Children and working adults all across the United States struggle with some form of bullying. These targets may be bullied just because they are a little bigger than other students, because of an activity they enjoy—or because they are autistic and may not interact with others very well.
Olivia, Jayden, Carlos, Claudia and too, too many anonymous children have been subjected to behaviors that, over time, lead them to believe they are worthless and deserve no better than the treatment they are receiving. When the parents of bullied children find out what is happening, they try to engage their child’s school administrators and, eventually, the school district. Only they may not get the results they are seeking. School administrators tell them they are working on stopping the bullying. Because of federal privacy laws, these parents are unable to find out the specifics of what the school has done to the bullies. Maybe the principals have suspended the students. Maybe the principals have done nothing. It isn’t until the bullied student tries to take their life that school administrators and law enforcement begin to take the situation seriously.
Phoenix, AZ: The Case of Jayden
At the end of the 2016 school year, Jayden, a six-year-old, was bullied on his school bus. When he got to his stop, the bullying didn’t end there. The bully chased him from his bus stop and attacked him outside his family’s apartment. His bully was in second grade and easily able to overpower the younger student. He slammed him into the ground outside the apartment, giving Jayden a large goose egg on his forehead. Because the bullying happened off school grounds, the child’s parents learned the school could do nothing. Bullying in the USA looks like this in city after city, because of the limited laws that address bullying. This leaves Jayden’s parents to do what they can to protect their son. The case is being investigated by the Phoenix Police Department. In addition, the child’s parents may remove him from his current school and enroll him elsewhere.
Colton, CA: The Case of Dominick
In Colton, California, a bully stomped on Dominick Gallegos’ chest during their P.E. class. After his chest was stomped on, Dominick died in a Colton hospital. According to other students who witnessed the incident, Dominick slipped while picking up a soccer ball. It was then that the known bully stomped on his chest, knocking him out. Physical attacks such as the one Dominick experienced can lead, not only to physical injuries, but also to the child feeling as though they deserve such treatment. School and law enforcement personnel investigating Dominick’s death have not said whether the child who attacked him had been bullying him throughout the school year. According to his mother, Dominick didn’t suffer from any health conditions that could have led to the collapse he suffered. She said he had never fainted or had a heart problem.
What isn’t known is whether the child identified as Dominick’s bully had a history of bullying him or other children. The end result is the only one known—his death is being linked to the other child stomping twice on his chest.
Portland, OR: The Case of Anonymous Holliday
A Portland, Oregon mother became concerned when she realized that her teen son was receiving text messages from a number her son didn’t recognize. The messages contained threats from the sender that the sender would kill the targeted teen; they also contained racial content (the boy and his mother are African-American).
The teen was the target of cyberbullying. When his mother called the number from which the texts were coming, she began getting similar messages. After this happened, she tried to file a criminal complaint with the police in Portland.
The police department didn’t take the threats seriously, saying that teens committed these acts “all the time.”
Parry Aftab, an expert in cyber-crime, says that teens die, often after committing suicide, because nobody has attempted to step in and make the cyberbullies stop. In the case of the Portland teen and his mother, no investigation was begun until after an Oregon newspaper began calling to make inquiries for a news article.
What made it so easy for the cyberbully in this case was that they used a website called pinger that enabled them to cloak their true phone number. This teen was fortunate because his mother noticed immediately that something was wrong. He trusted her enough to reveal that he had recently been involved in an argument with another boy.
In his case, his bully or bullies may be charged with telephone harassment If found guilty, the bully could spend up to one year behind bars and be required to pay a fine of $2,500. That’s if they can identify who actually sent the texts. According to the police, while the phone belonged to one boy, any one of up to six teens had used the phone that night.
Seattle, WA: The Case of Olivia
To understand the short- and long term effects of bullying, look at the case of Olivia, from Seattle, Washington. While she was attending a girls’ private school, she was bullied by a group of girls from her school.
For three years, beginning almost from the first day she began attending the school, Olivia was the target of the bullies, who taunted and slapped her. She began dreading going to school—but it became even worse.
The physical abuse, name-calling and taunting led to being avoided and excluded from groups and activities. Even though she reported the ongoing bullying to her teachers and school administrators, nothing was done. Eventually, she developed anorexia, an eating disorder. Her reports of bullying, she said, were treated as a “joke,” causing her to lose hope that anyone would intervene and make the bullies stop their actions against her.
Eventually, Olivia’s parents withdrew her from the private school and enrolled her elsewhere. Then, they filed a lawsuit, eventually settling for $120,000. The family’s attorney said that the school’s “understanding of bullying” was nonexistent. In fact, the school’s policy on bullying has not changed, even after agreeing to settle the lawsuit.
Olivia’s parents and, soon, the family’s attorney, were the only ones who took the ongoing bullying seriously. If they hadn’t, the outcome for Olivia could have been much worse.
Lynwood, WA: Multiple Incidents of Instagram Cyberbullying
Multiple students within the Edmonds School District in Lynnwood, WA became targets of cyberbullies who actually took requests on Instagram about who should be bullied next. This means that, along with the group of students who participated in posting derogatory posts about their targets, other students “on the sidelines” also became involved.
Targeted students were targeted because of their genders, the shoes and clothing they wore and possibly for other non-reasons, such as weight or a disability.
A group of mothers who saw the bullying attacks intervened and began trying to find out who was doing the cyberbullying. These mothers knew enough about technology, how to use it and how they could “zoom in” on the perpetrators. Once they found out who they were, they alerted the school and other parents. One of the investigating mothers said that not all parents “know how to” check up on what their children are up to. These mothers believe that parents whose children use technology should stay one step ahead of their children, even though they are learning how to use it along with their children.
Now that the school is aware of what the cyberbullies were doing, they have contacted their parents and plan to issue reminders about appropriate internet use.
Valencia County, NM: The Case of Carlos
A bullying case out of Valencia County, in central New Mexico, ended tragically. Carlos, age 17, had long been the target of bullies in his small community. His parents found out when Carlos was fourteen that he was a bullying target. The bullying had actually begun when Carlos was in the third grade, but he didn’t reveal it until six years later.
The accumulated effects of all of those bullying attacks, eventually led to Carlos beginning to believe that he “deserved” the attacks. In a series of Twitter posts, he apologized to “those who I offended over the years.” He went on to say, “I’m an individual who is doing an injustice to the world and it’s time for me to leave.” Even more: “The kids in school are right. I am a loser, a freak, and a fag and in no way is that acceptable for people to deal with.”
In other words, Carlos’ bullies projected their own fears and prejudices onto someone who should never have tried to accept them as his responsibility.
Because of the ongoing bullying, Carlos changed schools in his junior year, preparing to enter a new school for his senior year. Why was he bullied? He had acne. He was gay. His bullies believed he had a weight problem. He also had a lazy eye. None of these were factors he could control.
Larimer County, CO: Bullying Leads to Two Suicides
In a case stemming from the Poudre School District in Larimer County, Colorado, two students killed themselves in separate incidents. The first was an 11-year-old girl who had been told she should kill herself. In the second incident, a boy, 11, also killed himself. Authorities don’t know whether the two cases of bullying leading to suicide were connected to each other.
The two deaths coming so close to each other have prompted the town’s leaders and the parents of school children to question why this happened. If the parents and teachers of these two students had been alert for the signs of bullying, they may have been able to intervene before the students felt they had no other solution but to kill themselves. The school (or schools, if the students went to separate schools) will need to work on policies that can help prevent bullying of any type. Students need to learn how to handle bullying as well, because, no matter what kinds of programs or zero-tolerance policies are put in place, a child who chooses to bully will find a way to do so.
Loveland, CO: Claudia’s Ongoing Cyberbullying
Another Colorado bullying case comes from Loveland, Colorado. Claudia, now a university student, was the target of cyberbullying at Loveland High School. Claudia was told to kill herself. Whether the perpetrators knew the facts about cyberbullying or not, they informed Claudia that, “It’s not cyberbullying if it’s true.”
In a newspaper interview, Claudia admitted that, “It still makes me think of myself and it never puts a pretty image in your head.” Or, in other words, the bullies sought to force Claudia to think poorly of herself, beginning to feel so badly of herself that eventually she would attempt suicide.
The school district conducted its own investigation and referred everything to the Loveland Police Department. The school district does have an anti-bullying policy and states that it believes all students are entitled to a safe, secure learning environment.
For its part, the police department are investigating the incident and requested IP (internet protocol) address information on the Tumblr account from which the bullying messages originated. The information came from a Denver address, but the police were not able to identify a specific perpetrator.
The bullying ended for Claudia when she graduated from high school. It started again on Labor Day weekend, with the hateful messages going to her newly created Tumblr account shortly after she began her freshman year of college.
Her outlook about the bullying attempt show that she doesn’t believe that it’s appropriate for anyone to bully another. Regardless of the “reasons” for which she was bullied, she hopes to let other targets of cyberbullying know that it will get better. She urges targets to rely on family and friends.
Colorado Springs, CO: Bullying an Autistic High School Student
In Colorado Springs, an autistic high school boy who attended Pine Creek High School was subjected to two “depantsing” incidents. Another student took Cody’s cell phone and began posting vulgar Facebook statuses and text messages. The student also stole food from Cody while in the school cafeteria. Another student tore up Cody’s class schedule on the first day of classes.
His parents filed complaints with Pine Creek High School, saying that school authorities “neglected” to deal with the situation in a way that would ensure the bullying stopped. While he was on the cross country team, Cody participated in an awards assembly in 2014. In holding with tradition, team members gave paper plates to other team members. These plates gave recognition to team members. Several of the plates Cody received contained sexually graphic and demeaning images. To keep Cody from complaining to his parents, they threatened him, saying they would hurt his mother.
Because of his autism, Cody isn’t always aware of what is appropriate in communicating with other students. At times, he would imitate the actions and words of the students he was with, throwing “F-bombs” around, calling other students “faggots” and also, “smack-talking.” This led to aggression from fellow students. One student said that “a lot of kids have had it with him.” His parents say that, at home, they discussed the issues with him, helping him to understand that what he was saying wasn’t appropriate.
Regardless, the students were wrong to “depants” Cody, take his phone and post profanities on it. After the family made the school aware of the bullying, they finally transferred Cody to a new school. He transferred into a D-20 transition program for special-needs students, learning job readiness and life skills training.
Are Schools Trying to Help?
Bullying in the USA affects too many families. Some parents may have a slight awareness that something is “wrong” with their children:
- The children become reluctant to go to school
- Their grades fall, sometimes several letter grades
- They may skip school
- The children come home from school crying or angry
When the parents try to talk to teachers, the principal or other administrators, they may feel like they’ve hit a brick wall of resistance. Any reports that targets or their parents file may seem to fall into a bottomless well of inaction. As the bullying continues, the parents and target child may try a transfer to a new school. This may work—if the bullying carried out at the old school hasn’t involved bullying via social media.
At other schools, the schools have reached out to the parents of bullies, telling them what has been going on. They have started investigations, finding that the allegations from the target children are true. Next, they have set consequences on the bullying children, sometimes to include counseling.
Children are bullied because:
- Of how they look
- Their hair
- Their clothing and its style
- The child’s weight, sexual orientation or any physical/mental disabilities
Sometimes, targeted students report that their teachers tell them to “shut up,” instructing the student to stop looking at them.
Bullying in Clovis, NM
A middle school boy from Clovis, New Mexico unsuccessfully attempted suicide after enduring long-term bullying at his middle school. Daniel, 12 years old, tried to hang himself. His father, also named Daniel, found him before it was too late. Now, Daniel, Jr., is in a rehab facility in Albuquerque to continue his recovery from lung damage and head trauma.
When contacted, the school district said it was “unaware” of Daniel’s bullying. District Superintendent Jody Balch vowed the district wouldn’t overlook the bullying. The superintendent also said that each student in the Clovis school district receives a PowerPoint presentation on recognizing and helping to stop bullying.
Regardless of the efforts the district says it has in place, Daniel’s father still doubts that enough was done to protect his son. Until he is able to communicate again, why Daniel, Jr. was bullied will remain unknown. His bullying took the form of being physically beat up, videotaped and being made fun of on social media.
Aberdeen, Idaho, Bullying and Suicide
Spencer Nilsson was an active sports enthusiast, loving fishing and hunting. He loved to take mechanical objects apart so he could figure out how they worked. He played drums in his school band and enjoyed playing Xbox games. He was also funny and selfless, according to his sister.
All of this ended at the end of August, 2012, when Spencer hung himself from a tree in his family’s backyard. In the second semester of his seventh grade year, his grades fell dramatically because of the bullying he was subjected to. His mother said that the bullying “destroyed her son.” Because he was known as the class clown, Spencer loved to tap fellow students on the forehead and say, “dork stamp.” When he tried this with a female student, she slapped him on his cheek.The clowning and resulting slap were witnessed by several students, which led to Spencer being ridiculed because he’d been beaten up by a girl.
The bullying didn’t end there. Two older boys came up to Spencer, making overt sexual remarks to him. The boys weren’t disciplined even though Spencer reported the incident. Fellow classmates would call Spencer derogatory names; at times, he would respond to them, telling them to “shut up.” Yet, it was always Spencer who was punished, being sent to detention. (In his middle school, telling students to “shut up” was enough to earn a student disciplinary action.)
Spencer lost his ability to concentrate and his grades plummeted. His parents did everything they could to intervene and the school promised to make Spencer’s teachers aware of the bullying. Because Spencer felt intimidated by school administrators, he was reluctant to report the bullying. As bad as things were, they grew even worse. His bully stole the materials he needed to complete a class project; he was punished for being unable to complete the project. He got a break from the bullying during the summer vacation—but it started back up at the beginning of school. Without showing any signs of suicidal tendencies or depression, Spencer hung himself.
At the wake, Spencer’s parents noticed that two of the bullies showed no grief at his death. In fact, one classmate told his parents that the bully said, “Spencer got what he deserved. I hope he rots in hell.” Spencer’s locker was decorated after his death. Two weeks later, several boys destroyed the decorations. Asking to see security footage, the parents were told the tape was kept for only three days before being taped over again.
These bullying statistics are sobering. Over 20 percent of school-age children said they had been bullied at some time during the school year. These students were aged 12 to 18 and said they had been called derogatory names, named in false rumors or reported the bullying to be physical in nature. Other bullying targets reported:
- Being threatened with harm: 4 percent
- Excluded from activities: 4 percent
- Forced to do things against their will: 2 percent
- Personal property deliberately destroyed: 2 percent
Girls were the subject of rumors twice as often as boys; 17 percent to 9.6 percent. Boys were subjected to physical forms of bullying almost twice as much as girls; 7.4 percent versus 4.6 percent. This is just bullying in the USA. The numbers in other countries show the problem is even greater.
School Survey on Bullying, Santa Fe
School children in Santa Fe, New Mexico experience bullying as well. About 20 to 25 percent of children in the Santa Fe School District said they had experienced bullying in the 2013 academic year. Of those students, 8 percent said they stayed home because they were afraid of what a bully would do to them.
These statistics worried Mayor Javier Gonzales, who said, “Those are real impacts on Santa Fe Families.” His office set up an anti-bullying forum, which invited families, school officials, bullying experts and community leaders to discuss the problem. One student said she would stay home from school, even though she wasn’t sick, because of fears a bully would confront her. She eventually left her school and enrolled in another school. She felt that she was the only student to be picked on and it affected her ability to learn. The first anti-bullying forum was so successful that the Mayor’s office held another forum. It is events like this, where families and school officials can meet with experts to find out what they can do to combat this harmful targeting.
Anti-Bullying Efforts in Tucson, AZ
While bullying makes child and adult targets feel isolated and alone, it doesn’t have to be this way. Up to 16,000 students skip school, risking truancy charges and failure, just to avoid bullying. Additionally, targets say they don’t know what kinds of behaviors are actually bullying.
Tucson’s Crossroads Collaborative allows youth and YWCA’s Nuestra Voz program to learn what bullying is and ways of making it stop. Using the “Let’s Get Real” program enabled the youth to take an active part in stopping bullying. One bullied student realized he can stand up to his bully and help the bully change how he thinks and feels.
Megan Meier’s Story
Megan Meier was a 13-year-old girl in Missouri. She killed herself after a cute boy told her she should just kill herself. As it turns out that cute boy was a cover for the adult woman who was actually cyberbullying Megan, who suffered from ADHD and depression. The woman, the mother of one of Megan’s former friends, was upset enough about the ending of the relationship between her daughter and Megan. With help, she created the persona of the cute boy who reached out to Megan via social media. What makes this case different from the usual cases of bullying in the USA was that an adult targeted the child. Now, Megan’s mother, Tina, travels around the country, teaching teens and their parents what bullying and cyberbullying are.
Cyberbullying in Las Vegas, NV
A boy in Las Vegas, Nevada was jumped while he was walking home from school. A friend of the bully made a video of the attack and posted it to Facebook. His mother believes this is a classic example of cyberbullying. The boy, Wanyeih, told his mother what happened. She reported the attack to the police.
Wanyeih is now going to a different school; the incident took place off school grounds, so the fight is not being investigated by the school.
Cyberbullying and Rape
Daisy Coleman, who was the victim of a rape in Maryville in 2012, attempted suicide but survived. She went to a party in 2012 and was sexually assaulted by a member of the school football team. The family went public with media interviews because of what they felt was an inadequate response to their criminal complaint. The backlash strongly affected Daisy.
In early 2014, Daisy went to a party with several of her friends. When she got home, she realized that she was being called “fake” and a “hypocrite” on Facebook for even trying to go to the party. This attack led her to try to overdose on pills; she is now in a psychiatric hospital, receiving treatment.
People in her community felt uncomfortable with her attempts to shed light on sexual assault. They called her names and accused her of lying. Still, she refused to stop speaking up. Because several states don’t include cyberbullying as a crime, perpetrators get away with their bad behaviors.
When Cyberbullying Becomes Fatal
Rebecca Sedwick killed herself after struggling with cyberbullying. The Florida girl had been targeted by two classmates, who were charged with felony aggravated stalking by the county sheriff.
The sheriff had both girls arrested because, when they were interviewed, he saw no remorse in their attitudes. One of the girls posted in Facebook, “I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself, but I don’t give a f___.” Rebecca was bullied by up to 15 girls after one of the suspects began to date a boy Rebecca had dated. Probable jealousy led the suspect to harass Rebecca. The bullying became so bad that the suspect began harassing Rebecca’s friends. She also got another suspect, 12 years old, to turn against Rebecca.
How Bullying Impacted Baylei
Bailei was targeted as being “too ugly” to live, stupid, worthless and fat. Eventually, she began self-harming—cutting—in an attempt to deal with the emotional pain. She was in the sixth grade when the bullying started; her mother and stepfather contacted the school about the bullying. When it didn’t stop, they they transferred Baylei to a different school at the beginning of the 2014 school year. But, the harassment continued online. (The schools in Howard County, where Baylei goes to school received 56 confirmed cases of bullying which they had to investigate.) Baylei was attacked in school, leading her mother and stepfather to withdraw all three of their children to withdraw their children so they could homeschool them until they are able to transfer to a different school district.
Indiana and the Bullying Numbers
Throughout the entire Indiana public school system, well over 9,000 cases of bullying were reported to school authorities. Forty-four percent of the reports were for verbal bullying and 21 percent were for physical bullying. The Centers for Disease Control ranked Indiana third in the country for its bullying problem. A law passed in Indiana in 2013 makes it mandatory for schools to record every bullying incident. Out of the 1,000 schools in Indiana, 240 did not report any bullying for the academic year. In contrast, Donan Middle School reported 128 bullying incidents—the highest number in the state. This is attributed to the school’s strict behavior policies and proactive policies in addressing peer-to-peer issues. It seems that other schools in the country should take a good, long look at the policies of this middle school and implement them.
Bullying at a Chicago Catholic High School
After a student was assaulted by several baseball teammates at St. Francis de Sales High School, Chicago police entered the investigation. As a result, 12 of the students were suspended.
The school sent a letter to the parents of these boys, saying they were accused of directly bullying the boy or for failing to report the attack on him. The target of the attack, an 18-year-old, told his parents what happened. They reported the attack to the CPD the following Tuesday.
The players involved in the attack were “just goofing off.” One student called the incident “horseplay”, saying, “It was just a joke. . . We’re not bullies.” Tellingly, the student said they “really don’t talk” to the target.” The student admitted to being angry for being suspended because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, “grabbing my things, getting ready to get out.”
In another news report, the incident is characterized as a sexual assault. School officials stay the targeted student was bullied. Still, CPD detectives are investigating the case as a sexual assault. This was because some team members held the targeted student down on the locker room floor while other players touched him inappropriately with a baseball bat.
Workplace Bullying and Suicide
A long-time employee of the Public Regulation Commission in Santa Fe, New Mexico chose to commit suicide after being bullied “for years.” Annette Prada put 23 years into her career with the PRC. According to her daughter, Annette was verbally abused, received abusive and bullying emails and was repeatedly demoted.
She was only two years away from retiring from the PRC when she killed herself. Even though she tried to stay strong, the stress affected her physical and emotional health. The PRC chief of staff stated he was unaware of any complaints that Prada may have made and would not comment on the bullying allegations. He did allude to “personnel issues,” stating that the agency handled those on a case-by-case basis. If she made complaints, they may not have been sent up the chain to Montoya. He oversees division chiefs; Prada’s division chief may have kept Prada’s complaint from being set up the chain to Montoya. In her case, the method the PRC used to handle personnel grievances could have been used against Prada, especially if she didn’t have any mentors higher up. Additionally, Prada’s supervisor as the corporations bureau chief, may have known who was bullying Prada.
Workplace Bullying and Numbers
A survey on bullying was conducted in U.S. workplaces in mid-2014. Over 2,200 workers were surveyed; 96 percent of those workers admitted that they had been bullied. Respondents also said that a shockingly high 89 percent of workplace bullies had carried out their abusive activities for over a hear and 54 percent had engaged in bullying conduct against their colleagues for over five years. The Deseret News reported on the results of this survey, which included some workplace bullying stories, which included:
- Physical bullying
- Sabotage of projects
In fields where specialized knowledge is a necessity, bullies rely mostly on emotional bullying, using subtle threats, sarcasm and controlling behavior.
One takeaway from the survey is that the target must speak up to different supervisory levels. Staying silent lets the bully know that their behavior is acceptable.
Targets took one of four tactics in dealing with their bullies:
- Losing their temper
- Acting the same way as the bully
- Addressing the bullying issue with the bully
- Reporting the bullying to a manager
Workplace bullying harms the workplace just as badly as it does the target, causing the loss of valuable working time. In one year, a company can lose nearly $9,000 in wages because of bullying. Across the U.S., the loss approaches $250 million (health care, staff turnover, retraining, litigation).
USA Workplace Bullying Statistics
- 72 percent of employers enable bullying in one way or another
- 27 percent of employees have had experience with workplace bullying
- 72 percent of Americans are aware of the existence of workplace bullying, and
- 93 percent of survey respondents support the Healthy Workplace Bill