February 25th, 2013
10:32 AM ET

Fighting for your bullied child

Programming note: Learn more about Alex’s story and see how he has transformed from bullying victim to advocate in the AC360° documentary “The Bully Effect” on Thursday, February 28 at 10 p.m. ET and March 3 and 9 at 8 p.m. ET.

The bullying Jackie Libby’s son, Alex, faced every day was so severe that she worried the emotional toll would drive him to suicide.

“I would lay up with my husband at night and … just cry and say … what if he decides he doesn’t want to be here anymore? I mean, at that point, there was really only one more way to disengage. He was failing out of school. He wasn’t involved with his family at all. He didn’t want to have anything to do with his siblings. He didn’t have any friends,” Libby said. “There was only one more way for him to get out.”

Alex first spoke about his tormentors not to his mother but on camera to documentary filmmaker Lee Hirsch in what would become the award-winning film “Bully.”

“They punch me in the jaw, strangle me. They knock things out of my hand, take things from me, sit on me,” Alex said in the movie. “They push me so far that I want to become the bully.”

The footage Hirsch captured of Alex being beaten on the school bus was so shocking that the filmmaker felt a moral imperative to show it to Alex’s mother and officials at his school in Sioux City, Iowa. For Libby, it was the beginning of a battle for justice for her son. “My reaction was, I just started bawling, and then I got angry,” she said.

She immediately met with an assistant principal at her son’s school but did not get the results she hoped for. “I did go in there originally, when Lee told us what was going on with Alex, with the idea that all I had to do was go in and say ‘this is what’s happening.’ We’d show them the footage like Lee showed us, and they would fix it,” Libby said. “That didn’t happen.”

The response from the school was to offer to move Alex to another bus route, but the assistant principal admitted that he could become a victim of bullying no matter which bus he rode to school. The school also questioned all of Alex’s tormentors and gave them warnings, but unfortunately the abuse didn’t stop.

“Everything that happened to me on that bus happened to me every day, if not worse,” Alex said. “Some of them I grew up with, but they turned on me because they didn’t want to get bullied.”

Libby continued the fight and, after multiple meetings with the school, moved up the ladder to the superintendent. “If they don’t listen, find out who’s above them. If they don’t listen, find out who’s above them. Just keep going up, because at some point, somebody’s going to listen,” she said.

For the Libbys, while they had met with the highest official they could, the bullying continued and then spread to Alex’s younger sister.

“I got a call … saying there was an altercation with my daughter at the same school,” Libby said. “I walked in, and Maya was bawling, and the side of her face was black and blue and swollen … and she got punched in the face on the playground. Ultimately, we just decided it wasn’t a battle we were going to win on our own. So, we left.”

They first transferred their children to a school across town and eventually moved to a suburb of Oklahoma City. The family spent weeks researching school systems before deciding where to live, and Libby even walked the halls of potential new schools to soak up the school climate.

While she admits that’s not an option for a lot of families, for hers, it was the right one.

“With a child … it’s your job to protect them. I mean, from the day they are born, it is inset into you that they become more of your responsibility than even yourself. So when you’re losing them or they’re fading or you can’t save them, ultimately, you feel like a failure,” she said. “No parent ever stops trying.”

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Filed under: Bullying • The Bully Effect
soundoff (149 Responses)
  1. sylvia

    i found out bye my 6year old daughter in kindergarden came home crying to me saying this fat boy 3times her size punched her in the eye an hit her friend in the leg i think its bullcrap teachers didnt tell me why she was crying thats why thy get paid to watch the kids right, so i went down to the school ask teacher wht happen she said my kid was lieing, my kid does not lie. So i went to the princ ask wht gona happen to the kid who hit my girl? Kick him out couple days teach him lesson no hit girls, thy said no we cant, so thy made my girl talk with a counsaler for wht she didint do anything wrong i stoped that for sure, so i ask who kids parents were so i can hve talk with em thy would tell me who thy were, so finally i saw kid mom i say u kid touches my girl again were gona hve a big problem! So ya messed up how schools are teachers should get fired for being lazy..

    March 5, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Mary Jane Brown

      Most of the comments are bullies physically or verbally. I have a different problem. My kid is bullied but online. I have 2kids, 8 and 11 and they recently joined facebook. I’m very concerned about what they are doing there, who are their friends, what do they chat about and so on. I am their friend on facebook but there are so many changes every day that it impossible to understand what is going on. Any recommendation of what can I do? I have close relationships with my boys and don’t want to do anything behind their backs…

      March 7, 2013 at 12:30 am |
  2. Shari Guilliam

    Are there any cases where the bullies, parents of guardians of the bullies, school athorities were sued? There should be a new breed of attorneys who specifically take cases like this! What a goldmine!! Perhaps a person who was bullied would be perfect for the job.

    March 4, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
  3. Amanda Rivera

    My son started getting bullied when he was in 2nd grade, he is now in 5th grade. It was so bad he had to switch school because the teachers told me they couldnt do anything about it. He was been bullied again in 4th grade in the new school and I went to the principal and she took care of it right away so it did not get worse. The movie "Bully" should be shown to all schools in the begining of the school year, and hopefully it will show kids that bullying is never ok.

    February 28, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  4. Christina Lewis

    Such a talented amazing and beautiful young man!

    February 28, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  5. K R Taylor

    The bottom line is to , God forbid, make the parents accountable for their kids behavior. Period. I seriously doubt that teachers permit bullying. They have been given the added job of parenting in addition to teaching academics. Bring the responsibility back to those who brought these kids into the world. Legal action tends to wake a lot of these people up.
    As one final comment;stop allowing our kids to be victims. They need to have the confidence to stand up for themselves.

    February 28, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  6. Valerie

    I was bullied as a child, not physically but verbally. This is something you don't get over. I worried about my
    child growing up and talked to him, making sure he was not bullied. He did tell me some people had said
    something to him and he just laugh at them and told them to grow up. They really never bothering him again.

    What is amazing is I have not seen anyone who did the bullying write anything on here. Apparently, they
    are in jail or don't read articles like this.

    February 28, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  7. Josue perez

    My biggest surprise Is that the kids involved in this video were only warned, are you kidding!!. What kind of message are we sending?. The kids in the video should be suspend for at least a week, so they get the message. They should be warm that if they do something similar again they will be spell. And we ask why the bullying did not stop. One of the biggest problems if that you do not have real consecuences

    February 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  8. mark plunkett

    I taught in public schools for 29 years and attended public schools myself. I saw it all. I agree with the comments above: sue the bullies, press criminal charges against them for assault, sue the school officials who do nothing. PARENTS: write everything down and document, document, document. If nothing is done, go to the local media (secret revealed: schools HATE negative publicity! They know there are other options for parents.)

    And my heart goes out to those children who dread going to school because they are in fear of their own safety. It is disgusting that they have been made to feel this way.

    February 26, 2013 at 5:40 am |
  9. Ken

    Firstly, criminal charges should be pressed. Although the children are juveniles, thats what they need to do. Sue the families of the children as well as the school system. Children are cruel and mean. They find the child that is the weakest and will attack them until they kill themselves or leave. It doesn't end. As I tell my nieces and nephews, they have to fight. Period. I would rather them get suspended for a week than be victimized for a lifetime. My nephew was picked on by some kid. That kid was friends with the football team so he felt he could get away with it. I told my nephew to follow him and catch him alone and threaten this student. I made my nephew tell him that my nephew may get beaten up, but the FIRST person he is going to go after is him and will beat him in front of his parents. My nephew was never bothered again. Sometimes, the only thing that will work is to have that kid beat the other kid.

    February 26, 2013 at 5:06 am |
  10. Robert

    I was bullied a little bit at school. My problem was I just was not willing to stick up for myself, afraid that I would get into trouble. The wierd thing is that I was actually bigger than everyone that tried to bully me. Finally one kid pushed to far and I beat him up pretty good after school. The bullying stopped. That does not work for everyone. This last week my daughter had an incident where her teacher effectivly bullied her verbally. I am taking him to task on it. Still waiting for his reply. When a teacher bullies, there is absolutlly no excuse for it.

    February 26, 2013 at 4:41 am |
  11. morgan

    I guess the staff at that school send their kids to a different one. Otherwise they should be concerned the bullying could get to their kids as well.

    Some of the people I worked with at a factory would have waited in the parking lot for the supervisors who wouldn't do anything and show them what it is like to be bullied and beaten.

    These parents are decent folks.

    February 26, 2013 at 4:17 am |
  12. monte

    the school staff members should be charged with accessory to assult and aiding a crime, for allowing bullies free reign.

    February 26, 2013 at 3:56 am |
  13. Jeff G.

    Lawsuit. Plain and simple.

    February 26, 2013 at 1:21 am |
  14. Bob

    When I was 12 years old, I tried to bully another 12 year older. I was slightly bigger than the other kid. I told the other kid, I am bigger than you are, you carry my books. The other kid looked at me and started laughing histerically at me for 10 minutes. My bullying career lasted only 10 minutes. Then I became one of the cool kids. THE MESSAGE SHOULD BE: BE COOL DON'T BULLY. It is easier to be cool anyways

    February 26, 2013 at 1:09 am |
  15. Beth

    My son was bullied in 2nd grade so badly that he had panic attacks, the school's attitude was bad things happen to people and you need to learn to get over it also to ignore bullys they just want attention. After 2 visits to ER I called the school board and supt office no one would return my calls. I called the State Atty Generals office and they said all I could do was move to change schools, as they get 5-6 calls a year like mine. There are no laws to protect the victims and cops and social workers blow it off as boys will be boys. It is not the same for girls though Adults have more rights and protections than kids It horrible for the whole family We moved it was our only choice, now he has a hard time trusting adults as none of the teachers would help him.

    February 26, 2013 at 1:03 am |
  16. pat jones

    Children and young adults need to be educated about the bully issue. This needs to be done at home by their guardians or parents. It should also be, in my opionion a mandatory part of the orientation process of each school year. There should be a major attempt to stop the behavior before it happens. Children must be taught what is bullying, how not to be a bystander and not be affair to report an incident to a trusted adult. I do not agree with the posters who say that charging adults and sueing families is a solution. Think about it-Everything that you know how to do (walking, talking, reading, writing, driving, cooking etc), are thing that were taught/educated on how to do them. Same with the bully issue, as with everything-EDUCATION IS THE KEY to stopping bullying and it must be taught at home and at school.

    February 26, 2013 at 12:46 am |
  17. John-117

    Truth is, bullying will never end. If you fall even slightly out of what is considered normal, you are going to be tormented. Alex is in that geeky awkward adolescent phase. The ones who are fortunate to skip that stage will torment the ones who are in the stage. Its fact of life. Bully's don't exist because they simply don't know that what they do is wrong. They are bully's because they become insecure at things they don't understand, so they cope by torment.

    February 26, 2013 at 12:12 am |
  18. Steve

    There was a kid at my high school, sort of goofy looking and didn't say much. People made fun of him and he took it. Nothing physical to my knowledge. One day he didn't want to take it anymore. Turns out he was the state Golden Gloves champion for his age group. You can imagine the results. Nobody bothered him again. Moral to the story, if you want to stop getting bullied, take matters into your own hands and learn to defend yourself. Parents spend money on soccer, swimming lessons, etc. Send the kid to karate or boxing lessons.

    February 26, 2013 at 12:10 am |
  19. Steven

    So the school acknowledged that the bullies were guilty of assault, and gave them warnings. When that didn't work, the school did nothing. Alex ended up leaving, and the bullies are still there.

    Why didn't they expel the bullies?

    February 25, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  20. Jay

    This is why I don't have or want children. Why bring children into this sad world where they will be either preyed upon – or worse – the tormentors? I would rather that my line die out than be victims or victimizers.

    February 25, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
  21. Jim S

    I'm afraid it it were my child, I'd have a little off campus come to Jesus meeting with the bully or bullies and I'd bet that the kid wouldn't have any more problems. I know it's not that simple but one has to do what one can to prevent this from happening and sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands. If that didn't work, I'd find a way to film what was happening and take it to the police and school officials and their parents. Whatever it took.

    February 25, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
  22. Yolanda Martin

    Every school official who was informed of this situation and did nothing or possibly instigated the abuse of the bullied child's sibling should be fired, arrested, and sued. Once the school has been informed and nothing is done it means that the school is the bully, and this happens more often than most people realize.

    February 25, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
  23. Elizabeth

    I ever walk into a school to see my child wearing bruises, you better darn well hope the police arrive to arrest the punk brat that hit my kid. Because otherwise someone will need a funeral home. My daughter had a problem with a bully last year and the school tried to blame my daughter. I told them either you stop this behavior or you'll be the next idiot facing news crew camera's because you refuse to stop bullying in your school.

    February 25, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
  24. Sarah

    It is so stupid that they dont do anything!!! Talking to the bullies does crap and they should do know that!! If the bullie gets in trouble you are the one who gets hurt and still no one does anything about it!!!

    February 25, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
  25. Dave

    What a horrible situation. I have kids that will soon be high school age. I pray for two things. First, that it doesn't happen to my kids but if ti does, I hope the school system can successfully intervene. If not, then I hope that I can show restraint in dealing with it.

    February 25, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
  26. Avi

    I was bullied once. Just once. You see, I learned Krav Maga and Israeli Jiu-Jitsu from my father, who is retired IDF. That one failed headlock the bully tried to get me in was the first and last mistake he made in bullying me. After a few of his joints were popped back into their sockets, he started to walk to the other side of the hall when I was approaching. That's the only language a bully understands.

    February 25, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
  27. Pam Guevara

    The solution is simple – if one kid threatens and/or attacks another kid, the attacking kid is put under arrest for assault and battery and a court of law can sort it out.

    That's what would be done with adults in society and the workplace. That is what needs to be done with kids in school.

    February 25, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  28. Kathie N

    Don't go to the school, go to the police and charge these kids with assault and battery. I did that, the bullies were prosecuted and actually did some time. That put an end to that.

    February 25, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  29. Jesse Franklin

    Bullying creates long term mental problems for the bullied and for the bull, too.

    February 25, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  30. Claudio Sandoval

    My son start to live the very same situation, but i react with anger and after couple meetings with the school authorities. I warning them to call the police and sue the school district, and the situation is stop, he has not more complaints, and his vehaibor has imptoved.

    February 25, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  31. pearl Lea

    Bullies come from all backgrounds and financial situations. In my day the "popular"kids, the kids who were cheer leaders, atheletes, or whose parents were doctors or lawyers were my bullies. I was a farmers daughter. Sometimes the bullies are kids who are bullied at home. Whatever the case, i believe the parents of the bullie should be held accountable, and if they created a bully by abusing. Their own kids, those kids should be taken away. Whoever said that the mother of the the victim should stop blaming the bully: i bet you have never been bullied.. Perhaps you were one of those who made fun of the less fortunate when the teacher was out of the room and was a peach when she re entered? Bullying is WRONG. If a kid has mental problems, disabilities, or his socks dont match there is no reason not to treat him or her with respect.

    February 25, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
  32. Angelo

    Shame the schools name wasn't named in this article would ve sent a message

    February 25, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  33. Kyle

    Assault is a crime. What I don't understand is why the bullies are not arrested and charged with the crimes they are guilty of. The article states at attack on the school bus was caught ON VIDEO. There you have it right there, indisputable evidence of the crime. If I go punch some random person on the street and the cops get called, I will be arrested and sent straight to jail for assault. Why should it be any different at a school?

    February 25, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  34. Scot

    When we did away with teachers giving swats to those who did these things it got worse ! When we did away with parents not being able to give thier kids spankings it got worse ! When mother and faters lost their rights to disipline their children it got worse. I was scared as hell about having to to to the principles office and the HUGE paddle that was there. Please do not give me the crap that if you talk to the child they will be better. They are coniving little people that will figure out how to buck the system unless they are afraid iof the circumstances !

    February 25, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  35. Paul

    People who say things like bullying will never go away as a justification for doing nothing might as well be bullying children themselves. I was bullied for YEARS and at points had violent fantasies towards the bullies as well as having suicidal thoughts. Thank god I have self control and a strict moral code. Literally I had bullies jabbing me in the sides multiple times a class whenever the teacher wasn't looking and it would make me jump or yelp. One time the teacher threw me out of the class because I asked them to stop several times and they just continued jabbing me. Some teachers do absolutely nothing to prevent it and even pick on kids themselves.

    Bullies should be suspended as a first offense. There should be no tolerance for it. Teachers who do nothing to stop bullying in their classes should be fired.

    February 25, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
  36. Debra burgess

    I showed the documentary to my youth group and they didnt understand how the school system failed in protecting this student and others like him. I been teaching for over 13 years and just recently became a mentor for students who are being bullied.

    February 25, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
  37. Ron

    I'm afraid I'd react very badly if kids did that to my kid. I'd go straight to the parents of the kids attacking my child and have a nice firm chat with them.... face to face. I'm pretty good at getting through to people.

    I really think the 1950's approach would work much better than all this PC crap.

    February 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  38. Retta

    I had a child at a small Ohio school, Woodridge. My child was bullied and when it became physical I came forward. My then third grader (who was slow in speech and other develoments) was taken into the office alone with the principal, yelled at and intimidated until he said he made up the alligations; even though he had bruises. I went to the super intendant who said, well..from now on we have witnesses in the room before something like that happens. The boy who was beating my son now regularly I was told could never do such a thing because his mother was business owner and volunteered at the school. We moved and my child is now doing wonderful at the new school and speach is no longer an issue. The only way to "fix" this problem is by doing two things 1. parents are never again going to be accountable for raising their kids in this country so I say force the bullies to undergo therapy or you do not come to school, you are a threat. 2. If you work for a school, you are liable physically and mentally if a bullying situation has been reported and you fail to do anything about it even if the mommy is your buddy

    February 25, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  39. Carrie

    Assault is illegal. Parents need to get the police and the district attorney involved to prosecute the perpetrators for their crimes.

    February 25, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  40. Leslie Ann Warren

    Blessings 2 There Family In Jesus Name Blood & Luv Always!!

    February 25, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  41. Marty Rogers

    time to sue the bullies, the school and the parents. People start doing that and suddenly you will see this national disgrace end.

    February 25, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • Drea

      I really feel for those kids. I had a friend that ppl bullied I finely said enough and I started fighting for her I didnt care if those ppl didnt like me anymore I didnt want friends like that anyways. We need to teach our children to stand up for others

      February 25, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • marianna

      That might help indeed.

      February 26, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • Mike

      Agree. Not a big fan of lawsuits usualy, but in these cases, it might be the only option. Part of any settlement should also include suspension for those who participate in acts like this with explusion being the next step should the bullies continue, banning the bullies from extracurricular sports and other activities, and the like. The bullies, their parents and the school officials should all be held accountable.

      In this particular case, I would say they literally tortured that child. We treat rapists and murderers better than this. The vice principal should resign or be fired, as well as the superintendent and any other official who failed to act to protect their child. That is part of their job, to protect all students and serve as a mentor. If they don't like that, they shouldn't have went in to the educational field.

      February 26, 2013 at 7:04 am |
  42. TonyDanza

    My heart goes out to anyone that is bullied. My older brother used to get the crap beat out of him all the time by bullies and it goes beyond affecting just the bullied, it affected our whole family.

    That said, I'd love to know how the filming of those scenes occurred. If there was a grown man on the school bus filming the children for a documentary, I doubt they would have behaved the same as if there was no one there. Either there were 2 cameramen, or the same person walked back and forth between the front and back of the bus filming this.
    In no way am I saying this kid wasn't bullied, but the kids in the video could have been acting a little for the camera. Hopefully in the movie they explain how the filming occurred.

    February 25, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • Ashley

      I, too, had the same concern. They do explain it briefly in the movie, but explain it in detail in the film's viewing guide. In order to ensure that the kids were not bullied any further during the documentation of the film, the film crew filmed TONS of different school events including pep rallies, conferences, meetings, etc. so the kids in the school had really become used to the fact that some camera crew would be around the schools for some film. By the time they were filming the bus scene, most of the kids were used to the film crew and either forgot about the cameras or didn't think they were focusing on Alex. The bus scene was a struggle for the makers of the documentary, and they explain in the movie that it was the actions witnessed on the bus that forced them to notify police, due to the obvious legal obligation to bring this to authority's attention.

      February 25, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  43. michael

    every official in that school district should be criminally charged. the bullies and their parents should be sued for everything. disgusting excuse for a school

    February 25, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
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