. Pretty soon the gossip and differences are blow out of proportion and then other students will gradually join in and then it becomes a big deal and that turns into everyone hoening in on "that one guy who is (whatever)". We've had two assemblies at my school centered around the movie "Mean Girls" and the sad thing is that the movie is so true. I visited another high school in my town and saw the same thing. Its everywhere.

    April 14, 2008 at 4:27 pm |
  9. marcy

    Bullying will always be a problem, be it in the schools, the workplace or in a neighborhood setting, the question isn’t the bullying it’s how it is handled. I’m sure your sister and family did everything they could before taking the step of pulling her out of that school. I know my bullying in school wasn’t fun, and I can’t think of a single person on this planet who doesn’t know a bully (even if they might have been the bully). I think it’s more of a mentally of the ages.

    We don’t deal with problems in this society we run from them, we shield people from them for whatever reasons, and then are truly shocked when that person has enough. I hate it when people on TV say the kids should tell an adult or a teacher that a bully is bothering them, that’s the best way to make the bullying worse. Kids have gotten to the point where they don’t always have a trusted adult they can talk to about situations so it festers and festers until one day they say enough.

    We need to stop blaming TV, and movies, and video games and have a serious discussion about why the teachers aren’t doing enough, the parents are not doing enough (on the both sides of the isle), and the children themselves aren’t sticking up for one another enough. That’s the main reason it’s escalated to the point that it has, we place the blame in the wrong direction and thus no one ever “corrects” anything and thus the situation continues.

    Marcy, Mobile, AL

    April 14, 2008 at 4:14 pm |
  10. Brian

    Why is it that kids must learn how to deal with bullies when the schools from elementary to high school to college do nothing about the bully themselves? When are the parents of bullies going to be held responsible for the actions of their kids? This is such a big part of our problem today that we forget its our parents who are responsible for the upbringing of their kids and how their kids act. It is also the parents responsibility to raise their children to know what proper manners are, and how to act in public and to treat others with respect but parents do not teach their kids any of that today.

    As a victim of a bully, I feel outraged when I hear that it is the victim who must change schools, or it is the victim who must learn how to deal with the constant belittling or personal attacks by a bully who has no respect for anyone and that bully feels its his or her daily duty to make the victims daily life a living hell? Why do we constantly fail to hold parents of these children from hell responsible? There are kids that are in dangerous gangs like MS 13 and kids who are bullies that rip any kind of self esteem and any kind of personal safety because they either beat it out of the victim or use humiliation against the victim. But for some reason we fail to hold the parents responsible for not teaching their kids to respect others as we all should be taught? When you hear about activities by kids who are bullies or if they are in a gang, that is a clear indication the parents are not doing their job and taking responsibility of the actions of their children. This is where the parents should face prosecution for the actions of their kids who have repeated complaints for bullying or actions like being in a gang.

    It is long overdue to hold parents responsible for the actions of their children and this includes the case of the teens who beat up that girl on the video. When the parents begin serving jail time for not being a good parent, you will see a change on how our youth are being raised and a decline in gang membership and a decline in bullying and perhaps a decline in school shootings.

    April 14, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  11. Joe

    I'm now 45 years old and this so called "bullying" was much more than you might think. Everyday in high school I was beaten to a pulp in the locker room. Up to five or six kids would punch me, kick me, and laugh. I was always full of bruises and hid them. I've never recovered from this. I have been on antidepressants for over 15 years, they've helped, but I still have very low self esteem. I haven't had many relationships with the opposite sex, because I feel that I'm not worthy. Those years in high school ruined my life. I was always too embarrased to tell any teacher, although the phys-ed instructor knew all about it and thought it was funny. I never told my parents, again something made me too ashamed of saying anything. This all was in the late seventies, violence in films and television was nothing like the way it is today. I can almost understand the feelings of revenge, although I would never excuse violence for violence.

    April 14, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  12. Linda James

    This is outrageous! The thought that we have to train our children to tolerate/combat bullying is absurd. Why can’t parents teach their children how to be civil human beings? Are people that blind to the obvious?

    When I saw the parents of the teenage girl that suffered and attack by her “friends”, I thought where are the attacker’s parents? It would have been more appropriate for their parents to have spoken out to say what their children did was wrong and that they do not condone this type of behavior.

    It’s no wonder these children blow up after years of abuse and no one listening to them or handling the bullies of this world.

    April 14, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  13. John DaCosta

    Why doesn't the school system and the local police department rely on the student's for information concerning what's going on in the school and of potential problems. The student's are the best source of information they "alway's know what's going and what can possibly happen". I really think this would be of great worth if they can set up some kind of system where students would be able to communicate with school afficials without any one knowing.

    April 14, 2008 at 3:55 pm |
  14. kathryn

    I am a junior in high school and up until high school was frequently bullied. All I can say is that it happens to just about everyone but the only way to prevent it and not let it get to you is to talk to someone if you are being bullied, or go to counceling, whatever helps to get it out. True bullying is unjust, but it will never stop and the only way to prevent it is to get help.

    April 14, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  15. Terri

    Bullying has gotten completely out of control. I have a son (14 y.o.) who is always, always being bullied. So much so, he doesn't want a myspace page, for fear that it wouldn't end there. It's crazy. I make sure that I keep in touch with all of his teachers as well as his prinicpal. They (the school) just don't have any control of these kids. Better yet, there are parents who can't seem to control their own children. Thank you so much for making people see this is very serious. I just thank GOD that my son has not gotten to point of wanting to kill himself.

    April 14, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  16. Kate

    In high school, I've found that bullying isn't really a problem. In middle school, however, it was. I was never personally bullied, nor did I bully other people, but I did have some friends that were bullied. I think the main purpose of bullying is for people to make themselves feel better by bringing someone else down. Whether or not someone shows it, many kids, especially in middle school, where bullying is definitely the worst, are incredibly self-concious. The only way they think they can feel better about themselves is to bring other people down. Only when these kids grow older, and gain self confidence do they stop, usually at the beginning of high school, but unfortunately later than sooner in some cases.

    April 14, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  17. Kim

    I was never bullied in school, nor did I ever bully anyone. Now looking back on the kids that did the bullying, I realize that they were bullied at home (by older siblings or even parents.) I don't even think they know they are "bullying." Nastiness and being involved in a "pecking" order just seem to be part of their lives. I see some of them adults and they are still nasty. They pick on people, but now it is behind their backs. They must feel they have to put others down to lift themselves out of any self loathing they have. And now their children are becoming nasty to others. They simply don't see it. Teasing is just part of growing up to them. I raise my children to stand up for the weak and defenseless. (So far, so good.)

    April 14, 2008 at 3:26 pm |
  18. Slater

    We should stop funding public schools and use the money for other more productive activities, such as securing and monitoring our borders.

    April 14, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  19. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    Of course, bullying is out of control. It has been for some time and in many cases, those in charge turn a blind eye to what's going on.

    Try being an out gay kid in almost any school in the United States.

    April 14, 2008 at 3:06 pm |

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