The effects of bullying last into adulthood

(February 21, 2013) A long-term study released Wednesday by Duke University supports earlier research that the effects of bullying last into adulthood. Significantly, the new study represents 20 years worth of work on the part of the researchers.

In the study, 1,400 children ages 9, 11, and 13 were interviewed. During these interviews, the children were asked about their experiences bullying or being bullied. After sorting their responses, it was determined that 5% were children who solely bullied others and were not bullied themselves, 21% were exclusively victims of bullying, and 4.5% were both bullies and bullied at various times.

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$1M judgment for racially bullied special education student

In a victory for bullied school students that was aided in part by the Obama administration, a federal court of appeals has upheld a million dollar verdict that had been appealed by a New York state school district. It must now pay for the deliberate indifference that it exhibited as one of its students endured years of racial harassment. The Obama administration contributed to the case by filing a friend of the court brief, arguing on behalf of the lower court’s decision and that school districts can be found financially liable when they fail to take action reasonable efforts to end known student-to-student harassment.

Read the rest of my article here.

Coulter defense of her “retard” comment reveals her true colors

Ann Coulter (Photo credit: Huffington Post)

Following the third debate between President Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, Ann Coulter a news “personality,” tweeted out, ““I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard”, referring to President Obama. Immediately and justifiably a large number of people began to call Coulter out for her offensive word choice, which upset people for two main reasons: 1) that she finds it okay to use such a demeaning term to the mentally disabled, and 2) that she would feel it is okay to speak about an elected president of the United States in such a manner. Coulter’s defense of her “retard” comment reveals her true colors.

My biggest problem with Ann Coulter is what her actions show about her character. I do not follow Ann Coulter so maybe my thoughts are a statement of the obvious to people who do, but through this controversy, my perception of Ms. Coulter is that she is a bully, the worst kind of bully. The type of person who targets those who least have the ability to protect themselves. Bullying of special needs children is a huge problem in our world. In my special education law practice, I work with developmentally disabled children every day. Among the many challenges they must face, one particularly common and galling one is bullying. Whether it is name calling or physical assaults, special needs children are far more likely to be bullied than typical school children.

So, when Ann Coulter chooses to use a word that Peirs Morgan correctly noted was the equivalent of the “N” word to black Americans, she intentionally choose a word that she must know brings pain to a great many people who simply do not deserve it. This begs the question of why, what is her motive for doing this? Well, it appears for the basest of reasons, to draw attention to herself because she has a new book being released, Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama. According to David Phillips,

When Coulter makes her outlandish and offensive comments, more often than not, she has a new book that she wants to promote.

Based on this, it is safe to assume that so long as Ms. Coulter profits through increased book sales, she does not care upon whom she needs to step on to get them. Even her defense of her comments was off-putting. First, she attacked liberals who had made offensive comments about the disabled, mentioning Obama’s Special Olympics” comment concerning bowling and also Al Gore’s comment concerning right wingers having an “extra chromosome.” (meaning have Down’s Syndrome) There are some huge differences between these comments and hers. First, both President Obama and Al Gore apologized for their comments rather than going on the offensive. Second, neither of them made the comments for financial gain, as Ms. Coulter appears to be doing.

Finally, her defense that “retard” is a synonym for loser just does not hold water. According to, the N word means “a victim of prejudice similar to that suffered by blacks.” I’m hard pressed to believe that Ann Coulter would tweet the N word and try to defend herself by saying that she felt the person she was tweeting about was a victim of prejudice.

Ann Coulter is receiving a great deal of blow back for her tweet. My hope is that if she receives enough, she may actually recognize the error in her ways. Being cynical though, I can say an apology coming out after her comments have gotten her on as many talk shows as possible promoting her new book would be worse than worthless.

If you would like to watch an eloquent rebuttal to Ann Coulter’s comments given by John Franklin, a disabled individual, click here.

Disabled children 4X more likely to experience violence suggests study

Child victim of violence

credit: adpunch

In a recent study published in The Lancet and funded by WHO, the World Health Organization, it was discovered that children identified as disabled are nearly 4 times more likely to experience childhood violence than their typical peers. The methodology for the research was to examine all the previous research on the subject over a 20 year period and then determine for those studies the strength of the research methodology. Based on this, 17 studies were chosen from a pool of 10,663 possibilities. The results of those 17 studies were then pooled and analyzed to reach its conclusions.

Findings: According to the study, violence is a major problem for all children with disabilities. The highest levels of exposure to violence was among emotionally disturbed children, while the lowest rates were seen among children whose disabilities were labeled as non-specific.

The authors note that their study has some weaknesses, stating

However, the continued scarcity of robust evidence, due to a lack of well designed research studies, poor standards of measurement of disability and violence, and insufficient assessment of whether violence precedes the development of disability, leaves gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed.

A summary of the report is here and the full study can be found here.

Supreme Court declines to hear zero-tolerance case

The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down a case involving application of a school district’s zero-tolerance policy regarding weapons to a student who shot spit wads in class. With its decision, the six-month school expulsion stands since the student has no further recourse.

In 2010, Andrew Mikel was a freshman at Spotsylvania High School in Pennsylvania. During lunch one day, he made the unfortunate choice to shoot small plastic pellets from the broken tube of a ball point pen at three students during the break. While the victims in the incident did report that the pellets left red marks, no one was injured by Andrew’s actions.

Andrew Mikel II and his father (Credit

At first, Andrew was given a 10-day suspension, but the school board later voted to extend the suspension citing the district’s zero-tolerance policy for weapons policy which states that students who use a weapon to threaten, intimidate, or injure another student are subject to expulsion for a 365 period absent extenuating circumstances. Their actions did not stop even there though. The district referred the incident to the criminal courts where the honor student was accused of assault. Andrew was required by the court to attend a diversion program and took anger management classes and substance abuse classes.

In all this, the fact that the student was an honor student who wrote letters of apology to each of the victims and also offered restitution to the families in the form of raking leaves at their homes seems to have never been taken into consideration.

The lower court, despite upholding the school board’s decision, noted in its holding the absurdity that Andrew could be expelled for shooting spit wads, but if he had instead simply walked up and punched a student in the face, the maximum punishment would be a 10-day suspension.

It is a shame that the court declined to take up the case. This is another example of how zero-tolerance policies are being used in ways that make zero sense and children’s lives are being harmed in the process.

In this case, Andrew, an honor student, was preparing himself to gain entrance into the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Now, due to the criminal charges and his expulsion, that dream is shattered. He has been informed that based on this incident and the ensuing disciplinary actions, it is virtually impossible for him to pursue his dream. Due to this, he has now decided to try to get into the Virginia Military Institute instead.

If schools are going to continue to attempt school expulsions for disciplinary infractions of this sort, more court cases are sure to follow. While everyone wants schools to be safe, expelling this student in this case does nothing to advance that goal. The students were never in danger, nor was it even argued that the student intended to cause bodily injury to the other students.

While this student is out-of-luck, it can be hoped that the Court will take up such a case in the future and give guidance on the appropriate uses of zero-tolerance in school.

Mikel family discusses case (click to go to YouTube video)


Guidelines created balancing student free speech and anti-bullying law

The American Jewish Committee has drafted a set of guidelines contained in an 11-page pamphlet entitled Harassment, Bullying and Free Expression: Guidelines for Free and Safe Public Schools,”  The guidelines have received a broad consensus coalition including groups such as the American Association of School Administrators, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Religion Action Center of Reform Judaism.

The pamphlet is an attempt to provide some clarity on an issue that has been a thorn in the side of schools for some time. In recent years, a broad range of educational institutions have been pushing the Supreme Court to take up a free speech in school case. Administrators correctly argue that the outdated Tinker standard no longer works in the social media/bullying age. As quoted by the Huffington Post, Francisco Negron, the National School Boards Association general counsel, “The pamphlet can fill a need the judicial system has not.”

Negron is further quoted as saying the 11-page pamphlet outlines the difference between “what constitutes a personal attack, and the expression of an idea.” Based on current law governing free speech in schools, the guidelines attempt to balance the sometime competing interests of free speech and anti-bullying policy.

The guidelines offer a balanced perspective that seeks to foster the healthy expression of ideas while disallowing personal attacks against individual students and/or student groups.

One important sentence reads…

Words that convey ideas are one thing: words that are used as assault weapons quite another.

Other important excerpts include…

• …schools should consider incorporating proactive measures as part of their response, apart from discipline and suppression of speech.
• Public schools should not be satisfied with merely avoiding legal liability for harassment or bullying.
• Schools themselves are free to communicate in a non-coercive way their own views on subjects that generate controversy in the community…

As would be expected from guidelines endorsed by such a broad spectrum of groups, the core message of these suggestions is one of education and tolerance. The central message is for administrators to allow political speech, but to deal with speech directed toward individuals or speech which is likely to cause substantial disruption on campus.

Cyberbullying education should begin at younger age research suggests

A study conducted by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) looking at the role technology in cyberbullying has shown that students are gaining complete access to the internet at earlier ages. The increased access is occurring at a time when bullying, particularly for young girls, reaches some of its highest levels of incidence.

Read the rest of my article here.

Celebrities taking up anti-bullying cause

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in some tropical island somewhere, and if the latter is the case, lucky you!) you are aware how severe a situation bullying has become not only in our schools, but more recently in our homes.

Bullying today has become such a prevalent problem, that celebrities today have not been shy about jumping on the “anti-bullying” bandwagon.  Celebrities from Ellen DeGeneres to Anne Hathaway to Justin Bieber have taken a stand to speak out against bullying.
Continue reading on Celebrities join the war against bullying! – Anaheim relationship counseling |

Michele Branch and her husband Greg have teamed up to fight bullying through Bully Proofed. Visit their site to learn about what they are doing or visit them on Facebook.

Is “cyberbaiting” a real trend that should concern teachers?

Out-of-control classroom

Norton Online Family Reports documents what some consider to be an alarming trend in education: “cyberbaiting.” This is when a student or group of students deliberately provoke a teacher in an attempt to get the person to lose control. If successful, a student then secretly videos the outburst using their cell phone and posts the humiliating display on social media sites. Read my thought on this issue here.