SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

5 Quick Tips: Helping When Your Child Isn't Fitting In

We all want our kids to have friends and enjoy going to school every day. When that doesn’t happen, our hearts break and all we want to do is make things better for them.

Before you do anything, take a moment and read these quick tips to help get you through this tough time.

1. Empathize, but don’t overreact 

2. Get the facts before taking action 

3. Respect your child’s personality 

4. Offer guidance on how to pick up on social cues from others  

5. Seek help if problem persists 


We have lots more resources to help. Check out:

Help Your Child Adjust Socially 

Social Development by Grade Level 

Bullying: How Parents Can Fight Back

Help Your Daughter Deal With "Mean Girls"

Continue reading
  4751 Hits
4751 Hits

Help Your Daughter Deal With "Mean Girls"

Sometimes adolescent girls can be mean to one another. I am not certain why this happens. My mother always said it was because they are jealous. Perhaps so, but whatever the reason for it, it can really hurt. It especially hurts when girls are already feeling bad about themselves. The most effective way to deal with this type of bullying is with humor. This can be difficult, but with practice at home, your daughter can learn to deal with it.

If the “mean girl” says “OMG, look at those shoes. Can you believe she wears those to school?” within your daughter's earshot, your daughter can respond, “You think these are bad? You should see the ones my mom just bought for me!” This should be said in a friendly way with a smile. The worst thing to do is to look upset. This is what the bully wants to see. If the bully cannot upset her, your daughter is no fun as a target. I tell my students to pretend they are not hurt by it, and if they feel like crying they should go somewhere private.

This sounds easy to do, but it is not. This is why you need to practice with your daughter at home. Ask your daughter what comments the bully is making to her. Together come up with some humorous comebacks. (“Talk to the hand.”— “You think so, too?”— “I thought it seemed crazy, too! My sister talked me into it.”) Then, practice the lines. You say the bully’s comments and get her to practice what and how to say her response. If she has been through it several times at home, it is easier to actually do it when under duress at school.

There are other forms of bullying that need a different response, but humor is a great way to deal with hurtful comments. If the bullying is more serious, coach your daughter to seek help from trusted adults at school. No child should feel unsafe at school.

You might be interested in reading a related blog, Simple Tips to Help Kids Communicate Better.


> Bullying: How Parents Can Fight Back

> If Your Child Is the Bully

Continue reading
  6432 Hits
6432 Hits

Bullied Gay Teen Defends Himself At School Using Stun Gun Mom Gave Him

Parents, what do you think about this story?

A young Indianapolis teenager, who is openly gay and has been repeatedly bullied at school, was given a stun gun by his mother to protect himself.  

And when the young man, Darnell “Dynasty” Young, age 17, was recently surrounded by a group of six bullies who threatened to beat him, he says he raised the stun and shot it up into the air to scare them off.

He was then reportedly handcuffed and has since been expelled from the school. He cannot re-enroll, according to the Indianapolis Star, until next January, meaning he misses completing the end of his junior year, and the beginning of his senior year.


POLL: Did this mother do the right thing?


Young’s mother, Chelisa Grimes, who appeared on CNN with her son, said she feels she did the right thing in giving her son the weapon to protect himself. Grimes said she wasn’t even aware that her son was being bullied until she was contacted by school officials. After that, when nothing was done about the bullying— she says when she complained about the continued bullying school officials told her that Young should be less “flamboyant”—she provided the gun to her son.

What would you have done in this situation? Has anything like this happened at your child's school?

Continue reading
  8034 Hits
8034 Hits

Parents Face New "Bully" Challenge As Film Released Without Rating

Editor's note: We first brought SchoolFamily.com readers news of the controversy surrounding the rating of "Bully," a new documentary being released this Friday. Here's an update on the very latest about the film.

Hollywood filmmaker Harvey Weinstein has carried through on his threat to release “Bully”—a documentary on bullying produced by his company— without a rating after butting heads with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) over the association’s “R” rating of the film.  

At issue is offensive language used in the film. During a bullying scene caught on camera, one student reportedly threatens another student, using the “F” word 6 times. This language, the MPAA has said, met its requirements for an “R” rating.

Weinstein, co-owner of The Weinstein Company (TWC) with his brother, appealed to the MPAA about the “R” rating earlier this year, requesting a “PG13” rating instead, but the appeal was denied. After that, Weinstein publicly threatened to release the film without a rating.

In turn, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), a membership organization for the nation’s theater owners, issued its own threat, warning Weinstein that if he released “Bully” without a rating, it would urge its members to give the film an NC-17 rating, which is even more restrictive than “R.”

John Fithian, president and CEO of NATO, wrote to Weinstein in February, warning him that, “if you decide to withdraw your support and participation in the rating system, and begin to release movies without ratings, I will have no choice but to encourage my theater owner members to treat unrated movies from The Weinstein Company in the same manner as they treat unrated movies from anyone else.

“In most cases,” Fithian’s letter continued, “that means enforcement as though the movies were rated NC-17 —where no one under the age of 18 can be admitted even with accompanying parents or guardians.”


Parents: What do you think of this latest news in the “Bully” controversy? If the unrated film is shown at local movie theaters, will you let your tweens and teens see it? Conversely, if local theater owners choose to rate the film NC-17, will you protest the ultra-restrictive rating? Please comment below and let us know. And follow the conversation on our SchoolFamily.com Facebook page.


“Bully” opens in New York and Los Angeles this Friday, March 30, and on Friday, April 13 in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, and Minneapolis. TWC is holding a contest on the “Bully” website, inviting members of the public to request that the film be shown in their cit. Entrants click on “Demand it ©” and add their zip code. The top 10 cities, based on entrants, will see “Bully” and have a meet-and-greet with the director, Lee Hirsch.

There has been widespread support of the film, and the filmmaker’s demand that it receive a PG13 rating, among politicians, celebrities, and teens—one of whom created an online petition, which garnered close to 500,000 signatures. However many parents across the country remain torn about whether their children should see the film.

If theatre owners choose to follow NATO’s recommendation to rate the film NC-17, even fewer students will be allowed to see the film.

One major film chain—AMC Theaters—has already announced it will show the film unrated. AMC CEO Gerry Lopez reportedly said, “AMC will show this movie, and we invite our guests to engage in the dialogue its relevant message will inevitably provoke.

And according to one news report, a representative from The Weinstein Company said TWC doesn’t believe theatre owners will opt for the NC-17 rating.

"We believe theater owners everywhere will step up and do what's right for the benefit of all of the children out there who have been bullied or may have otherwise become bullies themselves," said Stephen Bruno, TWC’s president of marketing, adding that TWC will make the film available to schools and teachers across the country. 



Continue reading
  5101 Hits
5101 Hits

"Bully"—Documentary's Rating Creates Dilemma for Filmmakers, Parents, and Students

UPDATE: 03/12/12

Have you heard about “Bully”?

If you haven’t, you will. And then you can decide if you'll take your kids to see it. "Bully" is a documentary film produced by the Weinstein Co., which tells the stories of what really happens to children—and their families—as a result of relentless bullying.

Filmmakers followed three students who are bullying victims—Alex, 12, from Iowa; Kelby, 16, from Oklahoma; Ja’meya, 14, from Mississippi—over the course of the 2009/2010 school year. They also followed David and Tina Long from Georgia, parents of 17-year-old Tyler Long who ended his life after years of being bullied; and Kirk and Laura Smalley of Oklahoma, whose 11-year old son Ty took his own life after years of bullying abuse. The film follows Kirk as he starts Stand for the Silent, an anti-bullying program comprised of a series of silent vigils, which he hopes will draw attention to the bullying crisis in the U.S. and lead to anti-nationwide bullying legislation.

The film won’t be released until Friday, March 30, but it’s been in the news lately because of the “R” rating it was given by the Motion Picture Association of America—a rating that has infuriated producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein appealed the rating to the MPAA three weeks ago, but the organization refused to lower the rating to PG-13 due to the film’s harsh language—language that reportedly consists of 6 uses of the “F” word used during a bullying incident caught on film. What do these rating actually mean? According to the MPAA’s ratings site, an “R” rating means: “Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.”A PG-13 rating means: “Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.”



 SchoolFamily.com wants to hear from you!

Do you feel the film's rating should be changed? If the rating was PG-13 would you let your middle school and/or high school child see it? If the R rating stands, will you take your child to see the film?

Please share your thoughts with us by commenting below!


Numerous teen groups, non-profits organizations, and individual teens are lobbying the MPAA on Weinstein’s behalf, by collecting signatures, launching Facebook pages, releasing statements, and Tweeting about the film’s rating and why they want it changed to PG-13. Why? So that middle school and high school kids can go see the film. As any parent of a ‘tween or teen knows, attending a movie with Mom and Dad just isn’t cool. Perhaps more importantly, a PG-13 rating would mean the movie could be shown in schools. One high school student collected thousands of signatures and was invited to appear on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” this week, where DeGeneres pledged her support to the ratings appeal and signed the petition herself. “I think it’s an important movie and I think it can save lives,” DeGeneres said.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper has also supported the film, featuring it on a recent episode on his show. Cooper is a longtime advocate of anti-bullying programs.   

In the meantime, Weinstein has announced that his company may consider releasing the film without a rating, effectively boycotting the MPAA. That, in turn, has infuriated theatre owners. In response to Weinstein’s statement, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has warned Weinstein that it will urge its members to give the film an “NC-17” rating—“No One 17 and Under Admitted”—which is even more restrictive than the film’s current R rating.

Since many students who are learning disabled are often targets of cruel bullying, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), a sponsor of the documentary, is joining the call for the rating change.

In an email sent to SchoolFamily.com, James Wendorf, executive director of the NCLD, had this to say about the film’s R-rating:

“[The] National Center for Learning Disabilities fully supports efforts to reduce the R rating currently assigned to the film ‘Bully’ and bring it to a broader audience. Bullying is nothing less than a crisis in this country, with 13 million American children waking up every morning fearing abuse from their peers.

“It is a fact NCLD knows all too well. Sixty percent of children with learning disabilities and other special needs say they have been seriously bullied, and that is why we joined with other special needs advocacy organizations to provide support for this vital film.

“Until parents understand this crisis and children and teens see and own the consequences of their behavior, there is little hope for improvement.”

UPDATE: 03/12/12, 10:52 A.M.: Due to the urging of Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and other members of Congress, former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), now the president of the MPAA, will take part in a panel discussion this Thursday, March 15 in Washington, D.C., along with “Bully” producer Harvey Weinstein and director Lee Hirsch. The film will be shown to a group of teachers and principals invited from schools in the Washington area, followed by their participation in the panel discussion.

Tips for Parents on How to Prevent Bullying

The National Center for Learning Disabilities realizes that bullying involves not only the victim, but also the one doing the bullying, and those who witness the bullying but don’t do anything about it. These tips from the NCLD can help parents figure out what to do:

  • Stop bullying before it starts. Let everyone at your child’s school know that you are on the prowl for signs of bullying and that you expect everyone else to do the same. Preventing and stopping bullying is a shared responsibility, and one that is not voluntary. Ask to see the school-wide no-bullying policy and ask that the details regarding recognizing and reporting, consequences, and prevention activities be shared frequently with parents and faculty.
  • Use the word “bullying” with your child. Make sure they know what it means. They may not know that the hurtful behavior they are being forced to endure is wrong, mistaking it for “attention” or “acceptance” from peers. If your child is the one doing the bullying, help him to understand the negative impact it has on his status. And if your child is a bystander when bullying is taking place, help her to know what options she has—doing nothing not being one of them—without fear of being targeted herself.
  • Help your child know what to do. Assure him that he will not get in trouble. The perceived consequences of “tattling” could be keeping your child from sharing his bullying experiences. Help your child know the difference between “tattling” and “reporting an incident of bullying.” This is equally important for the children who are being victimized, those who are the aggressors, or those who are bystanders.
  • Know your rights and don’t be afraid to exercise them. The U.S. government, under both education and civil rights law, recognizes that bullying and harassment are forms of discrimination. Include a goal about bullying in your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP); ask about bullying at every parent teacher conference; and if bullying issues are not properly addressed, be prepared to file a formal complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

For more information on bullying, SchoolFamily.com has an entire section on bully awareness and prevention, with numerous articles and blog entries including what to do if you child is being bullied; tips about preventing cyberbullying; what to do if your child is the bully; and more. Readers may also benefit from reading Fast Facts on Bullying, produced by the Office for Civil Rights. 


Continue reading
  8462 Hits
8462 Hits

School District Signs Agreement to Prevent Bullying of Gay Teens

 A public school district in Minnesota made news this week when officials there ended a federal investigation, and a civil lawsuit filed by six teenage students, by agreeing to a series of changes that will make schools take notice and get involved when gay students are bullied.

 The New York Times article reported that over a 2-year period, the school district had nine students commit suicide after the teens were bullied because they were gay—or were perceived to be gay. Despite these tragedies, the school maintained a position of “neutrality,” whereby teachers had to be “neutral” on questions from students regarding sexual orientation. In other words, the teachers were prevented from being allowed to show support to, or prevent bullying of, students who identified themselves as gay or questioning their orientation.

 The new agreement was signed by officials with the Anoka-Hennepin School District and Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the six students who sued the district.

 Tenets of the agreement include the following:

  • The district’s “neutrality” policy rescinded and replaced by a policy to “affirm the dignity and self-worth of students regardless of race, sexual orientation, disabilities, or other factors”
  • Strengthen ways to prevent, detect, and punish bullying based on gender or sexual orientation
  • Hire a full-time “harassment prevention” official
  • Increase availability of mental health counseling
  • Identify harassment “hot spots” in and outside of the middle and high schools

 According to the Times’ article, conservative Christian parents in the district who had formed a group called the Parent’s Action League in order to keep the neutrality policy, called the agreement a “travesty.”

 Does your school district have specific policies for preventing the bullying of gay students?  Are teachers allowed to answer students’ questions about sexual orientation?

Continue reading
  5205 Hits
5205 Hits

School Shootings: Help Your Child Process Tragedy in the News

Our hearts and thoughts go out to the residents of Chardon, Ohio after the tragic shootings at Chardon High School on Monday, Feb. 27. As of this writing, three of the five teenage victims have succumbed to their injuries. TJ Lane, identified as the shooter, reportedly told police he’d been bullied at the school.


Tragedies like this raise myriad questions and can trigger grief reactions from children—and from parents as well. How should your handle your child’s confused feelings? How do you reassure your child that her school is safe (assuming you think it is safe)? Does her school have a strong anti-bullying program, and does it go far enough?


Perhaps the most pressing question for parents is how to help their child comprehend and interpret such tragic, frightening news. Our SchoolFamily.com experts say that parents should begin by managing, as much as possible, what their children see and read about the event in the media—on television, in newspapers, via the Internet, and on social media sites. While children may be reading at an advanced level, few are emotionally prepared to handle details of tragic and catastrophic events. Read more about this in Help Manage Anxiety About Current Events, on SchoolFamily.com. And regardless of the cause, parents can help their children handle overall anxiety by reading Help Kids Learn to Manage Stress.


What if your child is being bullied? Or—what if your child is the bully? Start by reading our articles on bullying prevention, which include information about preventing your child from being a bully’s victim, to teaching your child empathy.  To protect your child from online bullying known as cyberbullying, learn the red flags to watch for in this SchoolFamily.com guest blog post by bullying prevention expert Dr. Michele Borba.


If your suspect (or know) that your child is a bully, read the no-nonsense tips about what to do in this two-part guest blog post by Annie Fox, author, online educator, and host of Cruel’s Not Cool, an anti-bullying online forum.


Continue reading
  5763 Hits
5763 Hits

There is No Place for Sarcasm in the Classroom

“Jackie, is it all right with you if I start class?” 


This seems like a harmless question, doesn’t it? When teachers say it (and I am guilty at times), they are being sarcastic, because they know it isn’t up to the student whether they start class or not. What they really mean is that Jackie is talking or otherwise goofing off and keeping class from starting. Most kids can laugh this off and jokingly respond, “Sure, Ms. McCoy. I’m just now finishing up.”


But some kids don’t take it that way. Some are hurt by that rhetorical question. Some do not understand sarcasm, even this kind, which is relatively benign.


According to Susan Fitzell, an expert on teaching students with special needs, “There are people, students included, who cannot read the difference between sarcastic humor and intentional meanness.” (See Susan’s “No Putdown Rule” article for information on how sarcasm has become an acceptable part of our culture.) Almost all sarcasm has the potential to be hurtful. Even people who do “get it,” can have their feelings hurt.


If your child does not understand sarcasm, you might need to alert his teacher to it. I like to think about whether what I am saying to my students is as respectful as what I would say to a peer. That might be a good talking point for you if you need to talk to your child’s teacher. Respectfully ask, “Would you say the same thing in a faculty meeting to one of your friends?”


There are many kinds of learning difficulties and some of them affect social situations as well as school. For more information, you should read my earlier blogs, Social Skills and Learning Disabilities, and Poor Social Skills Can Lead to Bullying.


Continue reading
  11666 Hits
11666 Hits

The Red Flags of Cyber Bullying

SchoolFamily.com guest blogger Dr. Michele Borba, Ph.D. is an expert and author on issues involving children and teens, parenting, bullying, and moral development. Her work aims to help strengthen children’s character and resilience; build strong families; create compassionate and just school cultures; and reduce peer cruelty.


There are red flags parents should watch for that might indicate your child is being cyber bullied. Here’s what to look for—and what to do.


Over the last year, we’ve read about horrific tragedies—bullycides—that appear to have been prompted by relentless peer bullying. One child tragically ending his or her young life due to vicious peer cruelty is one child is too many.


So let’s get savvy about electronic cruelty and the new digital age our kids are experiencing.


Online bullying is especially hurtful. Those horrid, vicious, untrue comments, with a quick click of a button, hit cyberspace. There is no telling how many other peers are hearing or reading those cold-blooded attacks.


Can you imagine being the recipient of such hate? Can you imagine if your child was that recipient?


The truth is those clicks are happening all too often, which is why parents must get educated.


Our first step to turn this around is to understand why cyberbullying is, and then recognize possible warning signs.


These are serious lessons — they might save a child. That’s my hope.


What is cyberbullying?


Cyberbullying is an electronic form of communication that uses cyber-technology  (the internet) or digital media (Facebook and other social media sites) to hurt, threaten, embarrass, annoy, blackmail or otherwise target another minor.


Every adult who interacts with kids—parents, educators, librarians, police, pediatricians, coaches, child care givers—must get educated about this lethal new form of bullying so they can find ways to help stop this.


One reason for such a dramatic increase in cyber-abuse is that it’s just so much easier to be cruel when you don’t have to do lash out with vicious insinuations face to face, and can instead do so anonymously!


Where we once thought we just had to protect children from adult predators using the Internet, but now we need to shield kids from one another.


Cyber-bullying is real, and incidents are happening at an increasing rate. Here’s a reality check:  National surveys by online safety expert Parry Aftab estimate that 85 percent of 12 and 13-year olds have had experience with cyber bullying. And 53 percent say they have been bullied online.


Many experts confirm that the psychological effects on our children can be as devastating, and may be even more so, than traditional bullying. Research proves that when kids are left unsupervised and without behavior expectations traditional bullying thrives. And we may not be doing as good a job as we think.


Another survey found that while 93 percent of parents feel they have a good idea of what their kids are doing on the Internet, 41 percent of our kids say they don’t share with us what they do or where they go online.


Open up that dialogue and listen!


Red flag warning signs of cyber bullying

As parents, we must do a better job of tuning into our kids. Read the warning signs of cyber bullying (below) and then talk with other parents, teachers, babysitters, counselors, and child workers about them. Print out the warnings and give them to coaches, Scout leaders, Boys and Girls Club leaders, doctors, school officials, and to teens and tweens. Send the list to the local newspaper to print. Ask your child’s school to post the list on their website. Get active and get your community involved. Here’s what to watch out for:


  • Your son is hesitant to be online or unexpectedly stops or avoids using the computer


  • Your daughter is nervous when an instant message, text, or email appears


  • Your son is visibly upset, angry, or depressed after using the computer or his cell phone


  • Your daughter hides or clears the computer screen or her cell phone screen when you enter or doesn’t want to talk about online activity


  • Your son starts using the computer when you’re not in the room


  • Your daughter keeps going back and forth to check the computer screen in shorter spurts


  • Your son withdraws from friends; wants to avoid school or peer activities; is uneasy about going outside in general; an/or pulls away from family members


  • Your daughter is suddenly sullen, evasive withdrawn, or has a marked change in personality or behavior


  • Your son has trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, is excessively moody, cries easily, or seems depressed


  • Suspicious phone calls, e-mails, and packages arrives at your home


  • Your child has a drop in academic performance or falls behind in schoolwork


 A key that you shouldn’t overlook is a sudden change—something that isn’t t your child’s “normal” behavior—that lasts daily, for at least two weeks. But even then, use your instincts! If you are concerned, don’t wait—get your child some help!


If it’s not cyber bullying …


What if these signs I’ve mentioned aren’t happening because your child is being cyber bullied? Regardless they clearly warrant looking into, as something is amiss with your child. It’s up to you to find out what’s going on. Dig deeper. Have a conference with your child’s teacher, coach, counselor, pediatrician, or seek the help of a trained mental health professional. The two saddest words I hear from parents are “If only …” Get help!


Don’t expect that your child will come and tell you about any harassment that might be taking place. Studies show that as our kids get older the likelihood they will come to us and “tell” declines even more. The top reason? Kids say they aren’t telling adults because “The adult didn’t listen or believe me when I did tell.” Sigh.


If you suspect your child’s friend or his peer is cyber-bullied, report it to school authorities and police.


I carry a photo of a young Canadian boy—a precious sixth grader—who ended his life because of bullying. His father gave me his son’s photo and asked me to promise to keep educating parents about the dangers of bullying. I promised that dad I would keep going and I’ve carried that photo for 10 years. It breaks me apart every time I look at it. So remember: Listen! Tune in! Believe!



Dr. Michele Borba, Ph.D., is an expert and author on issues involving children and teens, parenting, bullying, and moral development. Her work aims to help strengthen children’s character and resilience; build strong families; create compassionate and just school cultures; and reduce peer cruelty. Her research-based advice is culled from a career of working with more than 1 million parents and educators worldwide. She is the author of 22 parenting and educational books, and hosts Reality Check, a daily blog at https://www.micheleborba.com/blog/. Dr. Borba lives in Palm Springs, CA with her husband, and has three grown sons. Tips in this blog post were adapted by Dr. Borba from her book “The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.”

Continue reading
  12804 Hits
  1 Comment
12804 Hits
1 Comment

SchoolFamily.com's Favorite School and Education Videos From 2011

Sometimes kids learn best when music and fun are part of the equation. One way that’s been accomplished by many school districts is through the use of student-performed videos that are created locally and then uploaded to youtube.com.

Here are a few of our favorite school-related videos from the previous year. What were some or your favorites? Is your school working on an education-related video? Let us know!

Addressing the issue of bullying, four young women from Reynoldsburg, Ohio who call themselves the DHJK Gurls—and include friends Daryn, Joy, Hennessey and Kennedy—produced this video called “Inside Voice,” which became a hit on YouTube.

In this video, students at the Ocoee Middle School in Orange County, Florida sing the praises of reading“Read a book, plant a seed, grow your world”—in their performance called “Read A Book.”

At the Hope School-Fortis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, students used the wildly popular video “Friday,” created by Rebecca Black, and made their own version, which focuses on school and learning and is called “Monday.”

And even though this video is from 2009, it remains one of our favorites. Here, the Scholar Ladies from the Hope School–Prima, also in Milwaukee, sing about homework, studying, and grades in “Scholar Ladies (Get An A On It),” their remake of Beyonce’s hit “Single Ladies.”




Continue reading
  4296 Hits
4296 Hits

Federal Study on Bullying Examines States' School Policies

This week, you may have heard about results of a new studying on bullying released by the U.S. Department of Education. The study was commissioned by the feds to gain information about the existence and strength of bullying laws and policies in schools districts in all 50 states.


The results of the study are decidedly mixed. While most states and school districts today have some form of anti-bullying measures, some don't go far enough—or carry much weight when it comes to enforcement or punishment. 


“Every state should have effective bullying prevention efforts in place to protect children inside and outside of school," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a statement issued Dec. 6 when the study was released. “This report reveals that while most states have enacted legislation around this important issue, a great deal of work remains to ensure adults are doing everything possible to keep our kids safe.”


Called the Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies, the 200+ page pdf of the report is available here for those who'd like to tackle the government tome. For the rest of us, SchoolFamily.com has done the heavy lifting, culling the most important details and presenting them here for our readers.


The defining moment for the beginning of state bullying legislation and school district policy on bullying began right after the horrific shootings at Columbine High School in 1999. In fact, due to the events at Columbine—and in relation to a local bullying-related suicide—the state of Georgia became the first state to pass legislation requiring schools to implement bullying prevention programs. From there, the following breakdown shows how others states have responded with their own policies, according to the study:

  • From 1999 to 2010: More than 120 bills enacted by state legislatures either introduced or amended education or criminal statutes to address bullying and related behaviors in schools.
  • In 2010: 21 new bills were passed.
  •  In 2011: 8 additional bills were passed as of April 30, 2011.
  •  From 2006 to 2010: 35 states enacted new laws regarding cyber bullying.
  •  Only two states—Montana and South Dakota—remain without bullying laws (Note: At the time of the study, Hawaii and Michigan were both listed as states not having anti-bullying laws; however, Hawaii passed bullying legislation in July 2011, and earlier this month, Michigan did as well). 

It’s also worth noting that as of April 2011, Texas was the only state without any requirement for schools to create bullying or harassment policies. That changed in June 2011, when Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation requiring Texas public school districts to create and adopt formal bullying policies.  


Key Findings of the Study: What's Up With Bullying Laws in States?

  • 46 states have some type of bullying laws—but three of those states prohibit bullying without actually defining the behavior that’s prohibited.
  • 36 states prohibit cyber bullying
  • 13 states specify that schools have jurisdiction over off-campus behavior if it creates a hostile school environment.
  • States with the most expansive anti-bullying legislation have school districts with the most expansive anti-bullying policies. However, there were some school districts located in states with less expansive laws that expanded their policies beyond the state’s minimum legal expectations.


School Violence and Student Safety

The Department of Education’s study noted that the most recent survey on school violence and student safety is one conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). That survey measured the frequency of bullying at schools as reported by school administrators, and came up with these findings:

  • 39 percent of middle school administrators reported bullying took place on a daily or weekly basis
  • 20 percent of elementary and high school administrators reported bullying took place on a daily or weekly basis
  • 19 percent of middle schools and 18 percent of high schools reported daily or weekly problems with cyber bullying, either at school or away from school.

The NCES survey also measured how often students ages 12-18 were the target of bullying during the past school year:

  • 21 percent of said they had been made fun of by their peers
  • 18 percent said they’d been the subject of rumors
  • 11 percent said they’d been pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on
  • 6 percent said they had been threatened with harm


Cyber Bullying

The NCES survey reported that 4 percent of students age 12-18 reported having been cyber bullied in the year prior to the study. In addition, according to other related studies, up to 20 percent of all students age 11–18 may have been cyber bullied at some time. And in a 2010 study, the same percentage of students—20 percent—reported having been involved in the cyber bullying of other youths.  


Being Teased and “Ignored On Purpose”

School surveys of elementary and middle school students indicate that bullying is higher among those in elementary and middle school. Of more than 11,000 elementary and middle school students surveyed, 61 percent of girls and 60 percent of boys reported they’d been “teased in a mean way,” while 22 percent of girls and 33 percent of boys said they’d been threatened with physical harm. An ostracizing form of bullying—being “ignored on purpose”—was reported by 46 percent of girls and 31 percent of boys.


Effects of Bullying

Earlier studies show a correlation between bullying and poor psychosocial adjustment in children, according to the Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies. A 2001 study showed that students who were bullied had difficulty making friends, experienced poorer relationships with peers, and felt an increased sense of loneliness.

Other research shows that bullied students have increased anxiety levels, psychosomatic symptoms, and experience higher rates of eating disorders and aggressive-impulsive behavior problems. Youths who are bullied have also been shown to be at greater risk of developing poor self-esteem, depression, and suicidal thoughts and attempts. Studies show that children who are chronically bullied have lower academic achievement and higher rates of truancy and disciplinary problems.

For complete details on the Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies study, visit the study at ed.gov.


Continue reading
  5042 Hits
5042 Hits

For all who've been bullied ...

SchoolFamily.com's Guest Blogger this week is Rebecca Mooney, M.Ed., the Executive Director of the Center for Education in Violence Prevention based in Melrose, MA. The Center offers comprehensive bullying prevention training for staff, students, and parents.

Several weeks ago my agency sponsored a bullying prevention seminar featuring young adult novelist Megan Kelley Hall.


Megan has become a champion in the campaign against bullying, and has co-edited a new anthology titled, “Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories.” If you haven’t thought about middle school (or junior high, as the case may be) in some time, trust me —this book will bring it all back.  The essays are intensely personal and compelling, written from the perspective of victims, bullies and bystanders.


One of my favorites is by Lara Zeises, a self-described “fatty” growing up.  She tells the story of being teased relentlessly about her size by two boys throughout middle and high school, her cheeks burning with shame as they laughed and called her cruel names.  She actually changed schools and didn’t see them again, but still carried the pain, humiliation, and anger into her adult life. Recently, she decided to search for her former tormentors. After finding one of them through Facebook, she summoned all her courage and told him off. She explained how damaging the harassment had been—and what a jerk he was—but that despite it all, she was now a successful author. So there! He wrote back that if he did, in fact, do those awful things to her he was truly sorry, but said he actually didn’t remember her. 

To me this story is such a vivid and poignant illustration of one of the points we teach in our programs for students, staff and parents: Bullying really is about the bully’s need for empowerment, and the victim can be anyone. The bully picks the easiest target, and uses the victim to gain status, power, and popularity. Based on this knowledge, we honestly tell bullying victims, “It’s about them, not you.”


Like many victims, however, Lara did not receive this message when she most needed it. Consequently, she was profoundly affected over a significant period of her life. It’s sad that no one realized what was happening and intervened so that she didn’t have to carry the burden alone.  If they had, it might have alleviated a lot of pain, and helped her move on much sooner.


SchoolFamily.com's Guest Blogger this week is Rebecca Mooney, M.Ed., the Executive Director of the Center for Education in Violence Prevention based in Melrose, MA. The Center offers comprehensive bullying prevention training for staff, students, and parents. Over the last 14 years, Rebecca has spearheaded and implemented a range of violence prevention programs in schools and the community, including bullying prevention, domestic and teen dating violence prevention, mentoring, peer mediation and peer leadership programs. She has served as a trainer, panelist, and guest speaker on bullying prevention and teen dating violence for conferences sponsored by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Child Advocacy Center of Boston, Riverside Counseling Center, and Children’s Hospital Boston, among others. In 2004 Rebecca was honored with the Unsung Heroine Award by the Massachusetts Commission on Women for her contributions to the field of violence prevention. She lives in Melrose with her husband and has two young adult daughters.


Continue reading
  5270 Hits
5270 Hits

Back to School Books that Address First-Day Jitters

If I had to pick a favorite book that I’ve read to my children during times when they've been anxious about returning to school, I’d be unable to choose – there are that many excellent choices.

One that topped our list, however, was “David Goes to School” by David Shannon. Full of mischief, little David, who is loosely based on the author, gets into trouble at every turn. Will he be banished to the time-out chair? Or, perhaps he’ll practice appropriate when-at-school behavior and earn a gold star. My kids adored this book, and brought our copy to their classrooms’ on more than one occasion for reading-aloud time.

We recently asked SchoolFamily.com Facebook fans to name their favorite books to help children deal with their going-to-school jitters.

The most popular book by far among our SchoolFamily.com fans was “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn. In this book, Chester, a young raccoon, would much rather stay at home with his mother than go to school. His mother, however, kisses his palm and good feelings “rush from his hand, up his arm, and into his heart.” Chester’s mother then tells him that whenever he is lonely he can put his palm to his cheek and “that very kiss will jump to your face and fill you with toasty warm thoughts.”

Chrysanthemum” by Kevin Henkes was another of our readers’ favorites. Henkes is the author of the popular “Lily” series, and has a devoted following of his books, which feature adorable mice as the main characters. “Chrysanthemum” is the name of a little mouse who is bullied and made fun of on her first day at school because of her long and rather unusual name. Eventually, however, the class learns that their music teacher, whose name is Delphinium, plans to name her unborn baby Chrysanthemum, the prettiest name she has ever heard.

First Day Jitters” by Julie Danneberg takes a twist that children will find delightful. Sarah Hartwell does not want to go to her third-grade class at a new school. She hides under her bed covers and generally delays however she can on that first morning. When she finally gets to her new school, however, young readers learn that Sarah - who is their new teacher - has the same back to school jitters that they do, even though she is a grown-up.

Want the names of more back-to-school books? Check out the books listed here.  


Continue reading
  16116 Hits
16116 Hits

Poor Social Skills Can Lead to Bullying

Children with learning differences may have problems socially (see Kids Who Do Poorly in School More Likely to Become Bullies).

According to the Pacer Center, "children who bully suffer as much as those they target. They are significantly more likely than others to lead lives marked by school failure, depression, violence, crime, and other problems... Bullying is too important to ignore."

Children who are bullies are often quick to blame others and cannot accept responsibility for their own actions. They do not show empathy or compassion for others and often are immature socially. Oddly enough, they are often bullied by someone else. Sometimes bullies come from families where there are older siblings who bully them or the parents have a bullying style for managing behavior, making the child feel it is him that is unacceptable instead of his behavior.

Children who bully others may not be aware that they are being a bully. There are ways parents and teachers can help. The Pacer Center and other experts recommend:

  • Talk to your child about why he or she is bullying other children. Explain to them that bullying behavior is not acceptable and that you will help them learn how they should behave. Your child’s teacher may be able to give you specific examples of when their behavior is out of line. This can help you in teaching your child what to do in the various situations that cause him or her problems.
  • Role play with your child can help them learn what it feels like to be bullied. Be careful that your child understands what role playing is. You can take turns playing the role of the bully. Role plays should include demonstrating ways to deal with social situations positively instead of resorting to intimidating others.
  • Teach children how to name their emotions and express their frustrations appropriately. Some who bully may not be aware of their own emotions nor understand how their actions are affecting others. According to Michael Thompson, an expert on boys, this is especially true of boys because they often cannot describe their emotions.
  • Provide professional help if needed so your child can learn better social skills. They need to learn how to disagree with someone without being mean. They also need to learn how to choose and make the right kind of friends.
  • Be aware that children do what they see adults they care about do. If your child is a witness to bullying behavior at home, he or she will be more likely to bully others.

Continue reading
  6839 Hits
6839 Hits

Your T(w)een's School Social Life - When to Step in and When to Step Back

Teenagers are social beings. Often, the social scene during this time is, well, complicated. Friendship issues, big and small, can be all-consuming for a t(w)een.  And sometimes, friendship drama can get in the way of school success. So, what’s a parent to do? 

We are excited to let you know that Annie Fox,  award-winning author and expert on parenting t(w)eens, will be joining us for a live Facebook chat* on Friday, January  14th from 1- 2pm EST to answer your questions like:

  • Our daughter is more interested in the social scene that studying, what do we do?
  • I don’t like the new friends my son has made at school this year—what should I do?
  • My tween is obsessed with Facebook and texting and it’s getting in the way of her doing her homework, should I step in and take them away or let her suffer natural consequences? 
  • My son is being verbally harassed by one of his classmates every morning at his locker but doesn’t want me to intervene – what should I do?

Annie Fox, M.Ed., has a degree in Human Development and Family Studies and completed her master’s in Education at the State University of New York at Cortland. After a few years teaching in the classroom, computers changed her life and she began to explore how technology could be used to empower teens. Annie has since contributed to many online projects, including as creator, designer, and writer for The InSite—a Web site for teens taking on life’s challenges. She also answers questions for the Hey Terra! feature as an online adviser for teens. Her Internet work has contributed to the publication of multiple books, including Too Stressed to Think? and the Middle School Confidential™ series. Annie also is available for public speaking engagements and workshop presentations on teen and parenting issues. Most recently Annie has started an anti-bullying campaign called “Cruel is Not Cool.”

Here are some of Annie's past guest posts on our site:

My Child- a Bully?! Part 1 

My Child- a Bully?! Part 2

School Bullies- Some Thoughts to Ponder over the Summer

* For those of you who have not done Live Facebook Chats - fear not! They are easy and fun to participate in. Just head over to our Facebook page at the time of the chat: Friday, January 14 at 1pm ET. You'll see the conversation starting right there on the wall. Jump in or ask your own question. The only thing different you'll need to do is hit your refresh button (the counter clock-wise circular arrow in your tool bar) every few minutes. That way, you'll be sure to stay current on the conversation as it unfolds.  If you prefer to submit a question or two anonymously ahead of time, just email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Look forward to chatting with you!

Continue reading
  18429 Hits
18429 Hits

How to Teach Your Child to be a Bully at School This Year

No one wants to get the call from the school principal saying that your child was bullying a classmate. No one.  And yet bullying harrassement in schools is rampant. 

Recently, we featured two blogs on kids bullying, written by  t(w)een expert Annie Fox:

My Child? A Bully?!! Part 1

My Child? A Bully?!! Part 2

When a link to the blog was posted on our Facebook page , not surprisingly, an interesting conversation ensued. Many community members said they thought that kids who bully, learn the behavior from their parents.  Of course this is not the only cause of bully's behavior but it is, as Annie says, one of the causes. Their words came right back to me when someone forwarded the video below.  To say this video is disturbing is an understatement. As parents, we expend a lot of energy making sure that our kids get the best education and opportunities. What this video does is underscore that education starts at home and most importantly, what we model at home is the foundation for all other learning.



Some good quotes that relate to this sentiment: 

"Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them." -- James Baldwin 

"Children need models rather than critics."  -- Joseph Joubert

Would love to hear your thoughts on this video...

Continue reading
  6003 Hits
6003 Hits

Should Schools Discipline Students for Cyber-bullying that Occurs Outside of School?

Just finished reading the New York Times article "Online Bullies Pull Schools into the Fray." If you have kids in grades 4-9, I strongly recommend that you read this article. But be forewarned, it will leave your head spinning. The examples of cyber-bulling via cellphones and social media sites, such as Facebook, Formspring and Youtube, are mind-numbing and disturbing. You are left saying, "How can kids be so cruel?" ... and ... "Maybe I should monitor my kids texts and Facebook pages more often."

But the question this NYT article raises is not about internet safety and monitoring but rather how and where should the bullying harassment be handled?  When kids do cyberbullying outside of school and the school learns of the altercation, should the actions be punishable at school? Talk about gray area. As with so many parenting and teen and tween topics, we are asking the question: where do you draw the proverbial line? You can't deny that if someone sends a nasty text away from school, that there is slim chance that the parties involved will set their differences aside when the walk through the school doors. The hurt will percolate and fester, and eventually a teacher, guidance counselor or principal will hear about it. So, then what's a school to do? We count on our school administrators to promote a safe environment for our children. Isn't anti-bullying part of that? 

What is your take ...  when it comes to matters of extreme cyberbullying (that happen outside of school but spills over into the school day) is it the principal's or school administrator's job to play judge or prosecutor?  Would love to hear your thoughts on this complex and unfortunate question. 


Continue reading
  9780 Hits
9780 Hits

School Bullies: Some Things to Ponder Over the Summer

Excited to have Annie Fox as a guest blogger this week. Annie Fox, M.Ed. is an award winning author, educator, and online adviser for parents and teens since 1997. Check out her new anti-bullying forum, Cruel’s Not Cool!


A master teacher once pointed out to a group of student teachers: "If you’re not modeling what you teach or what you say you want kids to learn, then you sure as hell are teaching something else!"

Bullying is a systemic problem. Put downs, gossip, snarkiness are all pretty much the air we breathe. Yet when we see or read about mean-kid behavior we’re all righteously stunned. "They tormented the girl so badly that she committed suicide!? Then the perpetrators actually posted more cruel comments on the victim’s Facebook memorial page!!!"

Considering what passes for entertainment and bonding around the water cooler, the sidelines at the game, the teacher lounge, the TV, the blogosphere, why are we surprised? It would be more surprising if kids growing up in our Culture of Cruelty turned out to be something other than cruel.

I know it’s harsh to think that the enemy is us... but we might as well own it because until we do we are cluelessly fueling the problem. And any attempts to minimize school bullying, turn a blind eye, or infer that it’s just "kids being kids" misses the point and blows yet another opportunity to turn the ship around.

Blackberry vines have rooted amongst my rose bushes. If I simply curse them or pluck a leaf here and there, that won’t stop the spread of vines (which will totally take over if I permit it). I’ve got to get in there on my hands and knees, deal with the thorns and dig out those suckers and all their damn roots.

Same applies to bullying. Not only are parents and teachers responsible for rooting out malevolent behavior between kids whenever we see it, hear about it or sense it. But we adults who live and work with kids have the moral obligation of watching our own mouths and attitudes... all the time. Otherwise "Respect, Compassion and Social Responsibility" is just a school motto and the dirty truth is that we’re teaching something else.

Continue reading
  7051 Hits
7051 Hits

How Emotional Intelligence is Linked to School Success

Sue Blaney

This is a guest post by Sue Blaney, a nationally recognized award-winning author, speaker, and publisher dedicated to supporting parents in successfully raising teenagers. Sue specializes in communication and works with parents and professionals at many levels to educate, empower and connect parents of teens. Visit her website at www.PleaseStoptheRollercoaster.com

Feelings matter. They matter in school, at work and at home. At some level, we all know this, but when money gets tight and/or there is pressure to meet concrete objectives, many people have a tendency to discount the importance of emotions and feelings, and just focus on getting the job done. But there is data that shows this approach is counter-productive. Let’s take a quick look again at the importance of “emotional intelligence” and Social Emotional Learning and why this should stay on your radar screen… this is as relevant and applicable within the walls of your home as it is in your teen’s school.

What is “emotional intelligence?” It is one’s ability to communicate well, to delay gratification, to tune in to another’s feelings and point of view, to think before speaking, to consider your response before expressing it, and to solve problems. Although everyone can benefit from some instruction in this area, this kind of “intelligence” comes more naturally for some people than others.

Why is this kind of intelligence important? There is much research and data that demonstrates that emotional intelligence (“EQ”) is a better predictor than IQ for both professional and personal success. We now know that emotional intelligence is linked to:

  • improved academic performance
  • avoiding risk behaviors
  • stronger friendships
  • decrease in violent behavior
  • staying in school… higher graduation rates
  • less disruptive behavior; fewer discipline problems
  • improving health, happiness and life success
Let’s examine the relevance of these points to both the school and home environments.

Emotional Intelligence and Social Emotional Learning at School:

In a school environment, SEL (Social Emotional Learning) programs impact four aspects of the school climate and culture: Empathy (feeling cared for), Accountability (sense of follow-through), Respect (considerate behavior) and Trust (belief in the people and institution.) A positive school culture may be the most important determinant for a school’s overall success on all fronts….especially academic success.

Emotional Intelligence at Home:

How might we apply these concepts at home? Consider the four elements of a school-based SEL program and consider how you apply these in your home:

Empathy: How is your teen feeling about your empathy for his feelings? Are you tuned in to what is going on in his life? Do you have a sense of what he is feeling? While you may feel that your teen is pushing you away, he also needs to know how much you care. Find a new way to open up conversations, if necessary. This may take creativity and perseverance on your part.

Accountability: Do you hold her accountable to do her chores, come home on time, participate in your family’s day-to-day life? Allowing her to get away with selfish behavior is doing her no favors in the long run, even though it may feel like you are giving her what she demands. Teaching your teens emotionally intelligent behavior requires you to think long term and not take the easy way out.

Respect: Does he feel that you treat him with respect? When was the last time you heard him out rather than imposed your point of view on him?

Trust: Do you trust her? If you cannot trust her consider the first three bullets in this list. Then you’ll need to exercise some emotional intelligence yourself as you communicate, tune into feelings, listen carefully and problem-solve together.

Both at home and at school, it’s essential that teens know that feelings matter. When they learn to integrate their feelings with their brains they can concentrate, think and express themselves better. As one program director put it, “We’re talking about a whole new vision of education that says educating the heart is as important as educating the mind.”  Sounds about right to me.

Continue reading
  13409 Hits
13409 Hits

Bullying on the School Bus

When you ask a soon-to-be Kindergartener what part of school they are most excited about, they often say riding the school bus!

Fast forward a couple of years and ask some moms what they dread the most about their child's school day. A frequent reply? The school bus.  Sad but true. Parents are forever looking for ways to teach their kids to stand up to bullies

With the mix of ages and little supervision, school bus rides can be playground for a bully. That's why I loved this article about a school that put a program in place to stop bullying on the school bus! The program empowered the kids to first come up with a set of rules for bus behavior. Then, bus buddies (4th and 5th grade volunteers) monitor the bus conduct and reward kids for good behavior -- rather than punish for bad behavior. The results are very impressive. So impressive that maybe you'd like to tell your school system about this idea.

Are your kids being bullied on the school bus? Have you talked to your school system about it? Does your school system do anything to curb bullying on your buses? We'd love to hear your stories. 



Continue reading
  7303 Hits
7303 Hits

Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
Sometimes - 25.4%
No - 37.4%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016