Fight brews over school bullies

The family of an 11-year-old who committed suicide because of what they described as incessant bullying has hired an attorney.

Jaheem Herrera was taunted by classmates who called him “gay” and “snitch,” his sister said.

The boy’s mother says school officials didn’t do enough, even though she complained several times. She said Jaheem was once choked in the boy’s bathroom.

School officials say they’ve taken steps to eliminate bullying, including using a program that integrates anti-bullying and anti-harassment lessons into the regular school curriculum.

We’ve been down this bullying road before. Lots of allegations are thrown back and forth but few changes are seen in schools.

How much can schools do to control bullies?

This isn’t something schools can do alone. Where are the parents in all this? What responsibility rests with parents whose kids are bullied and parents whose kids are the bullies?

34 comments Add your comment

MamaS

April 22nd, 2009
9:00 am

Schools should treat bullies like criminals. If one child bashed another child’s head against a wall in the local mall, the cops would be called. If it is done in a school hall, the same thing should happen. If a child is old enough to do the crime, then he is old enough to do the time.

DB

April 22nd, 2009
9:18 am

The “Mom Mania” blog covered this pretty thoroughly yesterday, with over 150 responses. Basically, parents enable bullying behavior by not allowing kids to feel the consequences of their actions, and defending their bad behavior. There’s a fine line between growing up and learning to deal with idiots, and growing up and having to defend yourself from idiots, especially since kids can be so darn sneaky about it. Plus, cyberspace has opened up whole new channels in which to harass kids.

Mama S, funny you should use that example — that’s what happened to my son at his school, and only the calm threat of filing assault and battery charges against the 12-year-old bully, with a promise to include the school as a co-defendant for child endangerment (kid was a known bully with a history of assaults), got action — kid left the school and got some much-needed therapy and ended up attending a private school specializing in helping them deal with their ED issues.

Basically, as long as there are no consequences that the PARENTS feel for their child’s behavior, then that behavior will continue. They get two strikes. Third offense, their bullying little butts are kicked out with a no-return policy for any Georgia public school, and the parents have to figure out a way to educate the little darlings on their own, one, as punishment, and two, “pour encourager les autres” They lose the privilege of a public education. (You can debate the value of that privilege elsewhere.) I guarantee you, once parents figure out that the onus for their child’s behavior is going to cost them a fortune in private school fees or the inconvenience of homeschooling, the vast majority of those kids will suddenly learn how to behave. And when other kids see that the discipline is strongly enforced, it makes them think twice.

DB

April 22nd, 2009
9:20 am

DB

April 22nd, 2009
9:20 am

Aug! Wrote two paragraphs, and it disappeared. Grrr . . .

Reality

April 22nd, 2009
9:21 am

Mama S. – Great point. And, in your example, should the mall be held accountable for that incident? I just don’t think that anyone would think so. So then, why does everyone seem to think that the school is held accountable?

A school’s mission is to teach content. A school cannot raise the child. There are rules in school – but even these are all but impossible to enforce…. walk into any high school classroom and you can find at least one student using their cell phone.

PARENTS need to teach their child how to behave and how to properly interact with others. PARENTS need to teach their child to follow rules and respect adults.

Schools do not and should not be responsible for raising children – that is the job of the parents.

The parents of this boy should be filing a lawsuit against the parents of those bullys. The ultimate source of this behavior is the bad parents. Until bad parents are held accountable, nothing will change.

B

April 22nd, 2009
9:26 am

I have children in Dekalb County Schools. I have a daughter who endured bullying throughout middle school and no one including teachers and the principal would do a thing about it. I was told that the girl “had problems”. Of course she does, however, that doesn’t give her the right to hurt others. Finally, my daughter was sexually harrassed by a male student and I was told “boys will be boys” and “I don’t think he was going to hurt her” by the Asst. Principal. At that time, I told him to either suspend the boy or I was calling the police and filing sexual battery charges. After a hearing, the boy was suspended. I don’t understand why schools are reluctant to deal with bullies. Maybe someone in school administration can explain it to me?????

Reality

April 22nd, 2009
10:09 am

B – Here is some possible reasons to answer your question.

1. School administrators do not want to prosecute because it is recorded as an “incident”. A school with a certain number of “incidents” is considered to be a dangerous school and is placed on the State list. No administrator wants this label.

2. No administrator wants to deal with crazy parents. Most often, they push that onto a classroom teacher and force them to call the parent before the adminstrator does anything at all…. as if a classroom teacher has the time (or training). Rather than deal with the crazy parent(s), the administration would rather attempt to pacify the victims and the victims parents.

The bottom line is that schools can only do much when it comes to student behavior. The childs behavior (good or bad) is a result of parenting. And, schools cannot force parents to be good parents.

high school teacher

April 22nd, 2009
10:32 am

I have come to the conclusion that I am fortunate to have worked in the systems I have (none of them being the major metro mega-systems); we deal with bullies and other discipline problems as they arise. Granted, there are times when I don’t agree with punishments that have been doled out, but my system takes bullying very seriously, as well as other serious offenses.

That said, the term “bullying” is subjective. What classifies as bullying?

Joy in Teaching

April 22nd, 2009
10:37 am

First off, I am very sorry for what happened to the young man in question. No parent should have to outlive their child and I am very sorry for their loss.

What can schools do about bullying? Only as much as the community (parents, students, administrators, etc) will allow.

There are some parents that will go to the mat defending their precious bully child. It doesn’t matter if there are 4 cameras that have caught that child dead to right bullying another, those parents will be in denial. And, trust me, they will be in that school blaming everyone else (teachers, administrators, the victim) because their poor little bully child is “being picked on.” They will scream, rant, rave, and threaten the school with lawsuits. Notice that these parents are bullies?

Then there are the emotionally behavior disordered kids with the IEPs and the 504 plans. We can’t do a darned thing about their behavior. We are preparing them for the wide world of jail and prison after they get out of school and that’s about it. They can bully kids to their heart’s content.

The thing is…kids are mean. They have always been mean to each other. Some kids can’t handle meanness. And some kids are so sheltered by their parents that they never learn to shrug it off or take up for themselves. There is only so much that teachers and schools can do for these tender hearted people. And we sure have our hands tied as far as to what we can do with bullies themselves.

Schools can’t win no matter what they do. Victims hardly ever win. And bullies will inherit the earth.

V for Vendetta

April 22nd, 2009
10:37 am

Privatize the schools = problem solved. If the school had complete authority and the autonomy to act in its own best interest then these types of incidents would be incredibly rare. Why? Because persistently disruptive student who bullied other students would be permanently removed.

Because the public schools have to abide by Federal standards, State standards, County standards, etc., they are powerless to do what they SHOULD be doing–in any situation.

Ernest

April 22nd, 2009
10:37 am

Great answer Reality! I read on another blog that it is ‘possible’ that the NCLB legislation could have something to do with handling ‘trouble making’ students. Since attendance is one of the measures, school officials do whatever they can to keep students in school. This very public measure could determine whether a school makes AYP. Add to that what you said in #1 above, it creates a situation where students who are attempting to learn have their education compromised by those who do not. The social experiment of mixing known bullies with students trying to learn seems to fail everyone involved.

In fairness, bullies have been in school for a long time. I’m sure many of us can think back to our time in school and remember some unpleasant experiences with bullies. At least then, there was ’some’ fear of authority. It does seem more brazen in these times, with many bullies not fearing anyone.

jim d

April 22nd, 2009
10:40 am

Reality

“So then, why does everyone seem to think that the school is held

accountable?”

Actually a little something called “loco parentis” as well as several court rulings (that I will spare you from reading) that have made it a matter of case law.

jim d

April 22nd, 2009
10:54 am

my bad!! IN loco parentis

(sorry)

jim d

April 22nd, 2009
11:12 am

V,

rarely do we disagree, however your choice of words “Privatize the schools = problem solved” is a bit misleading since there are other solutions.

Choice would also remedy many of the problems our schools deal with daily but could do so without dismantling our entire public educational syatem.

Reality

April 22nd, 2009
11:15 am

jim d – While of course, there is that law that says something to the effect that schools are ‘acting on behalf of parents’, that does not have anything to do with my point.

There are bad parents.

Schools cannot force bad parents to become good parents.

If schools acted as some believe they “should” then bad parents can, and often do, sue the schools. Also, as I have mentioned, the school becomes known as a bad school.

Rather than deal with the bad parents, the administrators take the path of least resistance…. pacify the victims and the victims parents. These parents then fault the school rather than the real source of the problem…. the bad parents.

So – quote all the laws that you want. It doesn’t change reality of what happens or why it happens.

Reality2

April 22nd, 2009
11:22 am

I have no problem involving police in bullying case. However, schools, in that case, must be held responsible for calling police. And, just as a person, I hope teachers will call the police if the administrator isn’t. I don’t know whether or not a Mall will be held responsible for a criminal act that was commited on their property, but if they see it happen and not report the crime to the authority, then they can’t complain if they are held accountable for not doing so – not for the criminal act but neglecting their responsibility to report such activities to police.

jim d

April 22nd, 2009
12:40 pm

Reality,

I’m afraid we must disagree on “your point” I believe that the student is responsible for their behavior. I’ve seen a lot of good parents raise rebellous defiant children that end up either dead or in prison. IT HAPPENS!! All the parenting in the world can not change that.

Gwinnett Parent

April 22nd, 2009
2:20 pm

Reality-The mall owners can be sued if someone is assaulted on their property. Is it fair, maybe not. It happens. This is one of the reasons why business owners carry large insurance policies and have lawyers. There are many ways to be considered negligent when you own a business. In the business world smart managers are aware of the risks of lawsuits and CYA by eliminating potential threats immediately. As I mentioned in a previous, some of these principals are walking lawsuits waiting to happen.

Reality

April 22nd, 2009
2:33 pm

There is no doubt that anyone can sue anyone for anything.

What I said (or at least meant) is that is it really reasonable to BLAME the mall for some random assault on a person? Did the mall CAUSE it? I guess in some odd world there may be some mall some where that caused an assault – its just hard to imagine.

jim d- Yes, parents should be held accountable for their child’s actions and behavior. Isn’t that basically the definition of a ‘minor’? The minor is not held accountable even under the law the same as an adult for that very reason.

If a parent cannot trust their own 8 year old, for example, to properly behave then maybe THAT is when they should pay for private school!

VOICE

April 22nd, 2009
2:35 pm

No need to “re-invent the wheel”. The law is already in place, and as several of you have noted, it just needs to be enforced, even when it involves children. State law even provides for alternative school placement after three bullying offenses.

The schools are responsible for reporting other crimes, so bullying should not be an exception. Furthermore, parents have the right to file charges, too. Therefore, regardless of whether the schools uphold their responsibility, the parents should take the initiative.

Jim d, I often enjoy disagreeing with you. But, once again, I must agree that CHOICE is the right path.

V for Vendetta

April 22nd, 2009
3:20 pm

Jim d, but would choice REALLY solve the problem? As long as the schools are government run and funded by taxes, they will tend to protect the bully’s “right” to an education–even though we know no such right exists. I don’t see how letting kids choose where they go to school will lead to schools suddenly developing backbones.

I think a privatized system is a system without fear. They can take the steps necessary to protect the students without worrying about endless rolls of red tape to clog the way. In my opinion, the schools could be privatizes LONG before the government-run public schools could ever grow a backbone.

jim d

April 22nd, 2009
3:50 pm

V,

my definition of choice includes a varity of choices. Private and public including but not limited to magnet,charter and reg. schools.

Would this stop all infractions? NO, but it would greatly reduce them based soley on the amount of parental involvement that would be gained by empowering parents with choice.

jim d

April 22nd, 2009
3:51 pm

Gee voice–maybe we can get Laura to pick a topic we can dis on.

jim d

April 22nd, 2009
3:54 pm

So according to the Reality doctrine an eight year old can shoot someone and the parenst should be imprissioned for life while the child walks free? hmmm, I’m afraid i’d have a little bit of a problem buying into that one.

ScienceTeacher671

April 22nd, 2009
6:57 pm

Just noting that there are private schools that cover up bad behavior – and allow “bad” students – either to protect their reputations or because they don’t want to lose the tuition.

Lee

April 22nd, 2009
8:02 pm

The bottom line is this – between the hours of 7:30am and 3:30pm, school administrators and teachers are responsible for maintaining a safe environment that is conducive to the learning process. Failure by the school personnel to enforce proper standards of conduct by the student population undermines this structure and before long, the troublemakers are running the show.

Apparently, we crossed that line many years ago.

Once again, the real losers are the good parents of the good students who are forced to fend for themselves in the cesspool of public education dispair.

Those bullying programs

April 22nd, 2009
8:22 pm

Of course schools do everything in their power to stop bullying. They hire counselors, they develop programs, they adpot slogans, they do it all. Everything except the ONE THING that will stop it: enforce consequences. When schools develop the BACKBONE to enforce REAL and MEANINGFUL consequences, bullying and all OTHER misbehavior goes down.

If fact you can’t point to a SINGLE school system in this country that has made REAL, MEANINGFUL, and most of all CONSISTENT consequences the focal point of their policy that hasn’t had discipline improve.

Now of course the sample of school systems that have done this is exceedingly small and you certainly aren’t going to find one named DEKALB!

MC

April 22nd, 2009
11:05 pm

My problem is at my childs school some of the teachers are bullies. What is a parent suppose to do about that? This is an elementary school with no more than 600 kids!! It’s awful what children have to deal with these days.

School system did all it could

April 23rd, 2009
12:49 am

It appears the school system has done all it could. Hired counselors, adopted programs, invoke fancy slogans, every thing but the ONE thing that could stamp it out. Swift, sure and compelling consequences.

If a parent complains repeatedly and no action is taken against the offenders, the system has blood on its hands.

I hope that, for the sake of those in the future, EVERY legal remedy is explored because it seems the ONLY way the school system will respond is to be forced to PAY and PAY and PAY until it becomes SO painful, MORE painful to not address it than to, as should have been done in the first place, address it with the appropriate consequences.

Sarah H

April 23rd, 2009
7:12 am

I see that my comment is gone. Was it to truthful? Is the new blogging system still a piece of stuff?

Reality

April 23rd, 2009
8:36 am

jim d – Please do not put words in my mouth. What you wrote is not what I said at all.

If an 8 year old does shoot someone, then yes, that 8 year old needs desperate help. However, the parents are also to blame. In these types of cases currently, everyone only has sympathy for the 8 year old shooter (usually). My point is that it IS the parents responsibility to raise, manage, teach, control, whatever, their own child and they obviously failed which resulted in someone’s death – isn’t that sort of the legal definition of manslaughter? —to be indirectly responsible for someone’s death?

So then, jim d, you tell me… if an 8 year old does kill someone. What do YOU think should happen?

jim d

April 23rd, 2009
11:33 am

Spank him send him home and sue the parents?

NR

April 28th, 2009
11:16 am

I am a mother of 4 and have experience the bullying first hand with my young child. It seems that no matter how much you talk to the administrators of the school very little is being done. The problem seems to go away for a few weeks but the issue always resurface.
I am in the process of opening a non-profit private school for parent who cannot afford to send their children to private schools. The name of the school will be called Redirection.

I have had enough of the children that are looked upon as different because their not as rough as others. Children are in school to learn not to be harassed.

Lisa

May 27th, 2009
7:39 pm

Any idiot who is bullying is probably the biggest coward. This person needs to display physical strength because internally he is a quivering fool and feels unsure of himself inside. So really it is sort of humiliating for the bully because he’s letting everyone know that he has to compensate somehow for the little “pe–s” between his legs. If he were a true confident guy, he wouldn’t need to prove anything at all.