School principal warns parents: Get your kids off Facebook it’s a verbal sewer [, 22/09/2011]

Lindisfarne principal Chris Duncan and the school newsletter bearing his stark warning about Facebook

AN AUSTRALIAN school principal fed up with cyber-bullying has gone to war on Facebook.

Chris Duncan, principal of Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School, in Tweed Heads, New South Wales used his school newsletter to warn parents in bold print: “GET YOUR KIDS OFF FACEBOOK. THIS VERBAL SEWER IS HARMING YOUR CHILDREN.”
Mr Duncan said he decided to take the radical action after he helped a 16-year-old student who suffered serious abuse on Facebook.
He said he was aware of students who had been sent into an “appalling state” due to abuse they received on Facebook, with some children being more vulnerable than others.
“Some kids deal with it really well and other kids are mortally wounded by it and it’s just the way different kids react to things,” he told the Australian Daily News.
“I, and all of my colleague principals around the country, deal with very distressed young people and very distressed parents who have been subjected to what I would call tirades of verbal abuse on Facebook.”
Mr Duncan said he expelled two students last year for serious online harassment online of other students, one on Facebook and the other on the school’s internal email system.
He said he was not suggesting a blanket Facebook ban, but urged parents to be more proactive.
“My concern is parents are not overly aware of what their kids are subjected to until it gets to the point you’ve got a very distressed, abused young person,” he said.
“Certainly if they’ve got primary school age kids they shouldn’t be on Facebook for a start and with teenage kids they should be aware of what they’re doing, or limit their time on the computer at least.”

Lady Gaga Bullying a Hate Crime [, by Debbie Nicholson, 22/09/2011]

Headlines flash as Lady Gaga vows to stop bullying after a teens suicide

Media headlines calling attention to yet another young death due to bullying.

Jamey Rodemeyer was just fourteen years old when he had taken his life last Sunday.

What had prompted this teen to take his life? In one word; bullying. What makes it even more heartbreaking was his video called “It Gets Better” posted on you tube last May.

Unfortunately, this was not the only teen that had made national headlines due to being bullied and ending their life. In January, news once again traveled as Phoebe Prince, a recent immigrant from Ireland had committed suicide by hanging herself in her home on January 14th.

Being bullied in school is not nothing new. In 2006, 13 year old Megan Meier committed suicide after being harassed and this time not by other children but by an adult who should of acted like one. Instead the woman, a mother of Megan’s former friend had created a fake profile to tease and torment the young girl. More young lives were also ended. Ryan Patrick Halligan, 13 years old, death by hanging due to online bullying. A nine year old boy, death by hanging in nurse’s bathroom of school due to bullying. Eleven year old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover hung himself with extension cords after bullies had taunted and harassed him by repeatedly calling him gay.

After this latest report had hit media outlets Lady Gaga had tweeted her followers remarking “Bullying must become illegal. It is a hate crime,”

Lady Gaga continued by strongly stating she will be meeting with President Obama and she will not stop fighting to end bullying noting we need to make a law for Jamey. All it took was a few minutes for her phrase to be re-tweeted by her millions of followers and for the record she has more followers than the president himself.

Lady Gaga a known advocate for repealing the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” U.S. military’s standard policy of homosexual men and women in the service. In the early part of this week that policy has been eradicated.

Today is the National Summit sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. in effort to stop the bullying in schools.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports 28% of students age range 12 to 18 have reported they were bullied in the 2008 to 2009 school year.

Most bullying does not occur from physical confrontation but in the form but in the form of insults, rumors and ridicule.

Counselors at Jamey’s school had advised him against the usage of social media sites to talk about his sexuality. There are parents that do monitor their children’s social networking and advise other parents to do the same. Social media sites like Facebook make it user for cyber bullying.

Jamey had posted on his Facebook “What do I have to do to have people listen to me”.

Those words ring out as this young life has abruptly come to an end do to the hateful words of others.

Hopefully bullying will end no matter what shape or form it is in. No matter if it is directed at homosexuals, race, religion or more. It should be stopped. Maybe Lady Gage will be the one to take the powerful stand against bullying and make this a hate crime so not another young life is lost.

Bullying does not make you cool nor does it make you important but it does make you ignorant.

In honor of Jamey I have just created a Facebook page called Stop Cyber Bullying for Jamey. Bullying must be stop and cyber bullying seems to be rising. Stop by and like the page and honor Jamey’s memory and help put an end to bullying so another young life will not be lost.

If your child is being bullied at school notify school officials immediately. If your child is being bullied on social sites contact the administrator immediately.

Jamey Rodemeyer Suicide: Police Consider Criminal Bullying Charges [, by Susan Donaldson James, 22/09/2011]

Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, was found dead outside his home of an apparent suicide.
Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, was found dead outside his home of an apparent suicide.

Police have opened a criminal investigation in the suicide death of Buffalo, N.Y., 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who was bullied online with gay slurs for more than a year.

The teen’s parents, friends and even Lady Gaga, who was his idol, have expressed outrage about what they say was relentless torment on social networking websites.

The Amherst Police Department’s Special Victims Unit has said it will determine whether to charge some students with harassment, cyber-harassment or hate crimes. Police said three students in particular might have been involved. Jamey was a student at Heim Middle School.

Jamey had just started his freshman year at Williamsville North High School. (Both Amherst and Williamsville are just outside Buffalo.) But the bullying had begun during middle school, according to his parents. He had told family and friends that he had endured hateful comments in school and online, mostly related to his sexual orientation.

Jamey was found dead outside his home Sunday morning, but Amherst police would not release any details on how he killed himself.

“The special victims unit is looking into the circumstances prior to his death,” Captain Michael Camilleri said. “We are not sure if there is anything criminal or not.”

No bullying laws exist in New York State, according to Camilleri, so police would have to determine whether aggravated harassment charges fit this case. Whether suspects would be tried in juvenile court would depend on whether the alleged bully was 16 or older, he said.

Police said they had spoken with Williamsville School Superintendent Scott G. Martzloff, who has pledged the district’s cooperation.

“We’ve heard that there were some specific students, an identifiable group of students, that had specifically targeted Jamey, or had been picking on him for a period of time,” Police Chief John C. Askey told the Buffalo News.

Jamey sent out many signals on social networking sites that he was struggling with his sexuality, even though he encouraged others on the It Gets Better project websiteYouTube to fight off the bullies.

He killed himself this weekend after posting an online farewell.

Lady Gaga weighed in on the situation via twitter: “Bullying must become illegal. It is a hate crime,” she tweeted.

“I am meeting with our President. I will not stop fighting. This must end. Our generation has the power to end it. Trend it #MakeALawForJamey,” the singer posted to twitter last night.


Students had been posting hate comments with gay references on his Formspring account, a website that allows anonymous posts.

“JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND [sic] UGLY. HE MUST DIE!” one post said, according to local reports. Another read, “I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it 🙂 It would make everyone WAY more happier!”

Friends reported the bullying to guidance counselors. But everyone, including his mother, thought he had grown stronger.

His death coincides with a national summit this week sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., an effort to stem the toll of bullying school children.

Speaking at the second annual Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit were the parents of Justin Aaberg, a gay 15-year-old from Champlain, Minn., who hanged himself after being bullied. The parents, Tammy and Shawn Aaberg, said that one form of the bullying came from a student religious group whose members told Justin that he was going to hell because he was gay.

“Justin was a smiley, happy boy who loved to play his cello,” said his parents. “School systems need to do more to protect LGBT students from bullying, and not turn their back on them because of their sexual orientation.”

Rodemeyer’s suicide also sets off a somber beginning to LGBT History Month in October.

“Jamey’s suicide is a tragic reminder of the vulnerability of gay teens,” said Malcolm Lazin, founder and executive director of the Equality Forum, which focuses on LGBT civil rights and education.

“They are bullied and marginalized,” he said. “While some may say that Jamey took his life, it is unrelenting homophobia that murdered him.”

Jamey’s mother, Tracy Rodemeyer, who did not return calls from, told the Buffalo News that her son had been questioning his sexuality and had expressed thoughts of suicide, but had also been encouraged by good friends and was a “happy” and “strong” teen.

Friends described him as caring and friendly, and he had been seeking help from a social worker and therapist.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 28 percent of students aged 12 to 18 reported that they were bullied in school during the 2008-2009 school year. Bullying also slows down as children get older from a high of 39 percent of all sixth graders to 20 percent of high school seniors.

The most overwhelming form of bullying is done through ridicule, insult and rumors, rather than physical aggression, according to the report.

The rate of victimization among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students has remained constant between 1999 and 2009, the latest date for which there are statistics, according to the National Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

Parents and educators say they face significant challenges in stemming LGBT bullying, particularly at schools where there are fewer resources and support groups such as gay-straight alliances.

“We have seen some positive signs in available resources and supportive educators and society is moving in a good direction,” GLSEN spokesman Daryl Presgraves said. “But it’s still very difficult to be an LGBT youth in school.”

In May, after coming out to friends, Jamey posted a YouTube video on the new online site, It Gets Better Project, which provides testimony from adults and celebrities to reassure troubled and potentially suicidal LGBT youth that life improves as they get older.

He wrote: “Love yourself and you’re set. … I promise you, it will get better.”

Jamey’s school counselors had advised him not to go on social media sites to talk about his sexuality, according to the Buffalo News.

Some parents urge others to monitor their children’s social networking accounts. And school principals such as Anthony Orsi of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J., have urged middle-school parents to outright ban the use of social networking to prevent cyberbullying.

Social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook have made it easier for bullies to target their victims, but at the same time they are sometimes the only venue for talking about their pain.

“It’s a very challenging time for parents and for youth,” Presgraves of GLSEN said. “You have a scenario where for a lot of youth, it’s the only support to go online and seek peers to give them support and to feel connected to a community. At the same time, they expose themselves to negative cyberbullying.”

Jamey’s mother told the Buffalo News, “He touched so many hearts, so many people. I didn’t realize how many people he touched. He was the sweetest, kindest kid you’d ever know. He would give all his heart to you before he gave any to himself.”

For months, the teen, who idolized pop singer Lady Gaga, had blogged about being bullied and thoughts of suicide.

Jamey posted on his Facebook page, “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. … What do I have to do so people will listen to me?

“No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you’re the ones calling me [gay slur] and tearing me down,” he wrote.

But on Sept. 8 he posted lyrics to a song by Hollywood Undead that included the line, “I just wanna say good bye, disappear with no one knowing. … I don’t wanna live this lie, smiling to the world unknowing.”

He posted a lyric this weekend from Lady Gaga’s song “The Queen” on his Facebook page: “Don’t forget me when I come crying to heaven’s door.”

His final message appeared on his Tumblr blog expressing a desire to see his great-grandmother, who had recently died, according to the local newspaper.

His mother said his tears and anger had recently dissipated. “Lately, he’s been blowing them off, or at least we thought he was,” she told the Buffalo News.

Teens in Crisis

When the family went camping last weekend, he seemed happy.

Suicide prevention experts say they are grateful that the media has played down the details about how he killed himself.

“The risk, especially in this case, is potentially causing other young people in their direct vicinity to take their own lives,” said Laura McGinnis, a spokeswoman for the Trevor Project, which runs a national lifeline for people younger than 24, especially LGBT and questioning youth. “The risk for contagion is too high when we share the means and method and how he did it can actually increase the likelihood that others will do it, too.”

Few statistics exist on young people who kill themselves. But overall rates among those aged 10 to 24 declined from 9.24 suicides per 100,000 in 1991 to 7.01 suicides per 100,000 in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Suicide never has one cause, that is something really important to recognize,” McGinnis said. “But [Jamey] had the support of parents and friends and he was planning on going to a homecoming dance and dress like Lady Gaga. How do you know as a parent what signs to looks for? And sometimes, it’s really difficult to know.”

In her work with teens in crisis, McGinnis does not recommend covertly monitoring a child’s social networking accounts, but instead establishing trust and open lines of communication to gain a welcome invitation.

“Parents should pay attention to what’s going on in their kids’ lives and what is important to them,” she said. “They should maybe structure a day to ask detailed questions of the child: What is going on, what are they excited about and what are they afraid about. ‘Who is bugging you and who did you tell?’ Establish trust, listening, accepting everything they say and not judging them. Let them share their story.”

For help, go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 800-273-TALK.

Also call the Trevor Project Lifeline at 866-488-7386.

Stealth Bullies: The Hidden Face of Bullying [, by Rae Pica, 16/09/2011]

Bullying is one of the biggest issues in education today. There are articles in professional journals and parenting magazines about it. There are news stories, it seems almost weekly, about it. There are websites and organizations dedicated to fighting it. There is plenty of advice about preventing it. There’s even legislation against it. This month, New Jersey passed an anti-bullying law that’s been called the toughest in the nation.

But what if none of it is enough? What if all of it misses the mark? What if preventing bullying is as simple as paying closer attention? The research indicates this may be the case.

Stan Davis, a social worker and school counselor and founder of Stop Bullying Now, was a recent guest on Body, Mind and Child. Joining him for the discussion were Karin Frey, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, and Sarah Sparks, who pens “Inside School Research” for Education Week and who has written quite a bit about social aggression.

According to the Stop Bullying Now website, there is adult intervention in only 4 percent of bullying incidents. Davis indicated during our conversation that that’s an older statistic but didn’t say whether or not it was now higher. Still, even if it’s, say, 100 percent higher, it’s a startling figure. How could there be so little adult involvement in an issue as huge and as potentially damaging as bullying?

Here are some of the reasons my guests cited:

  • Adults believe kids should solve their own problems.
  • If adults only see it once, they’re not inclined to intervene.
  • Teachers often don’t have a clear procedure to follow.
  • Kids are taught from an early age not to “tattle.” (This helps us understand why two-thirds of children don’t go to adults for help.)

Dr. Frey’s research adds further support to the contention that adults aren’t paying enough attention. She discovered that gossip contributes greatly to bullying and certainly can lead to physical disputes. But her study showed that teachers were unable to identify playground gossip even though it was “semi-public in nature” and gossip sessions lasted quite a while. I asked how that could be. The answer: the gossips are rarely the kids who are problems in class. In other words, they don’t fit most adults’ idea of what a bully “looks like.”

And here was yet another reason why teachers fail to intervene: There’s much confusion about what constitutes bullying. “It’s only bullying if… ” One significant ending to that sentence is “… the behavior is perpetrated by those kids we expect to be bullies.” We don’t imagine that friends would bully each other, but my guests assured me that bullying does indeed occur between and among friends.

Given the amount of attention bullying receives in the media, I thought that everything possible was being done to eradicate this problem. At the very least, I thought that teachers and parents would know it when they saw it. Clearly, I was wrong.

Stan Davis offered this succinct piece of advice for teachers and parents: “If we see mean behavior we should stop it.” But first, of course, we have to see it! For more advice from my guests, click here.

Cyber bullies are vile, but should we be locking them up? [, by catherine bennett, 12/09/2011]

An 18-week sentence for Sean Duffy, a young man who posted astonishingly malevolent messages on a Facebook memorial page, one set up to mourn Natasha MacBryde, a teenager who had committed suicide, has been attacked by some people as too lenient. Another bereaved parent, who feels he may also be Duffy’s victim, thought 18 months would be more like it. Duffy, aged 25, was the second such offender to be prosecuted under the Malicious Communications Act; last year, Colm Cross was jailed for posting obscenities on Facebook tribute sites, including that of Jade Goody.

That Duffy suffers from Asperger’s, according to his defence lawyers, was not allowed to mitigate his serial targeting of bereaved families, a hobby which seems to have emerged in the trollosphere in response to MySpace and Facebook tribute pages to dead teenagers, producing not only deliberately offensive satire of the often banal contributions on such pages, but episodes of actual harassment. The parents of Mitchell Henderson, a teenager from Rochester, Minnesota, who shot himself in 2006, were subjected to a year and a half of nuisance calls as well as defacements of his MySpace memorial page.

Henderson’s father described this experience for the New York Times. “They’d say, ‘Hi, I’m Mitchell’s ghost, the front door is locked. Can you come down and let me in?'”

Priding themselves at least as much on their expertise as on their cruelty, committed trolls seem no more likely to be deterred by Duffy’s sentence than they are by media condemnation quoting persecuted families, such as the parents of Madeleine McCann.

Would that not, for a sadist, be just the ticket? Moreover, in a riveting interview published in Index on Censorship, an anonymous troll, calling himself Paulie Socash, also connects this form of mischief with a high-minded commitment to free speech, along with an equally grand, obviously insurmountable distaste for phoney sentiment, sanctimony, idées reçues. “We despise the smugness and arrogance of the average internet user or entrepreneur,” he informed Whitney Phillips, “but most of us also realise the real irony that everything we do drops more pennies in the pockets of those who control the actual virtual spaces. Honestly, Mark Zuckerberg has made millions because of trolls.”

As for the focus on online memorials, Socash explains, trolls are ridiculing the focus on cute kids and offering, with their savagery, a troll-style rebuke to users who are “too ignorant” to keep strangers off their pages. Even if you wish it came from more sympathetic quarter, he surely has a point. Why would you not take care, on such a page, to confine condolences to people who were friends? Unless, as Facebook intends, such pages already look feeble, to many of its clients, if they do not reflect its debased, numerical view of friendship, featuring contributions from chance acquaintances, friends of friends, complete strangers who saw it in the news or noticed on a site such as the old (which used to direct interested trolls to memorial pages).

What exposes parents – and, more frighteningly, cyber-bullied children – to the attentions of a freak is surely not so much lack of geekish knowhow as participation in a culture that pretends an ever-growing crowd of names and data amounts to a set of human relationships. Either way, as Paulie Socash says, Facebook makes money out of it.

Some have compared Duffy’s crime to the defacement of a real memorial; actually, he was scribbling on the kind of edifice that is all too often, thanks to Facebook’s raison d’etre, inherently degraded. A contribution such as: “I didn’t know you but I have herd your story” now counts, for some reason, as worth having, along with the recommendation of a thumbs-up sign beneath the stranger’s condoling, confirming that X or Y “likes this”.

Mercifully, the number of memorial pages is small. Not to defend the unspeakable Duffy, but you could argue that his contributions to what Jaron Lanier has called, in his terrific You are Not a Gadget, “a culture of sadism online”, were no more offensive, in their way, than anonymous contributions that reach a much wider audience, from the “RIP Raoul Moat you legend” Facebook page through to the more fluent invective and character-assassination that is now standard on newspaper websites and other intelligent online places, even, incredibly, on Mumsnet. As Lanier says: “It would be nice to believe that there is only a minute troll population living among us.”

In practice, you find shameless homophobic abuse on the Daily Telegraph‘s website, lolz about dead public school boys from a professional writer on Twitter, jests from a US academic about a raped reporter, another distinguished scholar, Orlando Figes of the University of London, trying to destroy a rival historian on Amazon, and now Johann Hari, secretly prosecuting his curious personal vendettas on Wikipedia.

Anonymous malice is, you might think, most readily forgiven when it is most unforgivable: when the authors are educated, prepared to threaten libel actions and, even, already command prominent platforms for self-expression. Then again, as Lanier has argued, it is ready, online anonymity that tempts all these wrongdoers. From Duffy to Hari, websites just encourage them. The “troll-evoking design” he characterises as: “Effortless, consequence-free, transient anonymity in the service of a goal, such as promoting a point of view, that stands entirely apart from one’s identity or personality. Call it drive-by anonymity.”

Duffy’s 18 weeks for extreme drive-by nastiness is certainly harsh when compared with more privileged trolls, for whom re-education or a period of disgrace are considered ample. But it is in comparison with episodes of sustained bullying, of the living, that his punishment looks most disproportionate. That Natasha MacBryde’s suicide was preceded, according to evidence given at her inquest, by “teasing” from a clique at her private school, then, still in her lifetime, by anonymous abuse on the Formspring website, caused less consternation than the later, random tormenting of her parents, which the coroner called “vile and disgusting”.

A similarly restrained reaction, in comparison to the revelations of memorial trolling, greeted last week’s report from the EHRC, “Hidden in Plain Sight“, exposing a level of harassment, attacks and bullying of disabled people that is so commonplace, yet so rarely taken seriously, that many victims hardly bother to complain, staying housebound instead.

The lead inquirer, Mike Smith, who was himself harassed in the 90s, with “cripple” and swastikas painted on his front door, expressed amazement that this kind of barbarity is still widespread.

“It’s not just some extreme things happening to a handful of people; it’s an awful lot of unpleasant things happening to a great many people, almost certainly in the hundreds of thousands each year.”

If – and it is hard to reconcile with free speech – the random malice of a Duffy is better punished by imprisonment than, say, by merciless public exposure, it would indeed be a sick and weird society that put such prosecutions before action to deal with the tormenting of people who can’t simply log off.