Category Archives: bullying

Bullying Revisted: Karen Klein and the Continued Need For Change

I returned this weekend after visiting with my partner’s family flush with the joy of getting to meet the newest child to be born into their family. I had the pleasure of sitting down with my partner’s brother in particular. He talked a lot about the joys and challenges of raising two young boys but we also talked about how boys are socialized outside of the home as well. As a football coach in a major high school in Texas, violence amongst boys is a particular concern for him as well. However, this past year, the head coaches of all of the high schools in their district agreed to implement bystander training for all of their players every friday. And it is working, he told me, the boys on his team are becoming more aware and more responsive towards each other’s words and actions against each other and others in their lives.

I thought back to the many people who took the Iowa Men’s Action Network Father’s Day pledge and I felt hope that for the first time in a long time, our society had reached a tipping point where a critical number of people were having conversations about healthy masculinity, respect, and bystander behavior that we could finally make a change for the better towards a violence free society.

And then the story of Karen Klein the bus monitor popped up on my news feed and I realized just how far we still need to go. Couple this story with the continued high rates of teen suicide, alcohol and drug dependency, and academic drop outs show us just how much more needs to be done.

Fortunately, bullying is no longer accepted as “boys being boys” or “girls being catty.” We know this to be true with the critical reception of movies and educational programs like The Bully Project. We see it with the responses to bullying against gay and transgender children through the It Gets Better Campaign. Everywhere you look, more people are not only concerned about the emotional and physical costs of bullying, but are willing to step up and speak out about  bullying.

Which brings me back to Karen. Though you can read (and view) the full details of how several young boys ganged up and teased the 68 bus monitor until she broke down into tears in the first link in this article, I was particularly struck by the response to this disturbing incident.  Not only did the story explode over night, but it resonates with people who haven’t been involved in anti-bullying efforts before. Particularly, this is someone’s grandmother. In fact, it could be ANYONE’S grandmother who only sought to help kids by volunteering to supervise their bus rides to and from school.

I was particularly struck by a video that a few marines from Fort Meade, Maryland sent in. You can view their video here.

However, despite the public attention through a guest appearance on Anderson Cooper and a social media crowdsourced vacation to Disney land, I am still deeply concerned by the story of Karen Klein for a number of reasons.

1) The lessons of bullying were never really learned or taught effectively to the young boys who bullied Karen.

After the media firestorm this past week, two of the kids released statements of apology through the police that are tepid at best. One wrote:

“I am so sorry for the way I treated you. When I saw that video, I was disgusted and could not believe I did that.”

This is one of the fundamental problems in my mind regarding bullying and other acts of violence is that we know and condone such behavior. Especially for boys! Dr. Michael Kimmel in his book “Guyland” interviews over 400 boys and men across the country and one of the common themes that emerge is that violence and degradation are one of the crucial tools to prove some sort of elusive “manhood” especially between boys.

Parents are complicit in this message too. Too many of the boys and men I work with have all shared similar stories of their father’s telling them to “man up” and confront bullies with a “taste of their own medicine.” Some argue that self-defense may be a “different form of violence” buy an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. The cycle of violence doesn’t stop because you affirm that real men aren’t afraid to be violent.

2)Some child stood back, video taped the incident, and posted it to youtube.

Though I am glad that this video is getting the condemnation it deserves, very few of the comments focused on the kid who videotaped someone’s anguish and posted it online for the world to see. Though awareness raising is still desperately  needed regarded the extent and impact of bullying in elementary and high school environments, we need to start teaching our children to speak out as well. If we tell them that they should stand up to bullies with action, why can’t we teach them to stand up with words as well? What were the rest of the kids on this school bus doing during this bullying? To repeat, enough is enough. As one commenter on the youtube video said, “enough is enough. It is time that we all start talking about how to address bullying and not just condemn the actions.” If we are confused as to how to respond, just imagine how those kids would feel without a strong proactive message of love and respect being taught by their parents. Though I make my living as one of the many who promote anti-violence messaging in schools, even I must admit that no number of programs, videos, movies, songs, or pledges can do compared to the simple and consistent message from parents starting at a very young age.

3) Karen Klein and her video will fade from our attention spans

This may be the cynic in me, but this is just one of MANY stories of bullied youth. I am sure there were headline stories before my time that I don’t remember and I am sure there will be many more stories to come. The cycle of violence repeats itself not because violence is an intrinsic part of who we are, but because the vast majority of us will never stand up and speak out. How many stories of domestic violence will not be told. How many cases of college or high school hazings will not be told. How many stories of rape never get told? How many survivors of violence does there have to be before we committ to the phrase “enough is enough?”

My partner told me that we would become overwhelmed if we acknowledge every survivor of bullying, of hazing, of abuse, of rape, of murder. That may be true, but isn’t that reason enough to commit to teaching our kids, our brothers, our sisters, our nieces, our nephews, our friends to treat others with respect and dignity? Is that really a more difficult message than blocking out the pain and suffering of tens of thousands of others?


Federal judge ruled that “You have a constitutional right to stalk and harass people on Twitter.”

From 2008 to 2010, William Cassidy harassed Alyce Zeoli through Twitter sending her over 8,000 tweets. He criticized her looks, made fun of her religion, described graphic ways in which she could die, and repeatedly told her to commit suicide. Zeoli blocked his accounts but Cassidy just created another one. In 2010, Zeoli reported the harassment and the FBI pressed charges against Cassidy for stalking Zeoli and  causing her “substantial emotional distress.”

However, this week federal judge Roger W. Titus, dismissed the case stating, “while Mr. Cassidy’s speech may have inflicted substantial emotional distress, the government’s indictment here is directed squarely at protected speech: anonymous, uncomfortable Internet speech addressing religious matters.” Apparently Judge Titus doesn’t really understand what  Twitter is. He compared it to a colonial bulletin board where if you didn’t like something, you don’t read it. News flash Judge Titus, Twitter is no different from a text message, email, or phone call. It is direct contact through electronic means with another individual. Just telling someone to “ignore it, turn it off, or don’t look it” is about as good as telling a stalking victim to just block the phone number, quit their job, or simply ignore the animal head left in a box on the front porch. The message this sends to victims is ridiculously callous, “If you don’t like it, too bad, just ignore it.”

However, there was some protection from harassment and stalking enforced this week. A judge in Minnesota ordered a man to take down his “revenge” blog about his ex-girlfriend because individuals have a “right to be free from harassment”and instated a 50 year restraining order! But wait, isn’t a blog is like a colonial bulletin board? No, no it’s not.

Anyone in a position of enforcing or creating rules/laws/policies about harassment, stalking, bullying, or any other inappropriate conduct through electronic/Internet/technological means should have a basic understanding of what the Internet is and how social media services on it function. People should be protected from those who intimidate, threaten, harass, monitor, record, impersonate, and stalk them regardless of the method.

Weekly roundup

The University of Vermont suspended the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity chapter after their survey included the question, “If I could rape anyone, who would it be?”

Recent NY Times article repeats what we already know, nearly 1 in 5 women int he U.S. have been sexually assaulted.

Rape in the U.S. military. “A female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be attacked by a fellow soldier than killed in enemy fire.”

Moving online video about surviving bullying and the importance of supportive family, friends, and hope.

Straight athletes speak out against heterosexism

I’ve seen two articles in the past week about self-identified straight athletes talking about heterosexist attitudes, language, behaviors, and policy. Last week, New Yorkers 4 Marriage Equality released a video from New York Ranger Sean Avery in support of a same-sex marriage initiative for New York state.  

This week, two prominent straight athletes were featured in the same New York Times article about anti-bullying and heterosexism in society and in athletics. Ben Cohen, a famous English rugby athlete who founded the Stand Up Foundation, an organization designed to engage athletes in confronting and reducing bullying and heterosexism that affects LGBTQ populations. Ben is no stranger to social justice work. Ben has also dedicated time to the Me2 project which aims to make the sport of rugby to deaf and hard of hearing children.

The second athlete featured in the NyTimes article was Hudson Taylor, a 3 time all-American college wrestler. Taylor, an assistant wrestling coach at Columbia, saw offensive behaviors and language on the mat. Taylor founded Athlete Ally  and tours the country engaging athletes to sign the pledge. We need more athletes and community members in positions of leadership and authority to use their privilege to make changes in the culture. Bravo!

ATHLETE ALLY PLEDGE: I pledge to lead my athletic community to respect and welcome all persons, regardless of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Beginning right now, I will do my part to promote the best of athletics by making all players feel respected on and off the field.

Ultimate fighter champion speaks out about bullying

Welterweight UFC champion, George St. Pierre isn’t someone that would be at the top of my list of bullying victims. St. Pierre has a 21-2 record in the UFC and has not lost in over four years. He has fought some of the toughest men in the UFC and has millions of fan across the world. However, in an interview with Yahoo! sports, he described his childhood experiences with bullying. Below are some excerpts from the interview.

“I had a rough childhood, big problems. I didn’t have many friends growing up. I’m from a small town. I was an intellectual person. People who were friends with me were intellectuals, they were not popular either. They weren’t the hockey player that everyone wanted to be like.”

“I had an acne problem. I was just not dressing very well. I was not very popular with girls.  I just wasn’t a popular guy.”

St. Pierre still remembers the bully that started when he was 10 years old and lasted for over 4 years. He can vividly picture that pack of older kids that tormented and plotting escape routes after class. He remembers the feelings of dread at the thought of going to school, the restless sleep, and the loneliness and hopelessness.

Click Read More to hear the rest of St. Pierre’s story and his message for victims, bullies and bystanders.

Continue reading

Words do hurt bullying video

Check out this Youtube video from a 13 year old, 8th grader named Alye about her daily experiences being bullied. The title of the video is Words are worse than Sticks and Stones. At the time of this post, the video had received over 175,000 views. Check out the video below. You can watch coverage about the video on CBS News.

Mickey Rooney granted a protective order against stepchildren

Actor Mickey Rooney was recently granted a temporary restraining order from the Los Angelas Superior Court against his stepson and stepdaughter, Chris and Christina Aber. Rooney’s charges of abuse include verbal, emotional, and financial abuse, and denial of food and medicine.

According to NY Daily News, court documents reported “Chris is verbally abusive toward Mickey. He yells and screams at Mickey. He threatens, intimidates, bullies and harasses Mickey. Mickey is effectively a prisoner in his own home. Chris has blocked Mickey’s access to his mail and will not provide Mickey with any information about his finances, other than to tell him that Mickey is broke.” Aber is also accused of forcing Rooney to make certain personal appearances and making him sign financial documents without having read them. This case is important because it highlights the fact that it doesn’t matter what your personality or status is in the community. Anyone can become a victim of abuse.

It also raises awareness about the importance of discussing elder abuse and mistreatment. It is estimated that millions of individuals over the age of 65 are abused or mistreated everyone year, even though only a small number of those cases are ever reported. Elder abuse is a significant issue in our community and more people need to become aware of the dangers and warning signs.

There are some great national and local resources. The National Center for Elder Abuse is an amazing resource about this topic. Check out the video below to learn more about elder abuse.

You can find out more about The Elder Justice Act mentioned in the video at The Elder Justice Coalition.

To report suspected elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation in Iowa:

  • 1-800-362-2178 (For suspected elder mistreatment in the home).
  • 1-877-686-0027 (For suspected elder mistreatment in long-term care facilities).
  • Visit this website for a complete list of elder mistreatment resources by state.


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