By DIONNE WALKER, Associated Press Writer
Mon Sep 14, 11:53 am ET
– Recent student suicides have parents and advocates complaining that
anti-bullying laws enacted in nearly every state are not being enforced
and do not go far enough to identify and rid schools of chronic
Forty-four states expressly ban bullying, a
legislative legacy of a rash of school shootings in the late '90s, yet
few if any of those measures have identified children who excessively
pick on their peers, an Associated Press review has found. And few
offer any method for ensuring the policies are enforced,
according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
issue came to a head in April when 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera committed
suicide at his Atlanta-area home after his parents say he was
repeatedly tormented in school. District officials denied it, and an
independent review found bullying wasn't a factor, a conclusion his
Regardless, Georgia's law, among the
toughest in the nation, still would not have applied: It only applies
to students in grades six to 12. Herrera was a fifth-grader.
Georgia's law has one of the largest gaps between what it requires of
districts and the tools it gives them for meeting those requirements.
The state doesn't collect data specifically on bullying occurrences,
despite legislation that promises to strip state funding from schools
failing to take action after three instances
involving a bully.
Herrera's death, other parents came forward to say their children had
been bullied and that school officials did nothing with the complaints,
rendering the state's law useless.
"There is a
systematic problem," said Mike Wilson, who said his 12-year-old
daughter was bullied for two years in the same school district where
Herrera died. "The lower level employees, the teachers, the principals,
are trying to keep this information suppressed at the lowest possible
Only six states — Montana, Hawaii, Wisconsin,
Massachusetts, North Dakota and South Dakota — and the District of
Columbia lack specific laws targeting school bullying, according to the
National Conference of State Legislatures. Most states require school
districts to adopt open-ended policies to prohibit bullying and
While some direct state education officials
to form model policies that school districts should mimic, they offer
little to assure the policies are enforced; only a handful of states
require specific data gathering meant to assure bullying is being
monitored, for instance.
"The states themselves can't
micromanage a school district — but they can say to a school district,
'Look, you have to have consequences,'" said Brenda High, whose Web
site, Bully Police USA, tracks anti-bullying laws across the nation,
and who advocates for strict repercussions for bullies. The Washington
state-based advocate's son, Jared, was 13 when he committed suicide in
complaining of bullying.
needs to be written into the law that bullying has the same
consequences as assault," she said. "The records and such need to be
kept so that if the child is a chronic bully, they — after so many
instances — will end up in an alternative school."
and Georgia have particularly specific statutes. Alaska's Department of
Education and Early Development must compile annual data on bullying
complaints and report it to the Legislature. Georgia's 10-year-old law
goes a step further. It specifies that three instances of bullying is
transfer to an alternative school, away from the
victim. School systems not in compliance forfeit state funding,
according to the law.
that record-keeping provision, the Georgia Department of Education
cannot say whether any child has been transferred as a result of
bullying because the department only tracks the number for broader
offenses, including fighting and threats, spokesman Dana Tofig said.
the district is not enforcing its own bullying policy, and that's been
happening repeatedly, the law says they can lose their state funding,"
No school has lost funding under the law, according to the department.
Some school districts say they keep track of complaints, especially
those involving a single child being bullied more than once, and that
they address those cases. Without a legal obligation to report such
data to state officials, however, it's unclear how any such statistics
2007, nearly a third of students ages 12 to 18 reported having been
bullied during the school year, according to data on more than 55
million students compiled annually by the National Center for Education
Statistics. That's up from as few as 1 in 10 students in the '90s,
though bullying experts point out the rising numbers may reflect more
reports of bullying, not necessarily more incidents.
Many children reported teasing, spreading rumors and threats, all harder to spot and manage, school leaders say.
of the questions is how do you quantify bullying? It could even be as
simple as a rolling of the eyes," said Dale Davis, a spokesman for
schools in DeKalb County, Ga., where Herrera committed suicide.
officials have said since soon after the boy's death that there was no
evidence that Herrera was bullied, and that outside factors including
the death of a close relative influenced him to take his life.
death in mid-April came barely two weeks after Sirdeaner Walker found
her son Carl hanged in her Springfield, Mass., home. The 11-year-old
had complained of teasing almost immediately after arriving at his new
charter school, she said.
Parents in Illinois likewise
pointed to bullies after three suicides there in February: a
10-year-old boy hanged himself in a restroom stall in a suburban
Chicago school, an 11-year-old boy was found dead in Chatham, south of
Springfield, and a father found his 11-year-old daughter hanged in a
closet of their Chicago home.
Dr. Diahann Meekins
Moore, associate director for psychiatric services at the Illinois
Department of Children & Family Services, cautioned that it's
unclear whether bullying could be considered a primary cause in those
deaths or in any suicide.
All the same, every suicide
with a hint of bullying, every school rampage involving a shooter who
claims to have been bullied renews the debate over whether anyone can
curb what most consider a harsh and inevitable part of childhood, and
if so, who bears that responsibility.
"A lot of this
has to be handled in the home," said Peter Daboul, chair of the board
of trustees at New Leadership, the Massachusetts school where her son
was a 6th grader.
Teachers there will receive training
on spotting childhood depression and bullying, he said, "but you also
have the family unit where these kids are hopefully taught the
difference between right and wrong."
said reminding a child that they're loved at home is less effective
when they're being teased in the classroom.
"I can say that all the time," Walker said. "But again, I have to send my child back to the school."
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I'm Adam. I joined this web site because I really appreciate what In
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I never really had a lot of people to talk to. Often I was embarrassed
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if there had been an In Search of Me Cafe when I was making tough
decisions it would have really helped me.
enough about why I like this site so much. I have always liked to party
and I love chillin’ with my friends. Obviously partying can lead to
some tough life choices; I had my first alcoholic drink when I was 13.
That may seem pretty young but I grew up in Europe where the legal age
was 16. Yes I know... that’s still underage.
I was underage. It’s easy to drink when your friends drink. Needless to
say, from the first drink till now, I have experienced a lot. Partying
was probably the best tool in learning about me which may seem strange
but I really learned a lot about how I treat my friends and
relationships, how I trust …you name it. Good times and bad I have
gained valuable life lessons. If you ever need to talk about stuff or
you have a question you’re burning to ask or if you just wanna share
stories. Go ahead and holler. I won’t judge and it’s pretty hard to
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“Every teen has to face the same type of problems and try to figure out who they are. This is a place where you can do that.”
Hey, I’m Maddie
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“Up until this year I was picked on a lot and it really brings down
your self esteem. Kids don't think about how they're really affecting
other people with their words and eventually the other kids' self
esteem goes down and down and they start to believe what the bullies
are saying. After a while you just start to give up and think, ‘Oh,
what's the point. I suck anyway’ and your grades and everything else
Hey, I’m Chelsi.
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Each morning I see in my mind what I’m working hard to obtain. I
know I can achieve anything I set my mind on by putting in the time
& effort needed. I believe one can learn from every experience. I
like to ‘take the best and leave the rest’!“
a rule I don’t like talking about myself. However, I want you to know
a little about me, the “teen” likely not much different than you and
thinking a lot of the same things and having similar questions etc.
I try to treat everyone with respect and kindness, just as I would
hope to be treated! Hopefully I can help answer questions you may have
or concerns you don’t want to discuss with an adult… you know
Here’s a bit of what I like to do…. I love
hanging with my friends at the movies or the mall, and staying in with
my family. I love music, sometimes when I’m upset or “heartbroken” I go
in my room and just listen to music. It just lets me cool off and just
not have to think.
Although I’m only 13 on paper, I’m
told I’m much wiser than my years. If there is a problem, I am the
first person anyone calls. I may be nice but, if someone hurts anyone I
know (whether I like ya or not) they are in trouble… haha. They call me
“the haha queen” because I can make any situation funny.
hope after hearing this little bit “about me” you want to ask me your
questions, and if you just want to chat, I’d love to. I like meeting
“And it's now, now or never when we're chasing our dreams.” -Mercy Mercedes
“I'd like to make myself believe that planet Earth turns slowly.” -Owl City
“Do you know what's worth fighting for? When it's not worth dying for?” –Green Day
What my friends have to say About me - Chelsi♥ ……
like talking to you because you can always make me feel good about
myself and make me happy no matter what. I like you as a person because
you really are a great friend and I thank you for being there for me,
and you’re just fun to be with.” -Jessie
hard.. To put into words.. The uncanny ability you have to put a smile
on my face and that’s just online, from reading the nearly poetic
replies. Where as over the phones it’s near impossible to explain the
warmth that washes over me when I hear your voice. For some reason when
I heard you for the first time. Chelsi you inspired my first poem I wrote … -Sean
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“When people go to parties just to hang out, other people come and
bring drinks or cigarettes, and try to get you to do it. They keep
trying and trying to get you to drink or smoke, and you might be
tempted do it because you want to be known as a cool person.”
Hey, I’m Trent
“I have cousins my same age and younger who are Haitian and Filipino,
which allows me to connect with other cultures. Even with different
styles and different issues, these other teenagers still have some of
the same dramas we have here in America, such as peer pressure.” Hey, I’m Trent
Hey, I’m Forrest
“You can post video blogs on this site -- voice your opinions about
topics here as well as responses to what others are saying in their
blogs. So it kinda builds upon itself.”
Hey, I’m Connor
Hi, I’m Connor Cottle. I’m 17 and a junior at Fernandina Beach
High School in northeast Florida. As an only child, my friends are
really important to me, so I’m either hanging out with them or texting
them when we’re apart.
I spend my free time on the tennis court, the golf course, and at the beach. I volunteer
frequently around my community and enjoy every minute of it.
am also the Lead Youth Advisor of the In Search of Me Café program and
I’m involved because I like how connecting teens all over the world can
help them help themselves.
I’m always around if you need any advice or if you just want to hang out.
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