Some Thoughts on “Deadly Bullying”

Hi Readers! I just got back to the United States and the first thing I saw at the airport was, naturally, People rynyhdirby
This week’s cover story, “Deadly Bullying,” was prompted by the horrible case of Tyler Clementi. Tyler’s college roommate streamed live video of his sexual encounter with a man, leading Tyler to commit suicide.

I have no problem linking this horrible invasion of privacy — this absolute betrayal of human decency — to Tyler’s death. I do have a problem with calling it “bullying.”

Why? Because this was beyond bullying. It was a hate crime. By calling it “bullying” we are lumping together everything from a  “Smelly belly!” taunt on the bus to  an unconscionable act of cruelty. Not that it is easy to bear a “Smelly belly!” taunt. But that there is still a difference of magnitude. When we obscure that, childhood  becomes even more worrisome to parents. All of us already worried about bullying are now going to worry about bullying…to death.

No one is in favor of kids (or anyone) hurting or humiliating each other. No one thinks bullying is a good idea. For the record, I hate bullies and bullying, want to see them gone — this is not a post that intends to dismiss the hurt that bullying can inflict.  But the act of broadcasting a private sexual encounter is criminal. To call it “bullying” makes it sound childish, at the same time it also makes anything childish sound criminal.

The result is to make us parents ever more confused and terrified. As if we weren’t confused and terrified enough for our kids. — Lenore

75 Responses to Some Thoughts on “Deadly Bullying”

  1. goofymike93 October 8, 2010 at 11:06 pm #

    You hit the nail on the head. As usual.

  2. Larry Harrison October 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm #


  3. Empowerment Engineer October 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

    At the same time, labeling it as hate crime is to take away the edge from the more serious nature of a hate crime (which is a criminal offence that is motivated by hostility or prejudice based upon the victim’s race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or such). Granted, there was a sexual orientation innuendo behind the broadcasting of the private encounter, but that is not enough to make it a hate crime.

  4. SKL October 8, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    I may be in the minority on this. I think that what was done was horrible and the result was tragic. But I am not happy with the way people are pushing for new laws or this or that to make it seem like everyone who, for example, outs a homosexual, is a murderer. Some perspective please, people.

    I think the offense here was taping someone and posting someone’s private behavior on the internet. Obviously it was done for vicious reasons. But I don’t think you can legislate state of mind – especially not in what we like to call a free country. I don’t agree that a crime becomes a different crime if the person’s intent was vicious instead of greedy or angry. Should we call it a hate crime whenever an angry wife (or ex) throws a man’s belongings out the window and sets fire to them? How about those parents who make their kids stand on the street corner with a sign saying they made a poor choice – is that a hate crime? The intent was to make the other person feel horrible, wasn’t it? Maybe we should just outlaw hate and viciousness all together, right? But, I don’t think they have succeeded in doing that even in China. So, what are we really doing here? And also, why isn’t anyone talking about how those two young criminals reached adulthood chronologically without any maturity?

    You mention childishness – but I think the whole concept of “hate crime” is rather childish.

    Tyler’s death was not actually caused by the video. Of course it caused him to be hurt – as would a video of infidelity by a married man, etc. But what caused Tyler to commit suicide was his feeling that homosexual acts are so shameful that he could not live with people knowing he would do that. Perhaps he felt that he could not face his parents. There are so many factors that play into this. It is not a given that someone who is “outed” will be completely unable to deal with it. Without in any way blaming the parents, my first thought was to ask myself what I need to do as a parent so that my kids know they can always face me with anything, and that their success in life does not depend on what petty people think of them. And also, what do I need to do to help my kids feel more compassion for others as they approach adulthood. Making new “hate crimes” is not going to create more loving people. Vicious people will always find some way to hurt others. We need to care enough to raise strong and compassionate kids, not expect Congress to legislate away foolishness.

  5. Taylor October 8, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

    Frankly I haven’t seen enough to call it a “hate crime,” although maybe that is in fact the case. I think I read this initial New York Times article and that was it, but no sign of bullying. I just don’t see how the kid’s sexual orientation makes much of a difference here.

    This is a case that does make you want to just cry for Tyler and his family. What’s “interesting” to me is that so much of the reaction is due to the result, which (I certainly hope) had not crossed the minds of those involved. In another situation the privacy-invading actions would have been considered very bad no doubt, but I don’t think folks would use the “hate crime” term. Had Tyler just shrugged it off, would we view the invasion of privacy as such a serious offense? Maybe a better question is what other college students would think about it. Either way, I don’t think folks would be so up in arms, and I think that says something bad about us.

  6. Jo October 8, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    Although I agree with most of what you have said I feel I need to add it is not as a stand alone the reason for his death. I know this is not a popular opinion because it throws responsibility on parents and society. The fact is no one wakes up one day has something truely awful happen to them and kills themselves.

    There is usually ongoing abuse, neglect, bullying (ya know the real kind) that is ignored. These poor fragile people are pushed past the breaking point by these events but the event alone is not the cause.

    I live in Missouri home of Megan’s law, of course poorly written but I digress. Lori Drew, a vile piece of work, tortured that child over the internet. She was guilty of cyber stalking/bullying, harassment, and probably a few other laws I can’t think of but not murder. I am sorry but how can a parent be so detached from their child that they do not notice the pain they are in. How can a child feel so detached from her parents that she feels that killing herself is better than telling her mom about the boy who is hurting her feelings. 🙁

    To tie this back to free range, it is in my mind one of many reasons why parents shy away from free ranging. To allow your child freedom means you must teach them responsibility. You must understand your child well enough to know what they are or are not capable of. You must be able to pick up when they are in over their heads.

    It is much easier to read books that tell you baby proof, back to sleep, no ice cream, this program will teach them to talk, this is when they walk, don’t leave them in a car alone, don’t let them do this or that, have them play sports and ballet and put those stickers on the back of your van so everyone knows how many sports and such your kids are in because in that crazy world it shows how good a parent is.

    Then when something goes wrong you can blame the book and the rules after all the book didn’t tell you that you should ask how your child feels about their sports, school, and friends. You can tell yourself that it was not your fault but the fault of some awful women in Megan’s case even though you never prepared her for the world that does have awful people.

    Barney set me on this path by creating a world where no one bullys, everything you do is okay, everyone will love you, and then trying to tell me children it was real. It is not real and you cannot prepare your children for reality by ignoring the dangers by keeping them from them.

    Okay I am done ranting.

  7. Alison S. October 8, 2010 at 11:46 pm #

    The B-word is out of control. It has become for children and teens the equivalent of a sexual harrassment accusation among adults: even if baseless, it tends to stick and smear the accused. If some kid drops the B-word, the presumption of innocence flies out the window, and all these “crack down” pleas in the media are only intensifying the irrationality and warping all sense of perspective.
    My daughter has recently been bullied by another kid who accused HER of being a bully – a much more effective tactic than the old-fashioned direct approach, isn’t it?? Think about it: all some nasty little drama queen has to do is turn on the waterworks in front of a parent or school administrator and wail, “She’s bullying me! I wanna kill myself!” and the whole situation launches from there, doesn’t it?? Maybe the parent or administrator will be shrewd enough to see the sinister ploy for what it is, or maybe they’ll just go into panic mode for fear of being showcased by Nancy Grace as yet another bad-adult holotype.
    Once again, all this derives from an unnatural situation that society is bringing down upon itself with terrible consequences. Kids have always been bullied, but in the before-times, they tended to just pick themselves up, dust off, and get on with their lives (I did!). By over-regulating their interactions with the world, we’re turning the good ones into marshmallows who can’t adapt to the natural social pecking order, and the worse ones into sophisticated exploiters of the overblown response system.

  8. EricS October 8, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    You took the words right out of my mouth Jo. Bullying is never a good thing. It’s been well documented that most “bullies” are kids with a lot of insecurities and lash out on those he finds weaker than himself/herself. Most of these times, the bullied are other kids with low self-esteem and lack self-confidence. Sadly, we are becoming more and more a society of insecure individuals.

    In relation to free-range parenting, we’ve often discussed that when you shelter children from the real world, your breeding and encouraging a lot of insecurities and self doubt within themselves. Which, if not correct, is brought right through puberty, and often times to adulthood. Then the cycle starts all over again when they have their own family.

    A confident, secure child learns to ignore the teasing, and is able to stand up for himself. Even if something embarrassing happens to them, they are capable of over coming it. They look at the situation optimistically rather than pessimistically. Others see this, and realize it’s not worth picking on him. Some even gravitate towards them. Been there done it.

  9. Zach October 8, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    Bullying or Hate Crime…

    I think the real problem is, despite what we have learned about the nature of homosexuality, we still live in a world where a significant portion of the world still views homosexuality as ‘wrong’ and children pick up on that.

    Especially, since there are some people who would believe that for children to be exposed to anything that could be construed as anything homosexual would be damaging to thing morally or otherwise.

    The real thing, we have to ask ourselves here [to bring this around to a Free Range Kids thing] if we believe that children can take care of themselves. Then we also believe that children can have some sense that being gay is just another part of being human and not a defect?

    Do people here try to shield your kids if you were to see two men walking down the street holding hands, if on the other side of the street there was a man and a woman snogging each other’s faces off?

    To me, shielding your children from that, is no better then keeping locked up in a home, and encouraging such bullying behv

  10. Rich Wilson October 9, 2010 at 12:00 am #

    I think bullying relates more to a pattern of behavior than a single incident. Perhaps the word has a ‘school kids’ connotation to it, but I absolutely think adults can bully as well.

    I recall reading that this wasn’t the first incident, and Tyler had complained to University officials.

    And I agree, in the end Tyler is no more or less dead than any other victim of a crime. But what strikes me about hate crimes is just how senseless and preventable they are. I’m torn as to whether they should be treated differently after the fact, but I think they can be treated differently before they occur.

    I highly recommend ‘Out in the Silence’ if you’re interested in what can be done to reduce the staggering suicide rate of gay teens. You can find it on (US only I think, sorry)

  11. pentamom October 9, 2010 at 12:02 am #

    There was a fairly good-sized article in my paper yesterday about cyber-bullying.

    One thing I noticed about it was that it was all about how to protect your kids from bullying.

    There was not a single word about ways to find out whether YOUR kid was bullying, or what to do about it.

    This whole bullying thing will never be properly addressed until the Experts are willing to confront parents with the reality that for every victim, there’s a bully (or frequently, more than one) and that it Just Might Be Your Kid.

  12. Brian October 9, 2010 at 12:12 am #

    I am usually a big fan but I think you are off on this one. I feel terrible for all involved but there is no evidence this was a hate crime:

    –There is nothing but circumstantial evidence linking the filming to the suicide. Depression is a disease and it is quite a leap by the media to say his action was CAUSED by the filing.

    –There is no evidence that the actions were dictated by the victim’s sexuality or that his sexuality had anything to do with the roommate’s actions.

    If anything, this story is all about a prank gone wrong. In fact, if the victim were filmed “hooking up” with a blond co-ed this wouldnt even be a story because people wouldnt necessarily link it to the suicide. The whole proposition is based on latent homophobia.

  13. Elfir October 9, 2010 at 12:47 am #

    I haven’t heard anything to convince me “hate crime” is an appropriate term here. Not does it seem to be, exactly, “bullying”. The fear of discovery pushed this kid over the edge. Perhaps the fear of bullying inspired it, but we’ll probably never exactly know.

    I’m not even sure the roommate knew this kid was gay prior to the filming. College freshmen aren’t exactly mature individuals. The top dog pranksters of high school let loose on a college campus with no supervision? Stupid pranks happen.

  14. Lucy October 9, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    @zach – It’s wrong to say that someone else is wrong for thinking something is wrong.

    For example, it’s not wrong to think that not making sacrifices to save to “save the planet” is wrong, but it would be very wrong indeed to blow up people who weren’t interested in sacrificing to “save the planet”.

    To publicly target and scorn someone for doing what you think is wrong is just plain rude.

  15. Rich Wilson October 9, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    “The fear of discovery pushed this kid over the edge.”

    We don’t know that.

    We do know:
    He complained to college officials and on gay forums that his roommate was trying to spy on him.
    Then he asked his roommate for the room for a specific period of time.
    Then he brought another man to the room.

    I don’t think fear of being outed was the single cause, and possibly not even a contributing cause.

  16. Jo October 9, 2010 at 1:24 am #

    Lucy, I have re-read Zach’s post and I can’t figure out what you are talking about. I see you have your cool link you want to share but I don’t see how it ties into Zach’s post. If you could clarify that would be wonderful.

    So far as I can tell he didn’t say that someone is wrong for thinking something is wrong. (though that sentence is so poorly written I am not sure if I got your true meaning) What he said was he believes parents should teach their children tolerance and asked if we that are posting here do so.

    Yes Zach I teach my children tolerance. No one is better or worse than another because they are different.

  17. Larry Harrison October 9, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    I agree with the person who said that they’re trying to make bullying the equivalent of sexual harassment. That is, something that’s over-legislated & has a tendency to inspire people to take the ball & run with it too fast. And it’s true–the accusation tends to stick to the accused & smear them, even if the accusations are baseless.

    Further, false allegations in sexual harassment are as much of a problem as the actual harassment itself, I think, and this could turn out much the same.

    If they are going to go that route, my response will be similar. That is, where it regards sexual harassment in the workplace, I’ve said that I think the way the policies should be is–the accuser MUST first communicate to the alleged harasser that the behavior is not welcome, and if they have not first done this, then no complaints will be accepted. This whole angle of “if you are uncomfortable confronting the harasser come to use & we will handle it for you” is a bunch of horse-puckey. If you don’t have the moxy (did I spell that right?) to stand up to the one you claim is harassing you, then tough. If the person harassing you really is as bad as you say, they will know you’re the one that turned them in anyway, nothing to lose there–and if in fact the harasser had no idea that their behavior was bothersome to you (that does happen), they now have a chance to apologize & make things right before you go making a mess of their lives.

    So should it be where it regards bullying.

    And yes, there is too much legislation of human interaction. I even think that domestic violence “reform” has gone too far–and don’t freak out, I do NOT condone spousal abuse, and I do totally support prosecution of abusers–but when it’s to the point that even a tiny spat where the “victim” genuinely doesn’t want prosecution (think Charlie Sheen & Brooke Mueller) nonetheless becomes a legal entanglement, I disagree with that. Inferring that the victim does want to prosecute, that they simply are scared of retaliation or are economically dependent, is over-meddling. Read about Loretta Lynn, how they fought that way, but she didn’t leave–she stayed, and she surely could’ve left, she was the one earning all the money. She CHOSE to stay of her own free will. In those situations, I say–leave it alone.

    Again, the victim needs to be on firm footing & do their part, as opposed to us enabling their weakness & doing the job for them. This only encourages passivity and also ends up causing damage in situations where no intervention was even needed to start with. Yes we should encourage victims to stand-up, speak-out, and not be intimidated, and utilize their legal options. But if they choose not to, then oh well. I’m not in favor of leading the horse to the water and then cramming the water down their throat forcefully. Yes they’re still alive, but you’ve meddled in their free will.

  18. Rich Wilson October 9, 2010 at 2:01 am #

    “Yes they’re still alive, but you’ve meddled in their free will.”

    Free will was gone a long time ago.

    We’re getting off topic, but into one that strikes close to home for me.

    Domestic abuse affects one’s psyche very deeply. It’s not even so much direct fear of reprisal or economics. It’s more like tying a baby elephant with a big chain. When it gets older, the tug of a small rope on its foot is all that is require to keep from walking away. Yes, I know, people are not elephants, but some very deep parts of our brains come into play.

    Assault and battery is a crime, and it should be treated as such even if the victim doesn’t feel that way. For one thing, someone who assaults their spouse is more likely to assault others in the community.

  19. Meagan October 9, 2010 at 2:13 am #

    @Jo I don’t think Megan’s case is a good example. For one thing, her parents WERE well aware of their daughter’s fragile mental state. It was well known that she’d been through councling and medication for depression. I think there may have been previous suicide attempts or statements? (It’s been a while since I’ve read the story). In fact one of the things that made Lori whoever’s actions so reprehensible, was that she was ALSO aware of those things. Not every suicide can be prevented by the parents, unless we advocate for 24/7 supervision, which I’m pretty sure, here at least, we do not. Megan seemed to have been doing better, and please remember that this was several years ago, when our awareness of social networking was not what it is today.

    As for Tyler, I am also not sure here about calling it a hate crime. Maybe it was, I haven’t paid much attention to the details, but videoing a sexual encounter between two people without their knowledge is really nothing new. Videoing a sexual encounter between two people with the knowledge of only one is even more common. The only twists here are that the victims are gay and YouTube is flourishing. This is certainly an invasion of privacy, and if there is not a law against it there should be, but if it’s never been called a hate crime before, I don’t know why it should be this time. Again, maybe I am missing something, and maybe there was more involved to make this a homophobic crime rather than just the sort of horrible thing frat boys have been doing to drunk girls for as long as there have been cameras.

  20. helenquine October 9, 2010 at 2:20 am #

    I tend to think that bullying (not so much “deadly bullying”, though I haven’t read the article) is the right word for what happened to Tyler. Because I agree with the posters who say you don’t wake up one morning and decide to kill yourself because of one thing that happened, there has to be the context that makes that thing unbearable. And I don’t think hate crime is the right term for something nasty but not actual assault – even if it was driven by homophobia.

    @ Alison S – “Kids have always been bullied, but in the before-times, they tended to just pick themselves up, dust off, and get on with their lives (I did!).” Some kids – like you – did. And some still do. Others committed suicide, or grew up feeling worthless and scared. There was no golden age where bullying didn’t really hurt anyone.

  21. Llamabean October 9, 2010 at 2:32 am #

    Thank you, you are the first person I have heard that put this sad/hateful act into its proper perspective.

  22. Sam October 9, 2010 at 2:37 am #

    No. This is exactly where bullying progresses when it is not dealt with at those earlier and more “innocent” ages. This is what happens when kids are taught – either directly, or by a lack of intervention – that the pleasure they take in taunting others is more valuable than the safety and dignity of others. This is what happens when kids are not made aware of the privileges they may enjoy that others do not – and boy, do the responses here make it clear that this latter is widespread.

  23. Jo October 9, 2010 at 2:39 am #

    Helen, actually Allison tapped into something I am noticing more and more. Passive aggressive behavior. I do believe it is a byproduct of this nice nice feel good we are one big happy family that Barney sold us on. We are now teaching our kids that it is not nice to say mean things because you are a bad kid if you say mean things. So I want Jimmy to be the bad kid and me the good one.

    Jimmy keeps his desk really neat so when no one is looking I mess up his desk but make sure Jimmy knows I did it. So Jimmy gets mad and calls me a name. I cry to the teacher that I didn’t mean to mess up Jimmy’s desk but I couldn’t find my favorite pencil and my mommy gave it to me and *tears* and I thought I saw it in Jimmy’s desk why did Jimmy call me a name. Just for good measure hide the pencil in Jimmy’s desk for when they search it, maybe a plastic dinner knife for good measure. Jimmy is in trouble, most likely suspended for having a weapon you are the good child. 🙂 Welcome to the modern bullying.

  24. Larry Harrison October 9, 2010 at 3:44 am #

    @Rich Wilson. I respectfully disagree again. Respectfully.

    It is amazing to me, for example, when Naomi Campbell was alleged to have assaulted a cab driver recently, that the cab driver decided not to press charges–whereupon the whole thing was dropped. And Naomi Campbell has history.

    Whereas, a spouse supposedly strikes another, and the alleged victim does not wish to press charges–but their wish is not considered.

    Hence, a spouse’s request to not have prosecution for what it, in my view, a private matter (yes I know this view is considered antiquated, but in such cases I still hold to it), their request to not prosecute their own spouse is ignored, but the request to not press charges against a stranger is considered. That is extremely backwards.

    I also don’t hold to the idea of “if they strike their spouse, they’ll strike someone else.” You don’t prosecute someone for incident #A because they’ll repeat it in incident #B. To me that’s too “Minority Report”-ish (the 2002 Tom Cruise movie), that is, prosecuting someone for someone they didn’t do because they probably WILL do it. I say the same thing when people advocate huge penalties for animal cruelty; I do NOT approve of animal cruelty, but giving harsh sentences because “they’ll probably graduate to hurting people”–no, no, you don’t prosecute someone for how they “might” hurt someone, you prosecute when they actually DO hurt someone.

    And to me, it’s all about that if two people want to live that way, that’s their business and not ours to meddle in if they don’t want it. When I read about Loretta Lynn being quoted as saying, regarding her husband, how “he never hit me one time where I didn’t hit him back twice as hard” or something like that, my 2 thoughts are–(1) that is not at all the most mature type of relationship to have, by any means, but by the same token (2) if that is how the two of them chose to live their life, that is no one’s business to meddle in.

    It is no more our business to meddle in that than it is to meddle in the business of 2 consenting adults having a homosexual relationship–even though there are certainly lots of people who think that such behavior is unethical.

    Obviously, if a spouse kills another, prosecute them for murder. You have to draw the line somewhere. If someone is being abused & they go to the police for protection & help, then by all means–find them a place for they & the kids to stay, prosecute the abuser, all of it. But if they DO NOT want the intervention & it’s a bunch of slapping around–as immature a way as that is to relate to each other (it’s hideous), that’s their private business. It’s not ours to meddle in, even though none of us condone it (and that most certainly includes myself).


  25. ebohlman October 9, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    The reason the Clementi incident is being tagged in the media as “bullying” is simply timing: it happened at the same time there were several media reports of much younger kids killing themselves after prolonged homophobic bullying (some of them were openly gay; others may or may not have been gay (about 80% of the targets of homophobic bullying are actually straight)).

    BTW, I’m almost certain that rather than seeing an actual uptick in bullying-driven suicides, we’re just seeing the media finally recognize the phenomenon. I have no reason to believe that September 2009 was any better than September 2010 for bully victims. This has been going on for a long time. It reminds me of how the US finally started taking drunk driving seriously in the 80s, even though lots of people were being killed in the previous decades and every other developed country had been taking it seriously for decades.

    Not sure how NJ’s hate-crimes law works, but what happened to Clementi would fall under the Federal hate-crimes law, which only applies to either the use of physical violence or the threat of violence involving a weapon.

    The rationale for singling out bias-motivated crimes for extra punishment is that they threaten entire communities. It’s pretty much for the same reason that we call 9/11 an “attack on America” rather than “an attack on the WTC and the Pentagon.” Part of the contentiousness is that when people talk about bias crimes, they usually think of murders. However, most bias crimes fall way short of murder and are the sort of crimes where under ordinary circumstances the perpetrators would get relatively light sentences (and before the penalty-enhancement laws were enacted, they’d often get off with little to no punishment if their victims belonged to a disfavored group). So debating whether hate-crime laws will prevent murder is counterproductive.

  26. ebohlman October 9, 2010 at 4:01 am #

    aargh. In my last post, I meant to say that what happened to Clementi would not fall under the Federal law.

  27. Clothdragon October 9, 2010 at 4:03 am #

    Maybe someone should create a special program for school. When bullying becomes a criminal offense.

    I’m pretty sure recording someone without their permission and publishing sex tapes without consent are already against the law. — I wonder if they could be prosecuted under wiretapping laws too?

    If the bullies knew up front they could go to jail for this, perhaps they would have been able to recognize it as a more serious offense before they did it. Because it was a serious offense. Even if it hadn’t been a homosexual encounter someone’s life could be seriously messed up by having their sex life spread online.

    As is always the case, some people would see the program as a manual, showing how far they can go before they get into trouble, but it could help others recognize that something they are thinking would make a great prank is against the law and is way more serious than they realized.

  28. Robin October 9, 2010 at 4:22 am #

    Please enlighten me. Why are some murders worse than others? If I had a loved-one killed, I’d want it considered a hate crime just to get the worse punishment. I think we’re in a vicious cycle of more and more crimes considered hate-crimes. The actual number of crimes is getting lower, but the % of them considered hate-crimes is going up. It will continue until it becomes meaningless and we have to invent a new type of crime. Double-hate crime? Hate crime times 2? Super-dooper hate crime? Hate crime with whipped cream and a cherry on top?

  29. Elizabeth October 9, 2010 at 4:35 am #

    I guess if you think about it, hate crimes are a form of extremely violent bullying. I don’t think of bullying as a childhood phenomenon, or a somehow less-violent phenomenon. I think of it as more or less a synonym for harassment.

    So I don’t really agree, I also agree with the previous commenter that suggested that this is not a hate crime unless the intent was to make him kill himself, and that’s not been proven or even suggested.

  30. helenquine October 9, 2010 at 4:37 am #

    Jo – I didn’t take issue with Alison’s claim that accusations of bullying have become a way to manipulate. Merely with her claim that kids who were bullied used to simply brush themselves off. I know we used to expect kids to do that. But I also know that many kids didn’t. Poor policies and overreactions today notwithstanding, bullying caused a lot of harm in the past.

  31. Heartfruit October 9, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    I agree that there is a big difference between a kid being called “smelly belly” and a sexual encounter being posted to the internet. But there is also a difference between an insult like “smelly belly” and a kid being called “gay” (no matter what their sexual orientation might be). And that is the slippery slope this exists on.

    A lot of opinions are formed in the school yard. I think as parents we should question our children when we hear them using words like “gay” or “rape” in inappropriate context and make sure they consider the feelings of others.

  32. Jo October 9, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    Helen I get what you are saying, I chalked it up to a poor choice of words. I saw it as back in the day we could somewhat defend ourselves but now the bullied look like the aggressor. Perhaps I was reading a bit of my history into both posts.

  33. Renee Aste October 9, 2010 at 5:10 am #

    Thank you Lenore!

    These college students ARE adults, but also very smart considering what college they were attending.

    These were ‘good kids’ that did this.

  34. SKL October 9, 2010 at 6:00 am #

    Based on some of the comments I’m seeing, I want to remind people that this happened not long after school started. These folks didn’t know each other before. I don’t see how we can assume prolonged bullying here.

    This young man came to college with a certain amount of baggage, I’m sorry to say. He already knew that he could be caught and outed at some point. I mean, can anyone honestly say it is surprising that teens would pick on or out another teen for having homosexual relations in a shared dorm room? One of the teens was Tyler’s roommate. Tyler knew that some form of being “outed” was a significant risk.

    Are we now going to say that talking about what your roommate is up to is a hate crime?

    If my memory serves me, the “hate crime” idea gained momentum after some young men beat a gay man to death. A hands-on, intentional, direct murder for no reason (that we know of) other than his sexual preference. Now, posting a video of anyone without their approval is vicious, but the severity of the crime does not depend on whether the person on the video is gay or straight. I’m sorry.

    And we must be very careful to make sure that “hate crime” doesn’t come to mean “action that might be a factor in a person’s decision to commit suicide.” Because mentally ill people commit suicide over things that have nothing whatsoever to do with hate.

    The same thing with bullying. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of trying to codify bullying. It’s different in each case, depending on who’s the bully and who’s getting bullied. When I was 13, bullying was mostly my classmate dumping pencil shavings on my head, and poorly spelled notes to the effect that I was not going to be alive much longer. A pencil poke or punch here and there, but the main thing was the fact that I couldn’t go to school without being followed by this nonsense. So what are we going to do? Outlaw unauthorized use of pencil shavings? Screen all notes passed at lunchtime?

    While I was miserable during that time, I still went to school and made no attempts on my own life. The kids who bullied me mostly apologized at the end of the year (which, by the way, was an awesome moment in my youth – more overwhelming than the bullying).

    I reiterate that we need to raise strong and compassionate kids. The way to do that is to help them to understand how to deal with adversity head-on, how to view themselves independently of how others view them, and how to experience things from others’ point of view. And, we need to take responsibility for our kids’ mental health. Some issues simply can’t be wished away.

  35. Mel October 9, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    I agree. My partner and I were just having this discussion the other night. There’s been 5 deaths of gay teens in the last few weeks and all the media is hyping up the horribly bullying that caused it all. Trust me, as a dyke that came out when I was 15, what is happening to these kids isn’t bullying. Bullying is getting teased for being fat or wearing glasses or having the wrong kind of shoes. Bullying is slamming your locker shut when you just get it opened. What is happening to queer youth is agressive, violent and dehumanizing. It’s on a whole nother universe from bullying.

  36. Jennifer Jo October 9, 2010 at 7:50 am #

    Isn’t it a form of bullying to hate the bully?

  37. Mom of Two October 9, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    Thanks for stating this. I feel the same way. This is way beyond what we knew as bullying in our day!

  38. thinkbannedthoughts October 9, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    @pentamom – I agree. I remember when a bunch (about 10) women were raped in my town one summer when I was in college. All the newspapers printed that the important thing to remember was to not blame the victim, THEN they published all the things women could do to prevent rape!! Don’t walk alone at night, don’t drink (EVER), don’t sell your house by owner and answer the door when a buyer knocks, don’t wear skirts, don’t be polite to strangers with penises, don’t, don’t don’t.
    The result was that any woman who had ever been raped read the list and thought “That’s where I went wrong, I broke that rule of prevention.”
    NONE of the articles told boys or men how to not be a rapist, how to listen to the word “no”, how to interpret black-out drunkeness as an implicit “no”. The finger of prevention responsibility was firmly pointed at the woman.
    We now have that same situation with bullying (and hate crimes to a large degree).
    The victims are supposed to take responsibility for the prevention of future attacks.
    “Man up, be strong, just say no!”
    But what we need to do is teach the bullies,the haters, the rapists alternatives.
    Call me naive, someone out there wants to – but I think we CAN educate children, teens, college students, etc to be better people, to deal with their anger, frustration and desires in healthier ways.
    THAT is what we need to work toward, not making parents and children more paranoid and obsessive and protective.
    Was Tyler Clementi bullied to death, or was this a hate crime? It doesn’t matter – he’s dead, and he shouldn’t be. Further we shouldn’t be blaming the victim, we should be blaming the perpetrator and re-educating him (and his female co-conspirator).

  39. Lori October 9, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

    I totally agree. @Mel, I agree with you, too. What happened in this case goes way beyond bullying. What’s sad, is that I’m sure these two kids started out as regular bullies at a younger age — I can’t believe this was their first offense. We try our best to teach our kids to fight for underdogs, be empathetic and confidant. I hope this prompts the schools to do as much as they can to discourage bullying. For my kids, I’m going to go and grab a couple good picture books with an anti-bullying message. If anyone has any suggestions for other ways to help prevent our kids from bullying, I’d love to hear them.

  40. Dave October 9, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    Thank you for putting this in perspective. We must never over react nor let the exception become the rule. I read your blog because of your leval headed, logical approach. Thanks.

  41. Jennifer October 9, 2010 at 8:06 pm #

    I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that bullying involves minor incidents of kids teasing each other, and that there’s a category of things that are “crimes” that are far worse than bullying. In my experience bullying is what we call things that, if adults did them to each other, would be crimes: assault, sexual harassment, damaging other people’s possessions, systematic psychological cruelty. By this standard, what happened to Tyler Clementi was bullying.

    Incidents like one kid calling another a name once generally aren’t reported and aren’t even on the radar, except for a few over-hyped cases. But bullying is awfully common, and I don’t think we make too big a deal of it.

    And for a heart-wrenching response to the bullying of gay (and presumed gay) teenagers, look at Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project: It encourages people to make videos talking about the treatment they survived in high school and talk about how it eventually gets better. If you only watch one video, watch Dan and Terry’s.

  42. Sha October 9, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

    I think Dan Savage said it best on the Stranger’s blog the Slog.


  43. SKL October 9, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    OK, help me out here. Let’s talk about pure facts of this particular case. Imagine you are the evil roommate. You go to college and your new roommate asks you to scram for certain time periods. You assume he’s doing something he might not want you to know about so you spy on him (i.e., set up a camera in your own room). You see something in which you find shock value and post it on YouTube.

    Everyone is assuming the evil roommate came into this full of hate and wanting to hurt homosexuals. I see no evidence of that. For all we know, this guy was supportive of gay rights in principal. Just maybe not in his bedroom. Or maybe he didn’t even care about that, except for the opportunity to get attention by posting the video.

    Is it hate to see “having sex with a dude” as something to remark about? Is it a crime? How about not wanting that to occur in your own bedroom? Hate? A crime? I’m not seeing it.

    Some of the commenters are comparing this to severe violence and ongoing bullying. But I see no evidence of either. What I see is a short-sighted, opportunistic, mean guy who set up an apparatus (illegally) in his own room and posted his own video to the internet. This cannot and should not be compared with violence.

    Would it have been a hate crime if this young man had brought his friends back to the dorm room during the video’d event and used his key to open the door, allowing others to get a look?

    People are completely ignoring the fact that if it weren’t for the young victim’s own issues, of which the roommate may not have known, there would have been no suicide. The idea that posting a sex video is proximate cause for violent death is just too much of a stretch.

    I just think people are losing perspective here, and making the discussion completely incoherent.

    And on a more big-picture level, what are we really saying if we make it a hate crime to out a homosexual? Aren’t we saying that the fact of homosexuality is so disgusting that nobody should tell / know about it? Is that really the message we ought to be sending?

  44. Donna October 9, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    “NONE of the articles told boys or men how to not be a rapist, how to listen to the word “no”, how to interpret black-out drunkeness as an implicit “no”. The finger of prevention responsibility was firmly pointed at the woman.”

    I think that this is extremely unfair. Rape is absolutely NOT a crime of lack of knowledge on the part of the rapist. The rapist KNOWS what he is doing is wrong; he doesn’t care. Reading 1000 articles a day about how “no” means no and drunken stupor equals no is not going to suddenly make a man who has power issues with women stop. Some college guy who is completely oblivious to the idea that “no” means no is not going to suddenly have an epiphany when he reads it in the newspaper. He’s not going to be reading the article and suddenly say “oh, they really did mean no. My bad” and stop raping women. A decent parent will naturally raise a boy who respects women enough to take “no” for an answer. A crappy parent won’t care no matter how many articles they read.

    However, there are situations where if women keep themselves out of them, they will be less vulnerable to being assaulted. This is not blaming the victim but teaching people how to function safely in the world that we live in. Yes, it would be great if women could all do whatever they want whenever they want and be safe but that isn’t life. And this doesn’t always appear to be common, intuitive knowledge to many women. I live in a college town. We currently have a guy who is either a taxi-driver or pretending to be one raping lone college co-eds in his “cab.” Now, one would think that a 19 year old would just intuitively know not to get drunk at a bar and then take a taxi home by herself but, since this has happened repeatedly, they apparently do not. We don’t need to be overly paranoid and fearful of leaving the house or taking risks but is seems that some need lessons on common sense, self-preservation and not needlessly putting themselves in stupid vulnerable positions.

    Bullying is something different entirely. I do think that some good parents raise bullies without knowing it. Bullies are unlikely to engage in that behavior around adults and parents don’t always really know how their kids relate to other kids. Some signs that your kid is a bully and ways to combat bullying, from the bully’s standpoint, would be helpful. That said, there are always going to be bullies. There are parents who are bullies themselves who knowingly raise children who are bullies. So information from both sides is always going to be worthwhile.

  45. Donna October 9, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    Frankly, I don’t think that we have enough information to determine whether this was a hate crime or not.

    Did the roommate take and post this video because he hates homosexuals and wanted to torture this kid because he was gay? Then possible hate crime, regardless of whether the roommate knew this guy had other issues and would kill himself. He is still posting the intimate details of someone’s elses life online – and likely making it known to everyone – maliciously and simply because he hates his sexual orientation. And is doing it in a world that is particularly vocal against homosexuality right now (although the numbers of people who believe that homosexuality is fine are going up, the people who don’t are becoming more vocal and irate with gay marriage on the table). The suicide itself is not the hate crime; the posting of the video to ridicule and harass someone because of their sexual orientation is. I would think it a hate crime even if the boy had not killed himself so the knowledge of the roommate about his fragile mental state is irrelevant.

    Did he post it because he thought it would be funny? Would he have done the same thing if the roommate had been sleeping with a women? Did he even know it was a guy before he came up with the plan? Then totally not a hate crime. The roommate was a jerk, not a homophobe acting on his hatred of gays.

  46. Donna October 9, 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    That should be “a woman” not “a women.”

  47. kim October 9, 2010 at 10:39 pm #

    thank you Sarah

  48. Fern October 10, 2010 at 12:43 am #

    Donna – There’s two sorts of rape case. There’s the kind we think about when we hear the word ‘rape’, when a woman is [violently] assaulted by a stranger and it’s very, very clear that she did not consent. And the rapist is powerless to help themselves, to stop themselves doing this.

    And there’s the other kind, when maybe she’s a little bit more drunk than he thought she was and they go somewhere and it’s all confused and in the morning it’s clear she meant no but maybe he couldn’t tell that at the time, or he genuinely thought she consented – or maybe she did consent and change her mind, or whatever.

    It’s just like child abductions – we worry about children being abducted by strangers when the vast majority are by family members and people they know.

    A mentally ill rapist isn’t going to be helped by an article on ‘how not to be a rapist’. But someone who maybe isn’t sure about what could and couldn’t be taken as consent and what responsibility they do and do not have just might. It’s about not putting yourself in a dangerous situation – don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re not capable of clearly giving consent, and don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re not sure if consent was given.

  49. Allison October 10, 2010 at 2:04 am #

    The reason hate crimes laws exist is that hate crimes are meant to attack an entire community. For instance, spray-painting a swastika on a synagogue is a very different act than spray-painting Kilroy or something similarly innocuous.

  50. SKL October 10, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    Maybe they should let gay students request gay roommates. And they should let roommates who don’t want sex (heterosexual or otherwise) going on in their dorm rooms to be able to demand and enforce that right.

    Or if sex in the freshman dorm rooms is still against school policy (as I believe it should be), then would it be “hate” or “bullying” to demand that it stop?

  51. Fern October 10, 2010 at 3:26 am #

    ‘And they should let roommates who don’t want sex (heterosexual or otherwise) going on in their dorm rooms to be able to demand and enforce that right.’

    I don’t think anyone has the right to stop another person having sex just because they don’t like it.

    College freshmen are old enough to decide for themselves.

  52. SKL October 10, 2010 at 4:16 am #

    Fern, if college freshmen are not allowed to decide to live away from their parents without a roommate (which is the policy in most colleges as far as I know), then at the very least, they should be allowed to decide whether or not sex will occur in their own dorm rooms (bedrooms). “Old enough to decide for themselves” is one thing; doing it in space shared with someone else (against his wishes/values) is another. How rude. Chronologically, yes, it’s legal for them to have sex, but they can go have it somewhere else.

  53. Virginia October 10, 2010 at 5:52 am #

    EricS wrote:
    “A confident, secure child learns to ignore the teasing, and is able to stand up for himself. Even if something embarrassing happens to them, they are capable of over coming it. They look at the situation optimistically rather than pessimistically.”

    I wish I believed this were true in every case, but I think that even the most confident, secure child’s personality can be undermined by bullying. And not every kid–even those with loving, competent parents–is confident and secure. Kevin Henkes’ picture book “Chrysanthemum” is a great book about bullying among little kids that shows a happy, confident little girl made miserable by bratty girls in her preschool. She’s saved by an awesome teacher. But I always wonder what would have happened to Chrysanthemum if the wonderful Mrs. Twinkle hadn’t showed up at just the right time!

  54. Donna October 10, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    “And there’s the other kind, when maybe she’s a little bit more drunk than he thought she was and they go somewhere and it’s all confused and in the morning it’s clear she meant no but maybe he couldn’t tell that at the time, or he genuinely thought she consented – or maybe she did consent and change her mind, or whatever.”

    That is not, in my opinion, rape. That is bad choices. It is 100% not rape if she said “yes” and then changed her mind afterwards. It is also not rape if she said “no” so ambiguously that he thought that she was consenting.

    This is one of the problems – this over-defining of rape. Having sex with someone who clearly said “no” or someone who clearly could not consent – drugged, passed out drunk is rape. Not being sure enough yourself as to what you want that you are not sending clear “no” signals is not rape. Keep in mind that rape is an extremely serious charge that can get someone LIFE in prison (in my state). Let’s not throw around the word “rape” in situations that are not true rape.

  55. Donna October 10, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    And by afterwards, I mean after sex not after she said “yes.” Clearly she can change her mind anytime up until sex has actually occurred.

  56. Donna October 10, 2010 at 6:49 am #

    “I don’t think anyone has the right to stop another person having sex just because they don’t like it.
    College freshmen are old enough to decide for themselves.”

    It isn’t about stopping them from having sex; it’s about stopping them from having sex in their SHARED bedroom. I’m certainly not a prude and was having sex in college but that doesn’t mean that I wanted a roommate kicking me out of my own room for it or having it in the bed next to me while I slept. I never lived in the dorm and this was one of the reasons. Now freshmen are required to live in the dorms on most college campuses so a little respect for the other person occupying the room should be exhibited.

  57. Penni Russon October 10, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    I agree with you Lenore, when the word bullying is used to describe behaviour on such extreme spectrums it’s no longer a useful word. Language needs to be more nuanced than that. Or we may as well start calling apples and oranges bananas.

  58. helenquine October 10, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    I think anything that pretty much makes you unable to use your own room and that you’ve tried to resolve should be a reason to allow you to move without penalty. But other than a bit of ick factor a roommate having sex in your shared room is not really much different from one who plays music you hate too loudly or has friends over all the time while you’re trying to sleep, or any number of other activities you can’t ignore in a shared space.

    Not cooperating with your roommate so that you can both get on and relax (and sleep) in your room is rude and unsociable. But it’s rarely akin to broadcasting images of someone having sex on the internet.

    And why would being able to request a gay roommate help? Gay students need rooms they can use as much as straight students.

  59. SKL October 10, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    Helenquine, regarding your last question, there is an implication here that this whole thing happened because the (perhaps) straight roommate was intolerant or hateful of the gay roommate. There are implications that this is not an unusual scenario. So why not let people choose a roommate who leans his way, so at least he would not have to worry about intolerance and hate toward one’s sexual orientation? Just thinking it could make things a little less stressful for gay students. Obviously I would not recommend making it mandatory.

    Also, it’s not really that different from the norm of rooming people of the same sex together.

    I never said that the rudeness of asking someone to scram so you can have sex is “akin to” broadcasting images of sex on the internet. I’m just saying that maybe the universities could enforce some rules that could address the type of situation that led to the creation of the tape in the first place. Do you think this was the first time a roommate was ever taped having sex in a college dorm? I highly doubt it. Obviously the behavior (sex in a shared dorm room) is offensive, and offensive behavior is not unlikely to lead to retaliation of one type or other. Whether it’s gossip or some other kind of rude or illegal retailiation.

  60. T.Allen-Mercado October 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    I agree that this was indeed a “hate crime” and made that known on a popular social networking site where I was met with opposition mostly from people who were bullied in childhood. The complaint being that hate crime laws make some lives seem more valuable than others. I guess I feel had Tyler’s lifestyle not have been “othered” in the first place, he would likely not have been reduced to the kind of pain and shame that led him to take his life. I’m not dismissing the magnitude of bullying, but I do believe this is a horse of another color.

    Great read, as usual.

  61. Donna October 10, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    Frankly, the easiest resolution would be to go back to the days when we treated 18 year olds as the adults that they are and allowed them to choose where they want to live as opposed to mandating the dorm. I know that most freshman still chose to live in the dorms but you at least had an out if your roommate was not someone that you could live with. Now you are stuck going through the often completely unresponsive system of requesting a new roommate through the college.

    Short of that, I think having some ability to indicate gay friendliness on the dorm registration forms would be helpful. It doesn’t have to be “gay only” rooms. Many straight people would happily accept a gay roommate, of the same or opposite sex. The fact is that some heterosexuals are disgusted by the homosexual lifestyle. You’re also going to get people who who are not opposed to homosexuals in general but are very uncomfortable with a same-sex, homosexual roommate. This really is akin to forcing random heterosexual men and women to share bedrooms for a school year – something the university would NEVER do without the consent of the parties.

    However, I’m not sure that this would have helped in this situation. That plan deals with people who are out – readily admit to the university that they are gay. It appears that this kid was closeted. He probably wouldn’t have chosen the gay friendly area of the dorm anyway for fear of being discovered.

  62. SKL October 10, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    “I guess I feel had Tyler’s lifestyle not have been “othered” in the first place, he would likely not have been reduced to the kind of pain and shame that led him to take his life.”

    Maybe, but it is not the roommate’s fault that Tyler’s lifestyle was “othered.” It isn’t fair to blame an individual for all of society’s faults.

    On one hand some want to codify “hate” as meaning a crime committed based on the group the person is in. The danger is that the term “hate crime” gets applied to every crime where the victim happens to be gay (or black or whatever).

    There have been other people who were not in “othered” groups who have committed suicide based on things that have happened to them on the internet. The fact that this individual was gay does not make the behavior of the perpetrators different from what it would be if he were straight – unless it is separately proven that the perps came into this with a hate for and desire to hurt gays specifically.

  63. Rich Wilson October 11, 2010 at 12:40 am #

    ‘The gay lifestyle’? I guess that would make mine ‘the brunette lifestyle’.

  64. helenquine October 11, 2010 at 2:44 am #

    SKL – Sorry, I read your comment about sex in the dorm room as being more along the victim blaming lines, my mistake.

    I see some value in giving those who are more vulnerable some choice in grouping together in order to feel safer. Especially if there is good reason for them to be fearful. But, as Donna points out, those who are closeted or unsure (and so I would think most vulnerable) are unlikely to avail themselves of such a facility. And what happens to those who are Bi?

    Shared rooms are a problem at college. Few children nowadays share even with their own siblings. I don’t think their are particularly useful lessons to be learned for most people being thrown in with strangers at the point they emerge into adulthood. Even when I went to college it didn’t seem to be working – about 20% of our college accommodation was shared rooms. I got lucky, though assigned to a shared room I actually became good friends with mine. I didn’t know anyone else who had a roommate who had anything much to do with them by the time they graduated.

  65. helenquine October 11, 2010 at 3:05 am #

    Donna – “This really is akin to forcing random heterosexual men and women to share bedrooms for a school year – something the university would NEVER do without the consent of the parties. ”

    If it’s unreasonable to make someone share with someone else who might be sexually attracted to them, or whom they might be attracted to, gay or bi students would have to be offered single rooms. Which might make everyone claim to be gay or bi. Hmm….

  66. ebohlman October 11, 2010 at 4:07 am #

    SKL: The danger you refer to hasn’t been observed in practice (and in the US we’ve had hate-crime sentencing enhancement for things like race for over 40 years now). Let’s not indulge in what-if thinking here.

  67. Jo October 11, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    OMG how did this come down to dorm room sharing. How have I been driven to use OMG when I hate that term. Shame on all of you.

    Around 50% of Universities allow all levels to have off campus housing. The number may be more. Most parents are too darn lazy to find off campus housing so they are at the mercy of the University. If you are willing to pony up the cash you can have private on campus housing. Most parents use the excuse they want their children to make friends to save a few bucks.

    So far as blaming the victim, come on folks! Telling someone how to minimize being a victim is not akin to blaming the victim. Yeah I know self defense but that doesn’t mean the woman who does not know self defense wants to be a victim. It is that she is unaware how self defense helps or something of that nature.

    Acting like self defense courses or information about self defense, where are not too smart places to hang out, and things of the life, well, acting like these are a bad thing is playing right in the hands of predators so y’all grow up okay?

    If you are drunk!, male or female, you cannot legally enter a contract. Now lets take this to the next logical level. If you cannot enter a contract do you think you can consent to sex. End of discussion a guy can tell when you are drunk. He better know you pretty damn well if he is going to have sex with you cause it is rape.

    Hate crime v. bullying, neither would be the winner. Don’t know which law because there isn’t a lot of information place here but laws were broken.

    Oh and there is a movement to make it more reportable if your room mate kicks ya to the curb to have sex regardless of who they are having sex with.

    Lord you guys must love my rants. :p

  68. Carrie October 11, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Recording one’s sexual encounters and then broadcasting them publicly on the internet is beyond bullying. It’s criminal.

    The topic of bullying has been on my mind lately. What concerns me mostly is the way children and young adults are handling it – by killing themselves. While I totally sympathize with the despair victims of bullies must feel, I have a hard time understanding this trend of suicide. I wonder if the media’s coverage is contributing to this trend.

    There have always been bullies, kids can be cruel, and so on. Although now bullying can be taken to new levels now – with texting, social networks, and the internet. Certainly bullying is different now, with so many new ways to torment someone, but are our children less capable of handling being bullied, than a generation or so ago? Since kids of today never experience losing anything (everyone gets a trophy and there are no ‘winners’ or ‘losers’), rarely play together and experience enough social interaction, and have less independence (which develops confidence), perhaps our children aren’t prepared for bullying at all – especially such extreme bullying. Suicide is NEVER a good solution.

  69. Donna October 11, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    “‘The gay lifestyle’? I guess that would make mine ‘the brunette lifestyle’.”

    Not unless brunettes only have sex with other brunettes.

    “If you are drunk!, male or female, you cannot legally enter a contract. Now lets take this to the next logical level. If you cannot enter a contract do you think you can consent to sex. End of discussion a guy can tell when you are drunk. He better know you pretty damn well if he is going to have sex with you cause it is rape.”

    First, sex is not a contract. As matter of fact, every first year law student learns during 1st semester contracts law that any contract involving sex is not enforceable (maybe in Nevada where prostitution is legal). And having sex while drunk is absolutely NOT rape. If it was, the vast majority of the drinking population would be incarcerated and on the sex registry since most have done it at least once. Having sex with someone who is completely incapacitated to the point of not being able to consent – passed out, basically – is indeed rape. However, drunkenness does not per se invalidate anything a person does – from having sex to committing crimes to entering into contracts.

  70. Rich Wilson October 11, 2010 at 8:31 am #

    “Not unless brunettes only have sex with other brunettes”

    I only have sex with brunettes. In fact with only one brunette.

  71. kherbert October 11, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    pentamom – Good point. One I’m going to bring up with our Tech committee. I hadn’t thought about it from that direction. I have my class on a closed social site where they can message each other. We have talked about the consequences of bullying including getting your account suspended, that everything can be traced back to you, and that nothing is private as administrator I can see all.

    Just from my personal life experience the ring leader/alpha mean kid is going to have one of two types of parents. Most common the parents are also ring leader alpha types. They consider their child’s behavior normal and good. That is how they got ahead, so this is how their kid is going to get ahead.

    The other parent isn’t a parent – they are barely a cell donor. They are completely cowed by their child. You see them interact and feel the urge to call the elder abuse line to see if someone can extract this shell of a person from the situation.

    It is the swing votes that you can change. These are most kids and they often do what they see as the most safe course of action. They are going to be troubled by the bullying and want adult help.

  72. Amber October 11, 2010 at 2:41 pm #


    Relatedly, what do you think about this Oct. 8th piece, which terrified me, about ‘mean-girl bullying trickling down to grade school” in the NYT (“The Playground Gets Even Tougher”)?

    I’d really love your thoughts on this. Thanks!

  73. Elsanders Jason Vandam October 12, 2010 at 12:25 am #

    Your article was interesting to read.

  74. Carrie October 12, 2010 at 2:18 am #


    I checked out the NYTimes article you posted and have a few thoughts…

    My bullying started in first grade (1979). We moved mid-school year and I was the new kid. I had a funny last name and a little bit of a Pittsburgh accent. My first tormentor was a boy, who ironically had an equally ridiculous last name. At first I laughed it off, then I tried to stand up for myself, then I told my parents, but eventually I gave up. It got worse each year. By 5th grade I had zero self esteem, and I hated school and myself.

    I don’t recall either males or females being worse. It was just non gendered meanness – with boys and girls equally participating.

    I think this possibility,as suggested in the article, plays a huge role today: “It could just be heightened awareness among hyper-parents, ever attuned to their children’s most minuscule slight.”

    When I told my parents I was being ruthlessly picked on, I was told, “It’s all in your head – everyone doesn’t hate you. Quite worrying about all the other kids. Why do you let a kid with a name like ‘Featherstein’ upset you so much?” Basically, I got no sympathy, interventions, or concern. Certainly, that isn’t the best way to deal with a child who is clearly distraught by bullying/teasing, but back then that was how most parents dealt with it.

    Anyway, I thought I’d share my experience with being teased/bullied at an early age. For me, it started when I was 6 and lasted until I was about 10. I was teased about my hair, weight, last name, way I talked, what I wore, and boys and girls equally participated.


  1. Deadly bullying « Steven's Blog - October 11, 2010

    […] not having to be a helicopter parents worrying about stranger danger around the clock.  She has a blog posting on the subject on “Deadly Bullying” that I found interesting and relevant to this blog […]