April 23rd, 2009
08:40 PM ET

Bullied to death: Addressing harassment and suicide prevention in schools

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2007/LIVING/personal/09/06/bullies/art.classroom.gi.jpg]Charles Robbins, Executive Director & CEO, The Trevor Project and
Eliza Byard, PhD, Executive Director, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network

The impacts of language and behavior can be deadly, especially in a school environment where young people are already highly impressionable and vulnerable. Unfortunately, this difficult lesson has been conveyed many times when young people resort to drastic and permanent measures to escape the despair of enduring constant bullying and harassment at school.

It is deeply disturbing that on April 6, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old sixth-grader from Springfield, Mass., hanged himself with an extension cord in his family’s home after being subjected to continuous anti-gay bullying and harassment at his middle school. It is equally as disheartening that on April 16, less than two weeks later, Jaheem Herrera, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from DeKalb County, Ga., also hanged himself at home after being the subject of anti-gay taunts from his classmates. These were two completely separate and isolated instances, but the tragic and preventable nature of each unfortunate loss of life remains the same.

Neither Carl nor Jaheem identified as gay, yet their peers’ defamatory language and hurtful behaviors broke the barriers of sexual orientation and gender identity. Being taunted as “faggot,” “queer” or “homo” by classmates is offensive and demeaning to any student – straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning alike.

Carl is the fourth middle school student this year to complete suicide due to bullying, and Jaheem was still in elementary school. Older students are also at a high risk, as suicide is one of the top three causes of death among 15 to 24-year-olds and the second leading cause of death on college campuses. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and those who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to do so.

Two of the top three reasons secondary school students said their peers were most often bullied at school were actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to a 2005 report by GLSEN and Harris Interactive. In addition, The Trevor Project fields tens of thousands of calls from young people each year, both straight and LGBT-identified, with rejection and harassment by peers being one of the top five issues reported by callers.

In the same GLSEN and Harris report, more than a third of middle and high school students said that bullying, name-calling and harassment is a somewhat or very serious problem at their school. Furthermore, two-thirds of middle school students reported being assaulted or harassed in the previous year and only 41% said they felt safe at school.

Enough is enough. It is time for school administrators, educators, parents, students and the government to work together to stop bullying and harassment in schools. Furthermore, we must teach young people to understand the profound impact of words and actions, and to recognize depression and suicidal ideations amongst their peers. By helping young people take responsibility for their actions and respect their peers, and simultaneously empowering them with the knowledge and skills they need to understand when their classmates are in crisis, we can work toward ending the dual epidemics of school bullying and youth suicide once and for all.

We as parents, teachers and concerned citizens can do our part to protect students by speaking out and demanding that anti-bullying and harassment programs and suicide prevention education are mandated in all schools. We can seek commitment from the government to end bullying by training educators on how to effectively intervene, teaching students to respect and help one another, and ensuring that all students know how to reach out to a peer who may be in crisis. We must lead by example and remember that the language we choose is easily repeated by young people. We must listen to children when they reach out for help, and demonstrate to them that we will be understanding and non-judgmental if they need to talk.

Days like the GLSEN-sponsored National Day of Silence bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. On this day, thousands of students call for practical, appropriate interventions that work, hoping to move us closer to a future where every child can go to school free from fear. Weeks including the National Suicide Prevention Week encourage programs to increase suicide prevention efforts, including initiatives supported by The Trevor Project to protect LGBT youth.

It is our hope that in memory of Carl and Jaheem, and in honor of all young people who have completed suicide after enduring constant torment at school, we will be able to work together to promote school environments that celebrate diversity and encourage acceptance of all people. Only then will we be confident that our children are receiving the respect and education they deserve today in order to become the successful and equality-minded leaders of tomorrow.

The Trevor Project is the non-profit organization that operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The Trevor Project was established in 1998 to promote acceptance of LGBTQ youth, and to aid in crisis and suicide prevention among that group.

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Filed under: Education • Gay & Lesbian Issues
soundoff (181 Responses)
  1. Letrice

    My son was constantly aggrivated in his Las Vegas,NV middle school. He complained several times a week to teachers, I went to the school several times to complain; nothing was done. This went on for several months. When a cartoon-like drawing that my son drew was circulated around the class, he was treated like the Columbine killer. I admit the drawing was graffic as was the storyline. My son had been in trouble only 3 times during his enrollment at all schools total, is not at all introverted, and is the type to host birthday parties during lunch. He has always expressed himself very well and very verbal. He was suspended and later expelled. The other child had been in constant trouble and was commonly sent to the office. This person was treated like the victim of a horrible crime, when she truly was the culprit.

    The school administrators thought me wrong for not supporting their decision. I was outraged. Where in all of their education did they justify ignoring such situations that persist for months and then discipline the wrong child??? How do we trust sending our children to schools who don't control their environment and then place blame with the child????

    April 23, 2009 at 11:19 pm |
  2. Lori-Ann

    My heart goes out to both families and the recent death of their sons. I do not understand what is going on in the world and also in the public school system(which I feel is failing children of all genders/races). It is very disturbing to me as a parent of 4 children, ages 23(he never experienced that at all from K-12), 10, 8 and 18 months. I am concerned for my 10 yr old as he will be turning 11 in June and is in the 5th grade and has been bullied(he has been in a special ed class since 3rd grade) it seems more so this year then in previous. He too, does not want to go to school as much this year(even today, but I drove him) I now feel I should be home schooling my kids. Do these parents feel the same for their other children, if they have others?

    April 23, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  3. Brian

    We must attack Hate Speech at every turn. Freedom of Speech ends when it becomes Hate Speech. I live in San Francisco and have opened my home to many homeless teens who have arrived from Southern States and Mormon households in Idaho and Utah that have thrown their own children out onto the streets. These kids have gotten jobs and have become productive citizens. They have told me of the hate their own parents had, especially their fathers. We need to educate the youth but also the religious right.

    April 23, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  4. Pat/Briarwood, NY

    I am totally upset over this story. I'm sorry, the laws HAVE to change, and these children shouldn't be treated like children. They should be held accountable for their CRIME! This has to stop...and, these are just two out of how many children??? Enough is enough!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    P. Smith
    Briarwood, NY

    April 23, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  5. sylvia

    My children are in junior high, same age as the two boys listed in this article. I am a parent that shows my concern to the principle and teachers of my children. My son is the one who seems to have problems socially. It kills me because he is a victim of bullying. He was attacked in the class and was hit on the head while a teacher was in class. No my son is not perfect, but he is respectful. I can compare him to the character, Forrest Gump, the vulnerable part. I feel many of these children are bullys because of what they learn at home. There are times when the teachers say they would take 100 of my son than to deal with some of these other boys or girls. Even while waiting for my children, some of the parents show signs of disrespect. And what scares me is that I battle everyday to teach my children to be respectful, but with these parents and children who are disrespectful around him 8 hours a day, I hope and pray I donot lose this battle. We are forced to send our children to school, yet are they really safe? I can tell you I donot think so.

    April 23, 2009 at 11:14 pm |
  6. JoAnne Perreault

    Although it brings back sad and frustrating memories, I am glad to see that the "bully" issue is being discussed. IT IS and has been a problem with school children for a long time. In my experience however I think the malicious and dangerous manner in which it is put forth is a telling mark of the decline in family structure in our society. As well, in our attempts as adults and as businesses both large and small to avoid responsibility for consequences relative to our interaction with others, we send a very wrong message to children! They learn what they see and feel. It is also not a stretch that sadness if unresolved manifests as anger. We must begin NOW to educate parents and older children as well as those in grade schools BY EXAMPLE that respect is critical for everyone! No matter how different they may be. Why are these "bullies" acting out as they are?
    Their parents are responsible too. I think making rules and regulations does not solve the problem. We must go to the source and treat the problem not just the symptom!
    My son and daughter we both victimized by bullies as grade school children (they are now 23 and 25) and it was a very hurtful and frustrating experience for us. No one seemed to want to take responsibility for addressing the behavior and what it may lead to.
    The misdirected priorities in our society are bearing fruit and it is strange and unpleasant yes, but it will not change by itself.
    If we want children who become good citizens of their communities and this country we must invest our time and effort to meet their needs and give them the safety and support they need. WE are the examples, WE as parents, neighbors, relatives,media, civic leaders, teachers, policy makers. That is their example! Do we offer something to instill pride?A sense of value? It is an old statement , yet ever true... Children ARE the future. I think it is our primary responsibility to ensure that their needs are met to the best of our ability, and to teach them the skills they will need to navigate youth and adulthood with consideration and thoughtfulness. JP

    April 23, 2009 at 11:11 pm |
  7. Chris Ballingall

    My 13-yr-old daughter was severely cyber-bullied by two former friends from her old school. The police advised us this was harassment, and when the school principal and parents read the offending emails, they promised to discipline the girls. What is shocking is the lack of remorse – one of the bullies then turned the matter around, informing her friends that I (the mother) tried to have her expelled from school. As the mother, I've even been "featured" on the bully's Facebook page as "Little Miss Drama Queen" for speaking up on my daughter's behalf. What has happened to parenting? When I was a kid, I don't think bullies would have dared to attack a parent for protecting their child. This bullying took place in a wealthy Canadian community, by children of stay-at-home Moms.

    April 23, 2009 at 11:10 pm |
  8. Judy

    I was 12 when I tried to kill myself over bullying. I would walk into the classroom and a group of guys would howl and bark like dogs to me. I got thrown into a dumpster and it went on & on. I ran away from home because noone could help. I got into years of self abuse with drugs and lots of other vices. I now am 47 and I have been clean & sober for 5 years, but I am only now dealing with all that abuse. Adults sweep it under the rug they did then and they do now. I would love to tell my story and have been thinking of writing a book. Anyway my heart goes out to anyone who thinks their only choice to relieve their pain is to end ones life. PLEASE GET HELP!!!!!

    April 23, 2009 at 11:09 pm |
  9. Mrs. Cook

    I have a child who has been continuously bullied at St. Aloysius School in East Liverpool, OH. She has been called a lesbian numerous times because she doesn't date or attend many co-ed functions. Just yesterday we had another incident. She is in the jr. high. It has gone on for almost 2 years. It is my opinion that the principal doesn't care.
    What you failed to mention on television is that when a parent presents the issue of bullying to a teacher and the principal. You think that something will be done to stop that behavior, but instead
    the tables get turned on you.
    Your child becomes the problem and as a parent..your considered a "thorn in their side." Also, this shows the child being bullied that no one cares for her safety and now she has to worry about reprocusions from the teacher and principal.
    I would love to get a hold of the author who was interviewed on your show...PLEASE forward my comment to her so I can e-mail her for advice. It would be a blessing to talk with her..
    Thank you...

    April 23, 2009 at 11:05 pm |
  10. M. Sperry

    I have just finished watching the segment on childhood bullying. Thank you for bringing this topic to the national news level.

    The loss of two young lives due to bullying is beyond disheartening and absolutely cannot be tolerated any longer. My own son (11 yrs) has also been dealing with this issue at school. As a parent one always strive to do what is best for their child. We have received much support from our sons teacher, yet after seeing this segment, it somehow does not feel like enough is being done to hold the bully accountable. And yes, as was mentioned, our school has a zero tolerance policy with trained staff.

    I feel it would be very beneficial to share the video segment on bullying with the school principal and my son's teacher. Is there any way to access the audio-visual segment?

    Thank you again, for bringing much needed awareness to this most important issue.

    M. Sperry (WI)

    April 23, 2009 at 11:04 pm |
  11. Claudine from New Jersey

    I am glad the media is bringing to light the problem of bullying. As a teacher, a mother, and once a child who was bullied, it makes me sad that this problem still exists. Kids are sneaky and in schools it can go unnoticed because often the victim will not speak up and the students bully when they are sure no one can hear them or see them. However, I have always addressed and reported it whenever it has come to my attention whether I knew the child or not. What makes this problem even more saddening is the fact that it occurs at a much younger age than most people realize. I had to first address this with my own child when she was 2/12 years old. Some girl in her daycare told her that they did not like her and she was not their friend! She has been bullied physically and verbally several times at different day cares and pre-schools. But now as a young girl finishing her kindergarten year at public school (the first of four places where bullying has not occurred) she is the playground hero to other children. Through our family discussions, firm parental discipine and her religious upbringing, my tiny daughter has become a compassionate and confident person who now looks out for others (friend, foe, or stranger) by defending children who are bullied and notifying the teachers.
    My solutions to bullying:
    1. Get parents to discipline their children properly. They don't have to get physical with them. Just make rules and be consistent with your consequences. That way they know who the boss of the house is. A child should not be allowed to manipulate the parents, but yet it happens all the time. If you find a child who bullies others, I guarantee that child cannot be controlled at home and will often have difficulty with learning in school.
    2. Parents need to be aware of their own behaviors that they are modeling. If a parent flies off the handle or is rude to others in front of their child, the child will see the position of power the parent is exerting and practice it later. The same goes for older siblings. They have no idea their younger siblings are watching their every move.
    There, problem solved. THIS is the "change we need" in America.

    April 23, 2009 at 11:03 pm |
  12. Naomi Doner

    At age 59, I still suffer from the school bullying I was subjected to in middle school. I was taunted and humiliated because I was so poor. To this day, I am acutely uncomfortable in the presence of other people. I hide it well (most of the time). I do not go to parties and avoid groups at all costs. I've been to years of counseling to no avail.

    I think that until the bullying is taken very seriously, it will continue. It needs to be treated as the hate crime it is. The bullies will stop only when they are sent to juvenile detention, the same as they would be for stealing or destroying property. Destroying the life of another is a crime and should be treated as such.

    April 23, 2009 at 11:02 pm |
  13. Adam Kassur

    It makes me very sad to know that bullying in the United States is getting worse. I was the victim of bullying from 2nd grade through the 2nd year of high school. I feel that the major problem is that parents are not instilling enough positivity in their own kids. I also feel that parents need to ask more targeted questions from their child when he or she comes from school every single day to make sure they are behaving and doing the right thing as opposed to the wrong thing. This is especially necessary if parents have a child that is very loud, cocky, a poor listener, and brings trouble around others his or her age. Such behavior is unacceptable and could possibly result in bullying or the need to gain popularity which could result in bullying to obtain it. Bullying usually creates major psychological problems to the victim in a negative way such as poor social skills, lack of communication, potential to become a bully them-self, inferiority or supremacy in them-self, etc. I would know because even though I have learned to deal with the pain of my past and try to be a better person, I still struggle to filter myself among the general public. Bullying is unacceptable and any child who eventually dies because of it is just not lawful. I believe that our school systems should place potential bullies in strict quick-to-the-point boot camp programs to literally force positive change into a bullying prick. No excuses. schools are for learning and proper behavior enforcement. Anything else is a rotten apple and must be removed immediately.

    April 23, 2009 at 11:00 pm |
  14. Miriam

    I am a mother of a 10 month old and a four year old who will be starting school soon. It is stories like this that reinforces the importance of speaking to our young ones about such issues like bulling. Personally, I would prefer not to have this discussion so soon but what is the alternative? Keeping and teaching your children at home perhaps...


    April 23, 2009 at 11:00 pm |
  15. Boone Johnson

    As an American serving as a headmaster and teacher in a school in Japan, I see bullying across all ages. Both our societies make the fundamental mistake of looking at bullying as a distinct situation. In truth, it is most often the eventuality of escalations of more benign behavior and exists at gradations. In the course of play, we naturally razz each other and test each other's "mettle" as we have since the dawn of time, but by the time that play can be called bullying, it is likely already well-established as a group norm, growing subtly out of otherwise acceptable manners. We have been able to greatly reduce bullying by strictly modeling play and socialization. But in the end, it can be very difficult to distinguish contemptuous bullying from fraternal bonding, and it is the family which must be held accountable as children merely reflect and amplify the people who raise them.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:59 pm |
  16. Ellen Misch

    Thank you for your coverage of these incidents. Bullying is very serious and needs to be treated as serious by our school administrations. There is a film entitled, "Cipher in the Snow" that deals with bullying. I believe every 4th, 5th and 6th grader should be required to see it. I saw it in the 1970's as a parent and was deeply moved by it. It is still available.

    Keep up the good work!

    April 23, 2009 at 10:59 pm |
  17. Michele

    My heart nearly broke listening to the stories about these two eleven year olds committing suicide. In my opinion the ONLY thing that parents can do is to remove their child from the school and the sooner the better. Nobody really survives bullying; its after-affects can last a lifetime. If a child doesn't suffer from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of it, or if he/she does not become schizophrenic to escape the psychological pain, he may well grow into an insecure adult on the defensive, not trusting anyone. To this day I remember the teachers who did NOT come to the rescue of the bullied student in class; I remember one who even snickered as the kids taunted the fat girl in class, as her sad face turned red, and she hung her head in humilitation. I am haunted by the memory now and then. It also makes you wonder how these poor kids made out in life.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:59 pm |
  18. unalissa freso

    I think that bullying is a big problem in America. I am Guyanese and i came to the United States at the age of 11. I went to a middle school in New York where I was bullyed non stop. My parents and I both complained to the school and my cpmplains were minimized. My bullies attacked me several times off of school grounds so the school said they could not do anything about the attacks because it was off school grounds. Then I was attacked in a class and the teacher saw that i was attacked first but she said nothing so the school suspended the student and me. Similar situations continuedto happened and no one did anything about it. I felt very sad and if it was for God and my parents i think that i would have ended my life also. This was all because i had an accent and i dressed differently. This needs to end or these two children will not be the last to kill themselves. Please CNN help keep this from happening.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:59 pm |
  19. Bill Stapp

    Bullying has been in American education for awhile. Mark Twain (Sam Clemens) wrote about how it was handled in the early 1800s. I strongly believe that bullying is hurtful. But reporters bully people for stories. Photographers bully celebrities. Collection agencies bully debtors. America bullies Cuba. etc. Even if all adults and all governments stopped being bullies, kids in school would still do it.

    I don't like it, but that's the way it is. If schools could stop it without being taken to court (bullied) by the parent, then they would make stronger attempts to control it.

    Schools have tried to work with bullies, but the efforts have often been sidetracked by the trendy educational issues such as not damaging someone's self-esteem.

    You can cover this story for awhile, but in the end, you will tire and the bullies will not.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:58 pm |
  20. David A.

    I don't think the human race will ever learn anything from tragedies such as Columbine or Virginia Tech – young people who have been forced to the edge of society because they are different in some way, who then lash out in the only final way they feel they can to make a statement to the world. There will be more tragedies until we get this disease of bullying under control. I was that young boy that was bullied in grade school. Picked on incessantly because I was gay – even before I knew that I was gay. Now I suffer from post traumatic stress from the nightmare that was my childhood. My whole adult life has been affected by it – unable to trust, unable to love, unable to develop friendships like most others. I can honestly tell you that if I had access to a gun when I was 13 you could have bet your last dollar on the fact that I would have marched into that school and got rid of every last person that bullied me, and the adults that allowed and even encouraged it, including the Principal, a few teachers and a shameful number of the parents of those bullies. Why must Americans always have someone to pick on?

    April 23, 2009 at 10:57 pm |
  21. Daniela Dragos

    My condoleances go out to the families.
    My son was bullied as well in Gr 8. Because the family was "well known"in the community the school did not intervene for my son. The Principal of the school suggested that I should confront the bully's mother. I never did.
    I printed off msn everything she said to my son and I relied her a message through two bystanders: if she ever bullies my son again I will contact the police.
    My son was suppose to start High School with these "classmates". I switched him to a different High School. We were very fortunate not to hear from these people again!

    April 23, 2009 at 10:57 pm |
  22. tony geisen

    i am having a bullying problem here on maui. my son did not want to go to school and wanted to leave the island. the police security at the school has put my son and the one particular bully together and it looks like they may have worked out the problem. we are not certain about the final results as this just happened yesterday. however, there is another GANG of bully's from a nearby school that seem to be out to get my son. we are not certain why, but the gang is all from the same ethnic background and ny son is from another.
    i would like to see bullying defined, such has the defination offered by your guest, and then it should be classified as a crime in itself that can result in an arrest. why should a child have to wait until he is physically assaulted and injured before something can be done. this would bring the parent's of the bully into the picture ,as well, to share responsibility. bullying is a serious violation of our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and it can ruin a child's life. let's ruin the life of the bully instead and send a message.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:57 pm |
  23. Laura Cox

    There is a method to more effectively combat bullying which involves giving students an anonymous questionaire which asks various questions about bullying....whether they have been bullied?, they have seen others being bullied?, bullied about what?, bullied where?, ....Most importantly ask them to name the bullies and to name students who are being bullied. Focus then on fixing the bullies through in depth counseling and protecting the victims.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:57 pm |
  24. Valerie Womack

    I graduated high school in 1971 and never experienced the bulling that is going on in today's schools. For about 30 years, it has bother me so much every time I heard of another child being builled and how it made that child feel. I have always wanted to do something about it but did not know how to go about it. Now, it has gotten so bad that the kids are taken their own lives. I certainly blame all the school systems because when a student and their parents go to the principal to complain, there is nothing ever done about it. If, a long time ago thy had paid enough attention to this stituation, all these kids would not be commiting suicide. I think it is a disgrace that nothing has been done to the kids that do the bulling. If I had the education,to help these kids, i would be trilled. I only have one year of college and that's not enough to do what I would like to do to help these kids. These kids cannot help if they are overweight or not as cute as the others or does not dress the most fassionable. I am very greatful that the school systems are paying more attention to this problem now, but certainly not enough. Thanks for letting me comment. Valerie (Bye the way I LOVE YOU ANDERSON COOPER).

    April 23, 2009 at 10:55 pm |
  25. Donna

    My heart goes out Jaheem and Carls' family. I live less than a mile from this elementary school, and my son will likely attend this school next fall. My concern is where are the parents of the students who are bullying these children. Are they being made aware of the fact that there children are causing a disruption in school? It starts with the parents.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:54 pm |
  26. denise barry

    Having lived in California for 14 years , we never experienced any form of bullying. We moved to Atlanta 5 years ago, and have encountered numerous bullying incidents directed at our kids. We take great pride in sending our children to school both well dressed and well groomed. However they are constantly taunted about their neat appearance, and have even been called the n word by black students , strange as our children are white. We were told by a vice principal that it was acceptable culturally for a black kid to use the n word, . Imagine what would happen if our children were to use that derogatory term to a black child.
    One of our children was even brutally attacked during school hours, by two students. We as parents can not stand back and let these type of incidents go without consequences. Please pressure school authorities to take action whenever you think your child is being subjected to bullying. Don't wait until it is too late!!!!

    April 23, 2009 at 10:54 pm |
  27. joey-ann

    my 7 year old son is bullied in school.
    In april of 2008 he was choke with a jump rope in the school yard,
    i contact the NYPD i was told nothing can be done.
    over and over i go to the school.
    i cant get a transfer because of the school zone,
    they say i will need a order of protection
    to get a safety transfer i will need a order of protection .
    when my son told me he want to die, i took him out of school,
    the school call ACS .
    i had no choice but to put him back in that (HELL) they call a school. Right now i don't know who is more depress my son are me..
    when i see the two boys, i see my son ..

    April 23, 2009 at 10:54 pm |
  28. Dawn Chase

    Thank you for bringing this topic to national attention. Schools and teachers do not do enough to be aware of and to put an end to bullying. I was bullied, harassed and verbally assulted every day of 5th grade through 8th grade. This happened in the presence of teachers. Other students reported this to my guidance counslor. These adults told me to get over it; some called me a liar; some just ignored what was happening. No one defended me and no one put an end to it. I spent years in a depression and contemplating suicide because I thought that if adults around me didn't care enough to help me then I must not deserve to live. I was lucky – I over came my depression. I survived the abuse from my peers. Not every child is so lucky. If children cannot count on the adults to defend them, to protect them, to help them then who can they turn to?

    April 23, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  29. Barbara Martin

    I have a child who is 27. He was bullied throughout all his school years, kindergarten thru high school. He had a miserale time because the school he was in did not do anything to protect him even thought I complained to the teachers and principle. So, as a result of these school bullies, he lives in his room. He does not go out very often and is fearful of the world. He is not trusting of anyone. We as his parents are the scapegoats to let his anger out on. He is in therapy and has made very little progress with the therapists We are very frustrated with him and don't see much change for the future. There is not much I can do as he is an adult and will not listen to any suggestions. So we are stuck in this situation.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  30. ashli herron

    i was bullied everyday in high school because of my preference saw what was going on . and the security guards was there and saw much of it going on but never did anything about it. and even when i did tell an school officals they didn't do anything about. so personally i think that bullying of any kind wont stop until parents and the community say no because these students must be getting the wrong message from somewhere.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  31. Tim in Columbus, Ohio

    Members of the GLBT community are targeted for bullying and worse because it is tacitly sanctioned by society. As a school child in the 60s, I too was bullied. My bullies included teachers who used public humiliation as a form of bullying. I was never physically threatened, but there were some uncomfortable moments. In the 60s there was a limited awareness of the GLBT community, so one can say that bullies acted out of fear of the one who is different. Today I think the sense that GLBT is fair game comes from the culture wars of the past decade. We were identified as unamerican, unchristian, and unworthy of full participation in society. When a community is held in contempt, it is much easier to act out against its members. Eventually legal sanctions will come. Ask the european Jews who lived in the 1930s and 40s.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm |
  32. Lloyd N. Greenspan

    OMG!!! Firstly, thank you Anderson for giving this story the imprtant placement in your show that it deserves! I cannot bear to think of the pain that these two young men endured, ultimately leading each of these children to commit the horrific act of suicide. These boys should have been looking forward to summer, and all of the sunshine and carefree times that most of us remember from that period in our lives. We do not know if these boys would have eventually led a homosexual lifestyle, and it does not matter as the taunting; whether or not they identified as gay proved to be unbearable for them. At about the same age, I had a female friend in the neighborhood whom I walked home from school with every day and we were very often taunted and bullied for my being "faggy" and she being "fat". Her mother quickly put an end to this by loading the family Great Dane into her car and finding the boys and scaring the crap out of them. It worked. I feel so sorry for the families to lose a child to something so stupid. I often say that kids are not being prepared for modern life by the schools through "evolved" curricula dealing with 21st century topics such as finance, diversity, illegal drugs, international issues, etc. May these innocent boys rest in eternal peace.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm |
  33. Alexis

    Why is all the emphasis on sexual bullying, i.e gays/lesbians? The first child was, according to his mother in a 360 interview, not a homosexual and most likely this boy wasn't either. Bullying has sadly been around a long time. I graduated in the 60's & it was cruel then. Taunts weren't anti-gay as, believe it not, grade schoolers know more about homosexuality now than senior high students did then. But the bullying was just as cruel and demoralizing. It was directed at students' looks, clothes, unpopularity, weight, height, intelligence, if they were shy or introverted, just about anything. I was almost pushed down a flight of stone stairs by one bully just because she didn't particularly like me. Two guys who would have graduated w/my son committed suicide because of bullying. My daughter went through almost a whole school yr. of taunts because of one classmate's jealousy. So something has needed to be done for a long time, not just since it's been directed at gays. These kids' tragic deaths shouldn't be used as a platform for gay rights.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm |
  34. etrist pjetra

    well i was bulled to in school but it was a tuff time for me and i feel relay bad for the kids and plus i did n not know how to speak english and kids well make fun of me and i told my parents about it and the called the school and the school told me to tell the teachers and it helped but i think every parent shod ask there kid how was school today and ask every day if there something rung with the kid they shod know the first time they walk in the house and but me i was getting in to fights in school and some kids learned that they shod not pic on other kids and in my high school year all the kids sad hey i am sorry for hurting you and tell to day i think about it and it realy herts in side and as you can tell i realy did not do good in my english class but i know how to speek but not spel fully

    April 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm |
  35. Tim Johnson

    This is not a problem of gay or straight. Kids will bully if they are allowed to. As I previously stated the childrens parents are to blame and should be held accountable. If you child breaks a neighbors window you have to pay for it, but if your child destroys and childs self image thats ok.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm |
  36. Mellonie Hoffman

    My kids are older and out of school now, but I remember both of them being bullied in grade and middle school. Student handbooks were always sent home every year, on the first day of school, had to be read and signed by the parents and student, and the signed sheet was returned to the school office. Mission accomplished, as far as the school personnel were concerned; not unlike caution labels placed on blow dryers, instructing us not to use them in the shower. Whether we choose to follow or ignore these warnings, the manufacturer is considered exempt because they warned the consumer. Our school community supposedly has a 'zero tolerance' policy on bullying, but when it happens anyway, the teachers and staff who are supposed to do something about it, turn a blind eye and, I suppose, consider they have done all they can by issuing the handbook. When I instructed my kids to defend themselves, they were the ones who were called into the office and kept out of classes. When I asked who the bully was, the staff told me they couldn't divulge that info – – they had to protect the student. My question always was, "Who in the world was protecting my child while this bullying was going on?" Zero tolerance notices do absolutely no good if school staff makes little or no effort to enforce it. And I speak from experience. I'm 56 years old, but I still remember how helpless I was when I was relentlessly bullied in school.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm |
  37. Tempe

    In the 6th grade, my son was bullied and finally choked one day on the playground until he passed out. The school never "seemed" to see the events happening, sometimes in the locker room. As a desperate and sad Mom, I finally went to the principal and told her that if the boys weren't punished, I was filing a police report and that I was "sure" that she wouldn't want to have that happen. The boys were put on in-school suspension. My son eventually had to whack someone in the head with his clarinet case to get the bullying stopped. As a result...my kids have been and still are advocates for a child, grownup, or even pets...we all stop to help or offer help even when it's scary. We don't butt in, we usually just ask if someone needs help.

    P.S. I play cards online at night and you would be shocked at the adults who bully, harrass, namecall and attack other players. I guess these were children who never got the message that bully is not, has never been and will never be ok.....Thanks...T

    April 23, 2009 at 10:51 pm |
  38. Kamaile Nihpali

    My condolences to the mother that lost her son. I agree with the mother just interviewed by Anderson, the student that is bullying needs to beheld accountable. And parents of the boy or girl doing the bullying needs to be involved in the accountability process for their child. The child is learning from the examples he has at home or not at home; this is a difficulty subject; for children over the age of 8 they should learn to understand the impact and consequences of their actions and parents should be a part of learning those consequences as well. But it's not to point fingers or single them out, it's to make an impact and awareness that what "bullying" does is not right for anyone including the individual that is bullying others.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:51 pm |
  39. debbie

    I am a 54 yr old woman who was bullied all thru school for being overweight. Back then every one, teachers and family, just said ignor them or they are just teasing. I have NEVER felt worthy. Being overweight just got worse. I too, like these young boys, tried to kill myself, but I waited till I was 48. I ended up homeless. Luckily I survied the drug overdose. But I will never be a carefree woman. I never had children and marriedonly in my 40's, but it ended quickly. I don't think I thought about suicied when I was a child. I just remember being torchered by kids. It held over to Jr. and Sr. High school just because it had already been planted in my mind that I was not a worthy person.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:51 pm |
  40. Amy

    I think the current state of how hard the LGBT population is fighting just to gain legal equality is a compounding factor. We are a population that hasn't gained enough support to be treated equally under the law, how in the world does that generalize to being treated equally in society? It doesn't. What real hope do we have to offer a gay person in crisis when we don't even get basic human rights? I myself had to move to Canada in order to marry the Canadian woman I fell in love with, there was no way for her to emmigrate to the U.S. in regard to our relationship because of DOMA. As a result, I lost the right to even have my own child visit my home for 3 years before I was able to gain that right back through a costly court battle. As long as we don't have equal rights we will never have equal treatment.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:50 pm |
  41. Joel

    We had a policy of non torture and look where that's gotten us. Just having a policy doesn't mean it's being enforced.

    I was bullied my entire grade school years, and that bullying has had a life long effect.

    For sure, kids don't learn bad things, bullying things about gays from the ether. They learn it from their parents. I hope the parents of the bullys are feeling proud of themselves tonight.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:50 pm |
  42. MJ Long

    On the subject of bullying, I believe you missed one important point: Bullying doesn't just occur in schools to elementary and high school children - it also occurs in the workplace to adults. Whereas sexual harassment is easily proved, a hostile work environment often goes unnoticed and nothing is done about it. These are situations where a 'mob attitude' prevails and the participants group together and seem to take malicious happiness in inflicting emotional pain. I recently suffered what I consider to be a nervous breakdown because of what I had to endure in the work place and I work in an educational institution. The reason I was singled out is because of my religious beliefs. When is this issue going to be addressed?

    April 23, 2009 at 10:50 pm |
  43. Jean Hurrle

    When you report bullying to the school, and there is not an immediate end to the problem – as my family experienced – don't waste time with useless talk . Apparently too many people in responsible positions do not consider verbal bullying to be harmful. Take action immediately when your child does becomes reluctant to go to school and says they feel stomach pain or other physical symptoms of stress. Take the child's distress very seriously and take your child out of that school and out of harm's way. No child deserves this kind of "socialization". Seek out a small private school or contact your local home schooling group.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:50 pm |
  44. Shannon

    Let us not forget that you do not have to be "different" to be bullied! I was severely bullied for 2 years after moving into a north shore chicago school mid-term in my 6th grade year simply because I did not wear Levi's and Adida sneakers (I was from Kentucky...Wranglers and Keds). I am a white Christian American girl, who has always been considered "cute", a good athlete, etc. This is not to say I'm perfect, just simply that I moved into a small town at the wrong time. I was molested, beaten and ridiculed in a very upscale neighborhood, simply because I moved into town at the wrong time. Remember the incident in North Shore Chicago several years back that was on national news, with pig feces and broken bones...that was years after I left the area, but obviously nothing changed. I am 45 years old and still suffer the affects of being bullied. While I don't agree with the actions teens take today to counter their feelings of being treated worse than an animal...I get how it comes to that point....suicide or revenge. Isn't that terrible!

    April 23, 2009 at 10:50 pm |
  45. Alix Brignol

    When I was in junior high school in Flushing back in the early 70's I was bullied. I hide and waited for the main bully one day behind a building as he made his way home, I jumped out and confronted him! he was so surprised he turned red as a tomato to the point of tears. He apologized and promised never to bully me again and he never did.
    We need to teach our children to stand up for themselves and stop being whimps they have to go out into the world and fend for themselves why not start in the schools. I don't think the people running our schools have a clue into what is really going on, so parents need to take the initiative
    and teach their kids themselves and not rely on strangers in the school system to raise and protect their kids. can I get an amen?

    April 23, 2009 at 10:49 pm |
  46. Annie

    It's just heartbreaking what these familes have to be going through...i remember how my younger brother was bullied and beaten up when we first came to canada 40 years ago...after numerous trips by our parents to the school and nothing being done...my father told him that he would have to physically defend himself, this he started to do and that was the only way he was able to survive...the difference between then and now is that he was only bullied about the color of his skin not his sexuality...my condolences to their families...

    April 23, 2009 at 10:49 pm |
  47. Masoud

    I am 17 and I hear these harassments everyday during school. Straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and what-ever else, this is a major problem that needs to recognized and stopped.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
  48. tomika

    Honestly, I'm mad at us adults. Why are we not protecting every child. We protect animals, a fetus, and land (dirt). Things are up side down.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
  49. vargas, antonio

    Dear Mr. Cooper,
    Bullying is a disease caused by the bully's parents' intolerance, inattention and cruelty done to the bully. It doesn't have anything to do with a victim being a foreigner, or of some other ethnic background, or whatever, it's just a matter opportunity and taking advantage of a situation where the victim can be bullied at will.
    Bullying should be treated as a criminal intent because its purpose is to harm...

    April 23, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
  50. Matt

    Bullying is a stupid subject, Anderson. Kids who are bullied are brought up to not tolerate that behavior, to literally just whine or report to a teacher about it. Teachers should be enforcing tolerance for bullies to kids who are bullied.

    There is no teacher that can possibly hope to remedy every situation because they take it upon themselves to solve it. The teachers are not the ones being bullied! You trust me, Anderson, you teach a bullied child tolerance and respect for truth and you see the situation change for the better, but most of all you teach that kid how to smile 🙂

    April 23, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
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