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Champlin mom crusades for gay kids after son's suicide (Pioneer Press)

Just a few quotes from this article:

"Unfortunately, people are listening to me because my kid died,” Aaberg said.

She hit a wall after testifying before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights this May. Lights were flashing at her as she recounted her son’s experience and told the panel about the number of bullied GLBT kids dying from suicide. Afterward, she had to listen to others testify. Some said bullying was freedom of speech.

Clearly, civics education needs some help, because this is not the definition of free speech.


Bullying Law Puts New Jersey Schools on Spot (NY Times)

The law, known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, is considered the toughest legislation against bullying in the nation. Propelled by public outcry … it demands that all public schools adopt comprehensive antibullying policies (there are 18 pages of “required components”), increase staff training and adhere to tight deadlines for reporting episodes.

In the East Hanover district, the new partnership with Crimestoppers, a program of the Morris County sheriff’s office, is intended to make reporting easier, but it also ups the ante by involving law enforcement rather than resolving issues in the principal’s office. Crimestoppers will accept anonymous text messages, calls or tips to its Web site, then forward the information to school and local police officials.

But Dr. Dolan cautioned that an unintended consequence of the new law could be that students, or their parents, will find it easier to label minor squabbles bullying than to find ways to work out their differences.

“Kids have to learn to deal with conflict,” she said. “What a shame if they don’t know how to effectively interact with their peers when they have a disagreement.”

The School Bully Is Sleepy (NY Times)

The researchers found that children who had behavioral issues were twice as likely to have shown symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing, like snoring or daytime sleepiness. Among children whom parents specifically identified as school bullies, the finding was similar.


MPR News investigation: Minnesota lacks strong bullying law, state oversight (MPR)

…The state’s effort to combat bullying starts with the challenge of how to define it. Is it bullying when a student picks on another? Are all shoving matches bullying? When does such improper behavior become sexual harassment, for which there are more serious legal consequences?

That challenge points to the major flaw in Minnesota’s state bullying law: it contains no definition of bullying. The laws of 35 states define bullying; Minnesota’s does not.

GOP rejects anti-bullying measure (Minnesota Independent)

“The bullying that young people experience is learned behavior,” Dibble told his colleagues on the Senate floor on Thursday afternoon. “This bill seeks to ensure that all kids are protected. In a perfect world we’d say no more bullying and it’d be done, but we don’t live in a perfect world.”

The amendment spells out a number of bullying characteristics that school districts should train staff on, from sexual orientation to national origin to economic status. Current law only covers race, sex and religion.

Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) said that existing anti-bullying laws were satisfactory and urged lawmakers to reject Dibble’s amendment.

Dibble responded, “Kids tell us clearly, they plead with us, ‘Protect us. You are not protecting us when you are being intentionally vague.”


Web of Popularity, Achieved by Bullying (NYTimes)

The findings contradict the notion of the school bully as maladjusted or aggressive by nature. Instead, the authors argue that when it comes to mean behavior, the role of individual traits is “overstated,” and much of it comes down to concern about status.

The research offers a road map for educators struggling to curb bullying and aggression both inside and outside of school. One option may be to enlist the support of students who aren’t engaged in bullying — those at the very top of the social ladder, and the two-thirds who don’t bully.

Schools Tackle Legal Twists and Turns of Cyberbullying (Education Week)

Schools should have no qualms about taking action when cyberbullying affects the school setting, causing a safety issue either to other students or to faculty members…

In its 7-2 ruling, the court limited schools’ authority to curtail controversial student speech to instances when speech “substantially and materially” disrupts a school’s educational mission, or when the speech impinges on the rights of other students to learn.

Despite the community clamor for a tougher approach to cyberbullying, some school leaders have been surprised by the response of parents when such cases arise.

Some parents of cyberbullies support schools in their disciplinary stances against those students, who studies show are often not stereotypical playground tough guys, but quiet, bright students. But more often, school leaders say parents of cyberbullies either say they want to discipline their children themselves or they dismiss the cyberbullying as harmless joking.

“When an administrator chooses not to act, they’re saying, ‘It’s more important for me to protect the district than the student.’ That is the wrong set of priorities. They have to understand what’s at stake here. Children are dying.”

Denial Fails as an Effective Anti-Bullying Program

As U.S. Department of Education spokesperson James Hamilton explains, “Harassing someone for failing to conform to gender norms is sexual harassment.” When the principal is the cheerleader for those gender norms, and explains that a gay student’s pink hair brought the bullying on, it’s not a good sign.

She should take note of Anoka-Hennepin, Minn. Within one year, at least seven students in that district killed themselves, and several of the deaths have been related to peer harassment. Tammy Aaberg, the mother of one victim who was gay, Justin, has begged the board and district to investigate and adopt a positive program to protect LGBT and other students. The superintendent says the district has investigated.  But no investigator has interviewed at least some victims’ families, and the district has discounted student accounts. In the end, the superintendent issued a statement that is a model of categorical denial:  “None of the suicides,” he insists, “were connected to incidents of bullying or harassment.”

Mom and Dad vs. the Cyberbully

Letter #3:

In most bullying, a child likely to be targeted and his or her negative relationships with other youth can be identified even before an incident occurs.

There should have been at least one trusted adult in the school who was aware of the child’s isolated status before the incident, who was working to improve it, and to whom the child could turn when incidents began. Apparently, this was not so.

Letter #4:

We owe it to the children to empower the victim, resolve conflicts in a respectful manner and always follow due process. Involving both sets of parents in the process has proved successful. Understanding the “bully” and teaching right from wrong is essential. If all else fails, logical consequences should be administered.

Letter #5:

Communities need to tackle the perils of cyberbullying together, so that parents understand that they are not alone, and, more important, so that kids recognize that the adults in their lives are paying attention, supervising and supporting them….

As Bullies Go Digital, Parents Play Catch-Up

This is a loooong article, but totally worth reading through it all.

Furious and frightened, Marie contacted school officials. After expressing their concern, they told her they could do nothing. It was an off-campus matter.

This is a dark, vicious side of adolescence, enabled and magnified by technology. Yet because so many horrified parents are bewildered by the technology, they think they are helpless to address the problems it engenders.

Dr. Englander reminded parents that while children may be nimble with technology, they lack the maturity to understand its consequences.

No matter how parents see their children, learning of the cruelties they may perpetrate is jarring and can feel like an indictment of their child-rearing.

Should teenagers have the same expectation of privacy from parents in their online accounts that an earlier generation had with their little red diaries and keys?

Christine herself uses a keystroke logger, software that records everything her two daughters write and see on their home computer. “It’s uncomfortable,” Christine said. “But my older daughter has demonstrated less than zero common sense. The level of trust between us is much lower than I’d like it to be. But I also think she was relieved that we caught her.

“My younger daughter calls me a stalker. She says we mistrust her because of what her sister did. That’s true. But my eyes are open, and I won’t go back.”

Overburdened school administrators and, increasingly, police officers who unravel juvenile cybercrimes, say it is almost impossible for them to monitor regulations imposed on teenagers.

As with the boys who impersonated D.C. online, a district attorney’s spokeswoman said, “That monitoring is up to the parents.”

Focus on the Family Goes After LGBT Students

Teaching Tolerance has been fighting for children and teachers for 20 years. We can say with certainty that the Focus on the Family campaign has nothing to do with tolerance. And it has nothing to do with keeping children safe. The harassment of LGBT students is rampant and destructive….

Focus on the Family’s biggest fear is that schools will reflect a diverse U.S. society—one that includes LGBT students. They do not want to be challenged in their belief that homosexuality is immoral, abnormal and changeable.

We don’t expect to change those personal beliefs. Simply put, our goal is to ask those who would ignore the pain and suffering of these children to understand that acknowledging the problem of anti-LGBT bullying—and wanting to make schools safe from harassment for all students—doesn’t require that you approve. At the risk of sounding pedantic, we would remind them that living in a democratic and diverse society means living alongside people with whom you disagree

The alternative is to stay silent and stand by while terrible things happen to other people’s children. Terrible things that no parent would ever want to happen to his or her own child.

I cannot express the depth of sadness I felt while reading this. I used to listen to FOTF all the time (and used to associate myself closely with the conservative Christian community). I feel very conflicted about posting such a negative article about them, but at the same time, cannot ignore the truth within.