This one was taken Christmas
time there with Mickey Mouse. This one’s a favorite at the
edge of the volcano in Hawaii. He was an extremely happy kid. He was smart, creative,
described a lot by a lot of people as just an old soul. It’s my ninth birthday in this picture
and one of my guests was Jeffrey. He was like the life of the party;
like everybody loved Jeffrey I first met him in 7th grade
in language arts class. That was, because of him, probably the
most fun class I’ve ever been in. [laughing] He seems to be a lovely and
loved child. So what happened? He was head over heels
for a little girl in his class. That’s when the telephone calls began.
This boy in Jeff’s class called the house; and he was calling Jeff a
stalker and threatening him to keep away from her. And telling
him that everybody didn’t like him. This bully just had a unique capacity to go right for the spot that hurt. We want to know about your
experiences and particularly about experiences with other kids in school. [narrator] For more than
a decade Dr. Jaana Juvonen has studied bullying; why it
happens and what can be done about it. She and her colleagues have been
tracking 2300 children in Los Angeles as they move from middle through high school. [Dr. Jaana] Who are the coolest kids
in your grade is number three. And by cool we mean popular. [Jaana] Essentially the bully
wants to intimidate, humiliate the victim in the
presence of many others. The bully needs the audience.
What we find in our research is that bullies are actually considered popular.
Often they are considered the cool kids. So they have social status.
Other species do that too. That is if you think about monkey
troops, who’s the dominant leader? It’s the one who has shown everybody
else that I’m the powerful, I’m the mighty. [narrator] Juvonen’s
research has overturned a popular misconception; namely,
that being bullied builds character. [Jaana] We have
learned during the past decade that these experiences
of bullying don’t help kids develop thicker skin but often thinner skin. [narrator]
Jeff Johnston was relentlessly bullied for over a year, and was
extremely fragile when he and his friends set out to design an online game.>>We’ve spent weeks and weeks on the
game. And the password is given out to me, Jeff and a few of me and Jeff’s closest
friends. And one of our friends I guess gave it to him…gave it to the bully. He got on there and deleted
everything and then posts like really mean things on there about Jeff. Jeff’s a fag, Jeff’s this, Jeff’s that,
Jeff should die, just horrible things. That whole you know section of
Jeff’s life, it was almost like…um, it wasn’t erased, it was amputated. [kids playing and talking indiscriminately] [narrator] Although Jeff’s
tormentors went to unusual lengths; this type of humiliation is all-too-common.
About one-third of all students between the ages of 12 and 18
report being bullied every year. Does everyone understand
what mob mentality means? [narrator] So what
can be done to stop it? In Brooklyn New York, Blessed Sacrament
school is dealing with a bullying problem of its own. [teacher] When I started here I would
say teasing was done on a daily basis. And it would lead up to
weekly intervals of bullying. Internet bullying started, three
girls were actually involved in it. They were on Myspace, and
one of the girls found out the other girl’s password. And the other kids on Myspace
would go into her page and reading all these horrible things about her. [male] You know emotions are great,
but unless they’re handled well, they’re not great. [narrator]
The school turned to Yale Psychologist Doctor Marc Brackett. His emotional literacy program
trains teachers, so that they can help students understand the
emotional impact to bullying, and respond to it more effectively. [Dr. Brackett]
Our goal is to teach children how to identify how they’re
feeling…frustrated. Giving children the words
to describe their feelings. What other sort of emotions
might be relevant there? [woman] Rage.>Rage We see emotional literacy
as sort of a protective factor. The most important thing that
I worked as is teaching children how to handle themselves better. So for example, you know, they’re
in a classroom and there’s a bully; and the bully makes them
feel bad about themselves. What strategies do they have?
Because when they can identify how they’re feeling it gives them
the opportunity to ask for help. [Brenna – teacher]
I was always taught in my education courses, don’t
smile in class till January. You don’t want to give
them the emotional part of it. Now this guy is coming in telling me;
“Hey let’s show your emotions; share them.” These kids all have these emotions
and they’re just frustrated because they don’t know how to express them. I implement an emotional word
every two weeks. “Empathy – relating to and understanding
another person’s feeling.” And then I ask the students; can you
tell me of a time you felt this emotion. [girl student] I had a best friend,
everyone made fun of her because she was different.
I felt so bad for her… [narrator] Giving students
an emotional vocabulary can help them cope with bullying.
But research suggests that the most effective way to eliminated it, is to
teach students to stand up for each other. But this only works when school
authorities send a clear message that bullying will not be tolerated. [Jaana] We know from
playground observations studies that if another kid intervenes,
bullying stops within seconds. We also know that very
few kids are willing to do that and do do that.
So what we need to do is to try to address the
bystanders, the onlookers. By being somewhat passive,
just maybe occasionally smiling they’re encouraging the bully
and bullying behavior. But moreover, we have to
provide support that enables them to gain the confidence
to go and challenge the bully or just stand up for the victim. I don’t feel that there is
a bullying problem here in this school I’m at today.
Students treat each other with common social courtesies, they’re
empathetic, they’re sympathetic, they’re respectful, they’re just
generally nicer to one another. [narrator] In the case of Jeff Johnston,
his mom went to the school authorities. The teacher talked to Jeff’s class about bullying with little impact. [Jeff’s mom] We thought
we were doing the right thing, but it only made it worse.>>What went wrong? Why is the
intervention by the school so ineffective? You know it’s just one
child’s word against the other. Even though you know the truth;
because you can’t prove it you can’t stop it. The school didn’t have the power to intervene with requiring students to get counseling. [narrator] As the bullying continued,
Jeff became increasingly isolated; withdrawing from
his relationships with the very people who might have helped him.>>By the end of eight-grade
year, he was a very quiet kid. He would just kind of sit in the classroom
and not say anything to anyone. [Jaana] When
nobody intervenes, kids actually interpreting that as, everybody
approves of what’s going on. And that creates a false norm for the group,
where people are even more reluctant to go and try to defend or help the victim
because they think everybody’s accepting of this. Jeff was never the same.
That just inner core of happiness that just shown like a light
from him was just gone. We had plans, the War of the
Worlds was opening the next day. He was actually really excited
about it. He loved science fiction. The next morning I went to wake him up. When we opened the
bathroom door we saw him hanging in the closet.
He was already gone.