Entries in Bullying (33)


Lady Gaga Meets with White House Staff About Bullying

ABC News Radio(WASHINGTON) -- White House officials confirm that pop icon Lady Gaga has a meeting scheduled in the West Wing Tuesday afternoon with senior presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett and Jarrett's staff on the topic of bullying.

President Obama is on the road and will not be around Tuesday to meet Gaga, but she already had her one-on-one with him on the issue of bullying at an Obama fundraiser Sept. 25 in Silicon Valley, Calif.

Gaga has made speaking out against bullying -- especially when it's over sexual orientation -- one of her primary causes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Michigan Giving 'License to Bully'?

Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Thinkstock(LANSING, Mich.) -- LGBT advocates and the father of the boy for whom a Michigan anti-bullying law is named are slamming the state senate, claiming a last-minute First Amendment tweak gives "a major green light" to school bullies.

The Michigan Senate this week passed a bill to authorize the law, Matt's Safe School Law, which is named after Matt Epling, a freshman from East Lansing, Mich., who killed himself after being bullied by upperclassmen in 2002.

But in a change before Wednesday's vote, Republican lawmakers added a clause ensuring that the bill "does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held belief or moral conviction" of a student or school worker.

"They kind of snuck in this extra paragraph, really kind of setting apart kids that feel their religious beliefs, their moral convictions, basically, can allow them to bully," said Matt Epling's father, Kevin Epling. "That one paragraph, though, negates most of the things that we tried to put in."

Michigan is one of three U.S. states without an anti-bullying law.

Kevin Epling told ABC News Friday that the change was made after he'd spent more than six years pushing for the legislation.

Friday, he called the law as it stands "a time bomb," adding that the change created a loophole that allowed students to use their religion to justify bullying another.

"I think it fails the memory of Matt," he said. "We cannot go backward and say, in any way, shape or form, in a piece of legislation that it is OK under religious grounds to harass or harm your fellow student. And that's what they've done."

Republican state Sen. Rick Jones, the bill's sponsor, told ABC News Friday that the GOP wanted to make sure students' First Amendment rights were protected.

The state lawmaker said the bill was personal to him because his son, now 31, had been a victim of bullying, and because a friend's granddaughter had fatally shot herself after being bullied.

Dan Savage, a sex columnist who launched the It Gets Better Project to encourage gay youth, however, called the bill in its current form "a license to bully."

"I was appalled when I read that it had passed. ... It really is a God-hates-fags-special-rights-for-Christians-to-abuse-LBGT-kids-in-the-school law," he told ABC News Friday.

"It's a law that specifically empowers students, teachers, administrators [and] principals to bully LGBT kids if they can point to a moral justification," he said. "You have a right to your own religious beliefs. You don't have a right to inflict your private moral judgments on those people in a place where you are a public servant and an employee of the state. ... Michigan should be ashamed of itself."

Kevin Epling said that the anti-bullying proposal had dashed the hopes of many students who'd believed the measure would effect change in schools and protect victims.

"We need to get students to tolerate each other," he said. "We need to have more acceptance in our schools. This legislation is actually going to put another problem in the schools that does not need to be there."

The bill is headed to the state House.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mother of Girl, Bullied to Death, Speaks Out Against Tormentors

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- The heartbroken mother of bullied teen Phoebe Prince ended her silence Wednesday as two of her late daughter's tormentors were sentenced in a Massachusetts courtroom. Anne O'Brien, Phoebe Prince's mother, broke down as she read a victim impact statement in front of Judge Jeffrey Kinder.

"Never again will she ask me to read a short story...or poem she has written," said O'Brien. "Phoebe was a beautiful, intelligent and gregarious daughter with a kind heart able to show compassion for others."

Sean Mulveyhill, 18, and Kayla Narey, 18, both pled guilty to criminal harassment in Hampshire Superior Court and were sentenced to a year's probation and community service.

Phoebe Prince moved with her family from Ireland to South Hadley, Mass., in 2009. She entered South Hadley High School and began a brief relationship with Mulveyhill. The relationship apparently angered Mulveyhill's former girlfriend, Kayla Narey, and even though Prince and Mulveyhill eventually stopped dating Narey and her friends continued to bully and harass Prince in-person and online.

Prince hanged herself in January of 2010.

Anne O'Brien addressed both of her daughter's former classmates in open court Wednesday, speaking first about Sean Mulveyhill, her daughter's former boyfriend.

"Had I known the truth I would have viewed his interest in my daughter as predatory…where was his empathy?" asked O'Brien.

O'Brien also spoke about Kayla Narey's role as one of her daughter's bulliers. "Kayla had the opportunity to be a true leader…and end Phoebe's torment…Kayla Narey is not capable of compassion."

In a written statement, First District Attorney Steven Gagne said the plea deals were reached after a "thorough consultation with the family, and have their approval and support." Gagne added that jail time for the defendants was not as important to the Prince family as hearing a public apology.

Three other teens accused of bullying Phoebe Prince, Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins and Sharon Velazquez are expected to also plead guilty Thursday in juvenile courtroom tomorrow.

A sixth student, Austin Renaud, has a pretrial conference scheduled for July.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Slumber Party Suicides: Teens Make Pact, Hang Themselves

Haylee Fentress, left, and Paige Moravetz. (Courtesy Robin Settle; Brett Behnke)(LYND, Minn.) -- A slumber party in Minnesota ended in tragedy when two eighth grade girls fulfilled a suicide pact, killing themselves and leaving behind suicide notes telling their families that they loved them.

The bodies of best friends Haylee Fentress and Paige Moravetz, both 14, were discovered Saturday by Fentress' mother, Tracy Morrison.

Haylee's aunt, Robin Settle, said the girl had recently moved to the rural town of Lynd, Minn., and had complained to her family that she felt ostracized and bullied. Settle also said there are indications the girls had planned their deaths for a long time, even including funeral details in a goodbye note.

Settle said that her niece, Haylee, had been the victim of bullying after moving to Minnesota from Indiana with her mother and eight-year-old brother.

"She was made fun of for being overweight, her red hair," Settle said. "She posted on my [Facebook] wall that she really wanted to come back...that the people were mean and cruel and she didn't fit in."

Even though Haylee wasn't severely overweight, she was so uncomfortable about her size that she rarely ate in public at school, Settle said.

Paige was Haylee's closest friend. Haylee was recently expelled from school for defending Paige during a fight in school, Settle said.

"They did hang themselves. My sister found them. She's a medical assistant. She attempted to resuscitate them," Settle said.  Efforts to resuscitate the girls failed.

The girls also left behind letters.

"She just didn't want anybody to be sad for her. She wanted everybody to pray for her and that's the gist of it," Behnke said of Paige's note.

Haylee's letter was to her mother and detailed plans for her funeral, Settle said.

"She requested everything pink and princess and butterflies," Settle said.

A funeral will be held Thursday for Haylee and a second one will be held for Haylee on Saturday in Indiana. Paige's funeral is scheduled for Wednesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fourth Grader Suspended Over 'Kick Me' Sign Prank

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images (file)(NEW YORK) -- The age-old prank of sticking a "kick me" sign to a classmate's back has landed one fourth grader in serious trouble at a New York City elementary school.

A 9-year-old boy was suspended for two days for sticking a post-it note on another student's back with the words "kick me" scribbled on it. The mother of the suspended student is reportedly upset that her son's joke led to punishment, the New York Post reported.

The suspension comes amid a national debate over what constitutes bullying and when efforts to block bullying have gone too far. The "kick me" punishment has divided experts on whether the school went too far.

The incident happened at P.S. 158 in Manhattan in late January. New York City's Department of Education defended the suspension. The school would not identify the student or release any information about whether the disciplined student's prank led to any injuries.

Over the last 10 years, there's been a spike in school suspensions in New York City. A report released last month showed that the number of suspensions in New York City schools are at an all time high.  The study, done by the New York Student Safety Coalition and the New York Civil Liberties Union, showed that one in 14 of New York's public school students are suspended each year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Phoebe Prince's Family Speaks Out as One-Year Anniversary of Suicide Nears

Photo Courtesy - EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(SOUTH HADLEY, Mass.) -- Nearly a year after 15-year-old Phoebe Prince hanged herself in her family's South Hadley, Mass. home after alleged bullying and harassment by her classmates, Phoebe's family is calling for more awareness about teenage suicide.

"I think the truest justice for Phoebe is to speak out on her behalf against the despair and the pain that our children are holding inside and to make it better...for another child," Eileen Moore, the aunt of Phoebe Phoebe, said. "I don't have the answers, I just know we have a crisis and we need to do something."

With the blessing of Phoebe's family, a group of Boston-area teenagers called the Samaritans is holding a fundraiser -- "Make Noise to Save a Life" -- Thursday night to raise awareness about suicide prevention.

"Our children are in desperate pain," Moore said. "We're not listening, we're not hearing their pain, we need to start an active conversation."

Phoebe, who would have turned 16 in November, was found dead in January. Her family had recently moved to South Hadley from Ireland. Following her death, friends came forward to describe her torment.

"A lot of people just would always like taunt and tease her, just call her names," Kate Broderick, a friend of Phoebe's, said. The taunting extended to text messages, and harassment on social networking sites such as Facebook.

Last July, Anne O'Brien Prince and William Allan Jeremy Prince, Phoebe's parents, filed a discrimination suit with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, citing "sexual harassment in an educational institution" as the basis for the complaint that named South Hadley Public Schools Superintendent Gus Sayer, Principal Dan Smith, Vice Principal William Evans and other members of the school staff, alleging that they "failed to adequately address or remedy the harassing conduct of the school's students, which had the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with Phoebe's education by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating and sexually offensive educational environment."

The six-page document cited several specific incidents in which Vice Principal William Evans learned of multiple acts of bullying and failed to follow school disciplinary procedures. One example occurred Jan. 8, 2010, by a student referred to as "Student B," who admitted to verbally assaulting and threatening Phoebe and calling her vulgar and offensive epithets. Despite the admission, the complaint alleges neither "Mr. Evans nor any other administrator contacted Phoebe's parents to address the harassing conduct."

Officials from the school have always maintained that they acted in accordance with school policy and could not have prevented her death. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Florida Student Pummeled While Teacher Sits Back

Photo Courtesy - Getty(PALM BEACH, Florida) -- The pummeling of a Palm Beach, Florida middle school boy by another student has infuriated the boy's family who say the teacher did nothing but sit by his computer while the fight raged in his classroom.

Video of the fight between Joshua Poole, 13, and his Jeaga Middle School classmate shows Poole swinging wildly as he is punched repeatedly before falling to the floor. The teacher's inaction was reportedly due to a school policy that staff can only intervene after undergoing training, according to the school district.

That type of "policy run amok" is a growing problem in schools across the country, according to Carol Kochhar-Bryant, a professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

"In the past there have been many families, if the child gets injured in any way by an intervention by a teacher, there have been instances where the teachers have been reprimanded," she said. "Those policies protect the school, they protect the teacher, but we are realizing now they don't protect the child in those situations."

Palm Beach County school district officials insist the teacher followed procedure during the middle school fight, which took place last month, and that he was not properly trained per district protocol to break up such altercations.

"When the students would not stop fighting, the teacher went to the hallway to get help," read a statement released by the school district. "Assistant Principal Brent Higley responded and helped stopped the fight."

The Pooles' lawyer, Craig Goldenfarb, said he planned to sue on their behalf, charging negligence on the part of the school district. Goldenfarb said Joshua would be seen by a pediatric neurologist for repeated headaches and blurred vision.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


New Jersey Holds Hearings to Toughen Up Anti-Bullying Laws

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(TRENTON, N.J.) -- Lawmakers in New Jersey will hold hearings Monday on a bill to toughen the state's anti-bullying laws.

New Jersey has had an anti-bullying law on the books for years, but state politicians say it hasn't really helped.  They want teachers to be trained on how to recognize and prevent harassment, and they want them to report bullying even if it happens off school grounds.

The proposed legislation follows the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge after a video of himself and a male involved in a sexual encounter was streamed online by his roommate and another student.

It is estimated that a third of all students between the ages of 12 and 18 have been bullied at school.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


New School for Kids Whose Mom Risked Jail to Protect Daughter from Bullies

File photo. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- The children of a Philadelphia mother who vowed to go to jail if her bullied children weren't transferred to a different school will be joining new classrooms Friday.

Cheryl Joseph's two daughters, 13-year-old Tiffany and 11-year-old Gabrielle, will be placed in new schools, Philadelphia Public School District Superintendent Arlene Ackerman announced, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

Repeated calls to the school district by ABC News were not immediately returned, nor were those to Joseph, who told the Daily News that her children were so happy to escape the torment of the bullies at their old school that they were "hugging each other and giving each other high-fives."

The decision to move the two girls came after Joseph made a public plea to the school district, claiming she'd be willing serve time for her children's truancy rather than send them into the "hell hole" of bullying. Joseph had been told by a truancy court in Philadelphia that if she didn't enroll Tiffany in a school by early next year, she could face at least five days in prison, a $500 fine and community service. Her children could also be removed from her care, she said.

Her daughter has reportedly been beaten up and even had basketballs thrown at her and "bounced off her" by bullies who "don't like the way she looks," Joseph said. Bullies have called her daughter's cell phone and cursed at her, according to Joseph, and spread rumors that Tiffany was doing "inappropriate things with boys."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Laura Bush Lends Support to Bullied Gay Teens

Photo Courtesy - Archie Carpenter/Getty Images(LONG BEACH, Calif.) -- Former first lady Laura Bush, who came out in support of gay marriage and abortion after she vacated the White House, split again with some social conservatives to back anti-bullying measures intended to protect gay teens.

"Bullying of every kind, certainly gay teens, but any children is really terrible," Bush said in an interview Tuesday for the Yahoo Newsmakers series at the Women's Conference 2010 in California.

"We've read cases of children on the Internet where kids are committing suicide. It's really terrible. As adults, we have to be the ones who do something about it," Bush said in reference to a spate of recent suicides by gay teens, including Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, who jumped off a bridge after his roommate surreptitiously broadcast a private sexual encounter on the Internet.

Bush said she was proud of openly gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, who was one of the first public officials to share a story of being bullied as a teenager and tell young people "it will get better."

Since then, celebrities and politicians, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama, have videotaped messages of hope directed at gay teens, as part of an online campaign called It Gets Better.

In May, more than a year after leaving the White House with President George W. Bush, the first lady admitted publicly that she and her husband "disagree" on many social issues, including abortion and same-sex marriage.

Despite her newfound willingness to diverge from her husband, Bush was careful with her words when talking about Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

"Sarah Palin is Sarah Palin," Bush said in response to a question about how the one-time GOP vice presidential candidate has reshaped the way women run for office. "That's her style. It's obviously been effective. There are a lot of people who watch her and want her support."

Bush said she did not know whether Palin, who has recently visited Iowa and publicly endorsed a slate of candidates from across the country, would run for president in 2012.

"[Palin's] out there," Bush said. "She's speaking everywhere, but I don't know if that's because she wants to run. I have no idea."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio