91 EDUCATIONAL FORUM
TRANSCRIPT DATE: April 30, 2004
Diane Sullivan: Welcome to the Massachusetts School of Law Educational Forum. Thank you for joining us. This program is brought to you by the Massachusetts School of Law, and is shown nationwide. The topic for today's show is bullying. What is bullying? Who is the bully? Is school bullying a serious problem, or is it simply a harmless right of passage? Haven't most of the shooters in the high school shootings been kids who were bullied to the breaking point? If this is true, what does it say about our culture? Joining me for this discussion, *Nancy Mullen Rindler, an author and research science at the Center for Research on Women, at the Wellsley Centers for Women. She is currently director of both the Project on Teasing and Bullying, and the Pre-school Empathy Project. Her books include, "Quit It", a teacher's guide to teasing and bullying. Nancy, welcome to the show.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Thank you for having me.
Diane Sullivan: Thank you for coming. Bill *Vors is a licensed clinical social worker with 24 years' experience as a family counselor, and a consultant to schools. He is the author of "The Parents Book About Bullying". Welcome to the show, thank you for coming.
Bill Vors: Thank you.
Diane Sullivan: And Dr. Terrance Webster Doyle is an educator and author, and he is a six-degree black belt in the art of karate. Dr. Webster Doyle is the author of 20 award-winning books, including the best selling, "Why Is Everybody Always Picking On Me? - A Guide To Handling Bullies." And also the program "The Bully Buster System." Welcome to the show.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Thank you.
Diane Sullivan: Delighted to have you. And I'm Diane Sullivan, your host for today's program. Panel, let's begin with bullying. What is bullying, Nancy?
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Well, the most common definition is, uh, one that was originally coined by a Norwegian psychologist. And bullying is a form of aggression that is unwanted negative behavior that, uh, occurs repeatedly and over time. And--but the most important aspect of it is that there is always a power imbalance between the bully and the person being targeted, so that makes it very difficult for the person that bullying is--bully is picking on, to defend himself or herself. And bullying actually describes a range of different kinds of behaviors from sort of the--the kinds of things we most commonly thing of--the direct forms of bullying like pushing, shoving--
Diane Sullivan: Mm hmm, right.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: --taking someone's lunch money, to more indirect kinds of bullying, uh, shunning, or spreading gossip and rumors--um, more relational, uh, kinds of--of aggression that might, uh, damage somebody's reputation as part of their peer group.
Diane Sullivan: And I do want to talk much more about the different types of bullying. But something I'm personally intrigued about, as I sit here and look at the three of you, why your interest in this topic. Let's start with you Terrence.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Oh yes, uh, these teeth--they're not real. They got knocked out when I was, oh, nine-10 years old by a bully--one particular bully. And his brother gave me this scar--ran into me with his bike and I flew through the air and hit my head on the curb. And I remember the doctor saying if--in the emergency ward--if it had been another half inch over I'd have been dead. And, uh--
Diane Sullivan: How old were you?
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Oh, eight, nine, 10. I can't quite remember that time.
Diane Sullivan: Wow, mm hmm.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: And my head injury has been a problem for my life, and believe me, the dental bills I've had for these teeth on and off has been horrible. So that's been a lot of physical bullying. But the more, uh, bullying that I remember more, although the physical bullying is very bad, was the humiliation of being bullied, being called names, and that--that--that stayed with me longer.
Diane Sullivan: Is this what made you get into becoming a black belt in karate?
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Oh yes. Oh, don't I wish I had those skills back then.
Diane Sullivan: Yeah.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: I gave a lecture one time to--about 1,500 martial art instructors, and I had this scene in my mind that the bully would be there, and I'd have this curtain behind me and I'd say, excuse me just a minute, and open the curtain and these guys--go yeah, like that, you know--you know, scared straight kind of thing. Yeah, I did after the fact. But that was after the fact. I think I needed to 'cause I had so much rage in my--inside myself. So I understand those kids who did those violent acts of bullying, because I understand that feeling.
Diane Sullivan: Why did they bully you?
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: I was big and I was a kid who just didn't want to fight. They knew--I think bullies have an antenna. They just go okay, there's the--there's the, uh, victim right there. I was just a kid who didn't want to fight--never did. And, um, that's why, I think. And I was big, and the--the little kids said let's get the big kid.
Diane Sullivan: Yeah, you're not one who I would picture to be one who would be bullied.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: I think also there was a class structure there, too.
Diane Sullivan: Yeah.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Not that I was upper class, but I think these kids were not, and they had a certain resentment--class structure resentment, too.
Diane Sullivan: Bill, how about yourself?
Bill Vors: Well people ask--ask me how--how long it took me to write my book, and I tell them it took me about 40 years, because--because when I was a kid I had rheumatic fever when I was about five years old. And back then the way that rheumatic fever was treated was that I needed to rest for an extensive period of time. And for my first few years of school I was not allowed to go out and play on the playground. And I could not--and--and it wasn't until 6th grade that I was allowed to play in any competitive sports. And so I developed a--a reputation as a kid who was kind of a wimp and it wasn't my fault--I was not allowed to. And so I--and I was kind of quiet and passive, and as I got to high school I started getting picked on for my overbite, and it was so bad that I had to switch high schools. And I moved to a different school.
Diane Sullivan: Wow.
Bill Vors: And things completely turned around in high school for me, but I--so I--I remember what it like and it was very painful. It was the humiliation that was the, uh; I was never physically bullied--never.
Diane Sullivan: Mm hmm.
Bill Vors: But I was--I was humiliated, and verbally abused and it was very painful. And it's interesting, too, that as a therapist, I--about half of my practice is with adults, and it's so interesting to see adults with social anxiety and depression, anxiety disorders, that still suffer the humiliation and shame as kids.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Definitely.
Diane Sullivan: Honestly? Wow.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Could I mention--I didn't mean to just jump in--this one point--that just reminded me right now of when I was in football. I was in football, you know, and I got at least a little something--maybe some of my aggression out in football. But we were at--the whole school was in the gymnasium, and we had the full--the varsity team 'cause they had a big bonfire that night. And we were sitting in the middle--and I was supposed to be--I came from the--kind of the lower class town to this upper class town. And I was bullied terribly, and, uh, 'cause I was the kid from the other town. So the way they did it, is we were in this circle, and the whole school was there--I remember this. And they gave me this speech to make, and they were very, very big words that I knew I couldn't pronounce, and so I stood up there trying to pronounce these words in front of the whole school *(inaudible), and I still felt--I really did. Everybody in that room and the people who did it. So it does--it lasts. It really does last.
Diane Sullivan: And so adults were involved with this. It wasn't just--
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: The adults just were passive or something. I don't know. Maybe they just--boys will be boys, or this is just a right of passage, or--and this was the 1950s. People just ignored these things, I think then. "Father Knows Best” but I'm not sure why they didn't then. I know that they don't now. At least the beginning *(inaudible) now.
Diane Sullivan: Nancy, Terrence brought up something that's interesting. Quote, boys will be boys.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Mm hmm.
Diane Sullivan: Do girls engage in bullying, and are they less likely to engage in physical violence--less likely than boys, anyway?
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Yeah, I think both boys and girls are likely to bully, and, um, based on the research that we have, we know that boys are more likely to bully, um, than girls--that boys are kind of equal opportunity bullies. They tend to bully boys and girls. Girls will just tend to bully other girls. But one of the things that we know is that, uh, there is a difference in the way that girls and boys bully--that boys as both Terrence and Bill mentioned--boys are more likely to, uh, engage in that direct kind of bullying. Girls are more likely than boys to engage in indirect forms of bullying. But--but verbal bullying--verbal put-downs, or--or using demeaning names are things that--that both boys and girls use equally. And using, uh, bullying to, um, sort of, uh, create a social pecking order is also something that both boys and girls use equally. And I think one of the things that they both brought up, that's kind of interesting is--I--I was also bullied as a student, but, um, I wasn't so much different than my peers. And I think that it highlights the fact that--that, you know, as Terrence mentioned, bullies kind of have a radar for picking what kid, so--to bully--so you and I both wear glasses, and I may be picked on and teased because I wear glasses, and you may not. And I think it's not because, um, physically we're so different, but there might be something that's different about my affect, or the way kids perceive me, or maybe I'm a little shyer or maybe, you know, I tend to react a little more strongly, um, when--when somebody calls me a name. And I think most adults that I talk to can very quickly get in touch with an experience that they were part of, either as a victim or as a bully, or as a bystander. So those feelings never really go away, regardless of the kind of experience it's been, or even necessarily what our role in it was.
Diane Sullivan: Where is most bullying occurring? Is it happening at the elementary school, the middle school, the high school, or beyond? Where--where is bullying a problem?
Nancy Mullen Rindler: The earliest studies that were done show that bullying tended to happen more often in an elementary school, which makes some sense, given kids' social kids. Um, but more recent studies show that we have kind of a--a an increase, uh, during the middle school years, and in fact, we know that although bullying decreases during the high school years, that we have an increase in adolescent sexual harassment. So bullies are kind of changing their--their venue. There also have been some new studies to indicate that, uh, bullying is happening as early as the preschool years, so that it never really goes away. It starts early, it increases over time, and even as adults we all know people who are bullies. So it--it never entirely goes away.
Diane Sullivan: Kids that are bullies at a young age--is there any research, Bill, that might suggest that they then become harassers, they then become stalkers? I mean, is it a--is it a form of anti-social behavior that continues into adulthood?
Bill Vors: Well we know that--we--we know--there is one study that indicates that children who are identified as chronic bullies by the second grade--by the time they were 24 years old, 60 percent of them had committed a felony. So we do know that if this pattern of anti-social behavior is not arrested in childhood, it will continue.
Diane Sullivan: Mm hmm.
Bill Vors: It will continue and it--and it well can continue into adulthood. So this is--this is a problem that we really need to address, not just to help the targets who demonstrate *(inaudible), but also for the children who bully, because, um, this indeed is a violent society that we live in. If we really want to address violence in our society, we need to start with our children, and we need to start with this bullying issue.
Diane Sullivan: And what about the witnesses that observe the bullying, or the bystanders--they watch, they're not engaged in it, but they do nothing about it--what's the impact on them?
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Well, there's a lot of levels, as you just kind of mentioned--we're kind of getting into this area of levels of bullying. Bystander being one--the instigator, you know, come one, let's go, come on, get it, you know--that kind of kid who stands in the back, you know, is getting it with the bully, you know, and saying come on, come on, let's go. But I think that there's a whole levels of bullying--at least what I found out with writing a curriculum. Now, I started writing "Why Is Everybody Picking On Me?" and I said, okay, no, now why is everybody picking on us--no, now why are we picking on each other--it started getting larger and larger and larger.
Diane Sullivan: Yeah.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: And I said now we have to go back--what are the causes of this, and I'd like to at least talk about that a little bit today. What are the basic causes of bullying?
Diane Sullivan: Tell us, what are the causes?
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: One of the causes of bullying, I think, is a very simple word, conditioning. I think that we've been conditioned to being bullied. I think--I worked in Juvenile Delinquency Prevention in Sonoma County and I--the kids had a lot of problems with--with conflict and violence. And I looked around and I said, you know, we're the adults. I mean, we have a double message with the kids. We say be kind, be good, and, you know, be gentle and turn the other cheek. But the real message, and you'll see it constantly--be aggressive, go get it, you know, be the Fortune 500, you know, do it, you know? And, uh, that's that mixed message that they're--they're getting. So I think that they're conditioned to want to be a part of society and follow along with certain patterns or behavior that--that exist in society that are terribly aggressive. I mean, it's--it's aggressive society. And so I think that's what we have to address. Not just the picking on me--the playground, because it's--it's a much larger picture because what's going on--what we call in the battlefield--from the--from the playground to the battlefield--it's the whole--the whole of it that causes the conditioning, the--the--if you want to call it brainwashing or programming or that--that conditioning that--that a child gets to--it's a learned behavior. They learn to be bullies. They learn it from their parents, or they learn it from other kids and so on. But then we have to--one other thing on the--the causes--what happens is that it gets into the child's head as in cognitive behavioral therapy--they talk about it. I'm sure you could talk about this very well, Bill. Is that they start bullying themselves--becomes a--and then it gets out to bullying somebody else, but it becomes something that goes into the head. So there's--it's a very complex--but it's--it's not a subject that--it's--it's solvable. It is resolvable.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Yeah.
Diane Sullivan: And we will talk in the second part of the show about what the solutions are to the problem. But what is the bully trying to achieve? I mean, are they--do they believe that they're going to solve their problems or conflict by physical bullying, or do they like to inflict pain and suffering on others? What is the root of it, Bill?
Bill Vors: Well that was--that's really what defines a child who bullies, is one who really enjoys that behavior, who enjoys that sort of power, and will find any way that he or she can to--to inflict that power on someone who is weaker than him or her. So that--that is what defines a--a child who bullies.
Diane Sullivan: Nancy, you wanted to add to that?
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Yeah, I was just going to say that I think that one of the things that we know that all bullies lack is, uh, a sense of the empathy or caring for, uh, the victim, and--and a difficulty seeing things from somebody else's point of view. So if I'm the bully, I hurt you--I don't really care whether I'm hurting you or not, and I'm--I'm sort of not really understanding that I'm causing pain. And one of the things that's so insidious about this is that this, uh, same lack of empathy can--can affect the majority of kids who are the bystanders. That we know that over time, when kids are exposed to bullying behavior, and as Bill mentioned, if that behavior isn't stopped, they begin to associate with the bullies. They tend to feel like somehow the victims are bringing it on themselves, and over time, their sense of empathy is reduced. And so what that means is they're more likely to join in and bully the next time. So that's why--
Diane Sullivan: Yeah. Because they're hardened by what they've observed.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Well, yes.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: But as a child, I mean, this whole thing about empathy--when I was--in the 1950s the whole thing with John Wayne--he'd, you know, he'd beat somebody up and sit down and have a drink, or he'd shoot somebody and he'd have a drink. I mean, there was no--there was no relationship between the act and, you know, what went on, and how--any feeling about doing horrendously violent things and hey, what did I do to you, and not knowing it, and not feeling it inside yourself.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Well I think, as you mentioned too, the cultural messages are very strong and very important. The, you know, the whole, um, our society's notion of, you know, winning at all cost, and--and, you know, if you want to get ahead you have to sort of climb over the bodies and there are issues about, um, you know, who has the power in our society. It has to do with class, it has to do with gender, and it has to do with achievement. So all of those kinds of things play a role in, um, how--how normalized, uh, bullying becomes and how accepting we are as a culture of that behavior.
Bill Vors: I think that's a really good point that you make, that there's a--there's a real, I think, regression in civility--
Diane Sullivan: Yeah.
Bill Vors: --um, that we've seen in the past decade or more. And we can see it in the media, and it's--it's a regression in civility towards not just--it's towards women, towards people of different sexual orientations, but towards people in general. And--and this is--and we see this among adults, at an adult level. We see it in our humor on, you know, some of the comedy shows that we watch.
Diane Sullivan: Mm hmm.
Bill Vors: And it's only natural that it's going to--it's going to trickle down to the middle schools and the elementary schools.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: May I mention something about this?
Diane Sullivan: Sure.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: When you said the causes--and this may be a little bit stretching it far, but I actually wrote a book on it for kids, and the kids seemed to understand it--I think a lot of the tribal--issues come from tribalism. That--that essentially we were--in order to survive as a group, we had to--physically to have our, you know, food and water and so on, we had to identify psychologically with the group--it just happened. And that identity--and it came--became the same. So physical security became related to a psychological identity to the group. And that has lasted, you know, for millennia--on and on and on. And as the tribes grew, then they started bumping into--become *(inaudible) and so on and so on--it became bumping into each other. And seems to be, there's still these tribes among tribes and clans among clans within the clans, that are fragmented--the human race is essentially fragmented. Although at one time it was essential for our survival to identify with a group and be a part of that structure in that particular way--that strong-psychological identification. Now it seems to be a threat to the human race that we're, you know, that we're still caught in my little group versus your little group. And you see that in the schools. These--these are schools--these are the different breakdowns of the--the groups and the cliques in the schools--these are all like little tribes.
Diane Sullivan: Some of them are gangs.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Yes, well that's--that's it.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: I think one of the things that's important to mention is this notion of, you know, you asked who the bullies are and we've talked about the bystanders and the victims, and I think it's very useful to think about, uh, you know, this as a continuum--that not all bullies are the same. There are some kids who are instigating the bully--the bullying behavior. There are others who are kind of egging the bullying on. There are others who are getting a rush from it, but maybe not participating. Then, you know, there are a group of bystanders who run the gamut from sort of watching and kind of feeling like maybe that bullying is okay, to those kids who just want to pretend it's not happening--
Diane Sullivan: Are horrified.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: --to those kids who are, as you say, horrified, but don't know what to do. And then there are the kids who are actively, um, uh, good Samaritans. And, you know, the same with victims. Victims run the gamut from kids who are kind of passive victims to kids who are really reactive and--and seem to bring that bullying from--from the outside anyway--seem to bring the bullying on. So I think it's really important to not sort of--
Diane Sullivan: Right.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: --look at, uh, just these groups as--everybody's sort of this homogenous group--that there--there are different motivations. This is a behavior--it's very complex--there are risk factors and protective factors for kids in every group and--and that that really, um, is going to help us decide what to do about it if we keep that in mind.
Diane Sullivan: Welcome back to the Educational Forum where we're discussing bullying. Panel, how significant is the problem of bullying? Is this going on all over the place much of the time? Is it a serious problem, Nancy?
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Yes, I--I think it is. Um, we, uh, have known for a while that at least one in 10 kids are regularly bullied, and those kids often have physical symptoms. The recent information about the--the degree of bullying here in the United States shows that at least 30 percent are, uh, are involved in bullying, and about 19 percent are bullying other students, and about 17 percent are being bullied. And I think depending on what study you look at, it can range as high as 35 percent, or, uh, there was a study in the Midwest that showed that, uh, I think it was something like, uh, 75 percent of all 8th graders had experienced bullying. So it's--it's quite a national issue and I think, uh, because of the potential connections to school violence it's something that's even more of a concern.
Diane Sullivan: Let's talk about the school violence in just a moment. But there's a part of me that wonders, isn't bullying really, most of the time--certainly not all of the time--not from what you've--you've shared here today--just a simple, you know, harmless right of passage? For example, my mother--when I was a young kid I remember her saying to me, okay, you see this kid over here--he's a bully, Diane, stay away from him. And I did, and there was never a problem. I mean, have we forgotten our common sense about some of this stuff?
Bill Vors: You know, I think we used to think the same thing about domestic violence.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Mm hmm.
Bill Vors: And I think that--
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Or sexual assault.
Bill Vors: --it's a--the--and sexual assault, all sorts of abuse. Um, I mean, the clinical term for this is peer abuse, which doesn't sound quite so benign as bullying or teasing. But it's a form of abuse that--that affects people in very significant ways. 14 percent of--I think I may have mentioned this already--but 14 percent of children who suffer bullying suffer psychiatric symptoms. And so this is a significant problem. And in--and in referring to the last question, it--it's really interesting. We--we see data that shows that school violence has actually dropped across the country.
Diane Sullivan: Yeah.
Bill Vors: And it has. It's dropped by four percent, I believe, over the last decade or so.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Mm hmm.
Bill Vors: However, bullying has increased by five percent.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Right.
Bill Vors: Because when we talk about violence being reduced, we're talking about, um, uh--
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Assault.
Bill Vors: --assaults, uh--
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Vandalism.
Bill Vors: --rape, etcetera--really, obviously, serious events.
Diane Sullivan: Yeah.
Bill Vors: But bullying behaviors have increased. So yes, indeed it is a problem.
Diane Sullivan: You know, one thing that surprised me when I was doing the research for the show, I saw reference to the Colorado shootings and so forth. And I thought for sure, when I read the articles, I was going to see that these kids that actually pulled the trigger were bullies all of their lives. That's not true. They were, at least their claim is, that they were kids that had been consistently, for years, bullied. Your comments or your reaction to that? Terrence?
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Well, I did, um, a study of those children for a book I wrote for parents. And there was--there's a similarity among them. These were not, you know, the African-American kids, or the Hispanic kids in the ghetto that you would think, you know, okay, this is reasonable to a certain extent--you would understand perhaps, have empathy. These were, quote, successful or--or--White kids, and they were from middle class America and this was the hard thing for people to understand. But I think when you looked at what happened there, that--that clique again--that kind of, um, almost sociological grouping and tribalism between the jocks, let's say, and the nerds, or the ones, you know, that type of thing. So where--where in Columbine, they were harassed and--and put in the lockers and urinated on and things like that, by the jocks--by--by--and they had--they had--these kids had a hit list of people they wanted to go after. And this--this was a phenomena--actually, that one in *(inaudible) California, uh, they were--one--MSNBC or one of the stations said there were actually 30 incidents of that week, and three of them happened--one girl *(inaudible) a Catholic school, with a, you know, a little outfit, with a 38 revolver into the school. I mean, so this is a tremendously seriously problem. But the--the factors that create it--I'd like to talk about that at some point--there are factors that create it. The--the videos that they watch--the movies, "The Matrix".
Diane Sullivan: Yeah.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: I mean, I have seen--never seen such violence on television. I mean, I come from, you know, "Father Knows Best" time to--to violence that is so beyond me. I saw the making of "Matrix" one time--I couldn't even watch that--it was unbelievable.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Yeah. Diane, I think there's a misconception, um, that we have or this image that we have as the bully, as this, you know, big sort of hulking, somewhat socially inept, individual.
Diane Sullivan: Guilty, that's what I think of.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Yeah, yeah. So--but--but most bullies are actually fairly popular, and that's the part that's difficult for many of us to understand and accept. Um, so they--those kids just from the get-go have a lot of power already, and are--have a lot of social skills, are pretty able to manipulate, uh, friendships and--and their peers. I think those kids who were involved in the shootings, uh, as the perpetrators, tended to be kids who had poor social skills, um, and didn't really fit in so well--were marginalized to begin with. And--and they are not even typical victims. Most kids who are victims tend to internalize those feelings. They're much more, as Bill mentioned, likely to be depressed or think about suicide, rather than think about shooting someone else. So I think we have to really look at the different, uh, behaviors when we talk about this, because there are a lot of myths and misconceptions that we have about who's likely to be picked on, and who's likely to bully others. But--but in answer to your question, I think, you know, ignoring a bully is certainly one strategy, but it can't be your only strategy. Because what if you’re ignoring hadn't worked?
Diane Sullivan: Yeah.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: You know, you would've needed some other strategies to deal with that, or you would've been victimized. So I would say, you know, your--your mom-you were just lucky that your mom's advice--
Diane Sullivan: Worked.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: --was successful for you.
Diane Sullivan: Let's spend some time now talking about advice for parents, for parents, for teachers, for victims, and maybe trying to talk to kids who are bullies themselves. So let's start with the parents. Bill, let's start with you. What advice might you give parents whose child is either the victim or the bully?
Bill Vors: Good. Uh, first of all, let's start with the target, okay? And I like to call them targets rather than victims--it's just my choice. But, uh, one thing you don't want to tell a child is just to ignore it. I mean, my--my own perspective on that would be don't say that because a child may get the impression that the parent is minimizing it, and it should just be blown off. Um, another thing I don't recommend is just getting right on the phone and talking--and calling up the parents of the bullying child, because that can just, um, lead to more problems. Generally bullying occurs at school, and so I'd recommend the parents contact the school and let the school talk with the parents, okay? What you do want to do? You want to focus on the child first of all, okay? You want to empathize with that child. It took a lot of courage for that child to talk with the parents--recognize that, honor that, get as many facts as you can, write them down. If you can get dates, if you can get names, etcetera--um, get as much information as you can. Then take it to the school. Go to the school. The child may not want you to go to the school. You have to make a judgment call on that. If it--
Diane Sullivan: The kid's frightened, right?
Bill Vors: Pardon?
Diane Sullivan: The--the--the target, as you call the child, is frightened.
Bill Vors: The child's frightened, and if this is the first time that it's happened, and it seems to be minor, and the child says please don't talk to the school, you need to make a judgement call. Maybe you'd want to let--teach the child some skills and let the child deal with it. However, if you--if you determine that no, this is really significant--this does--this--in most cases I would say overrule the child.
Diane Sullivan: Mm hmm.
Bill Vors: And say--and--and go to the school, talk with the teacher, get an action plan. See what the teacher's going to do, determine what the--find out what the school's policy is, and follow up in a week to make sure that whatever was determined to be done, has been done. Most schools don't have bullying prevention plans. But they do have discipline policies.
Diane Sullivan: Mm hmm.
Bill Vors: Whatever they have--a policy of whatever sort--make sure you know what it is, and that it is followed. Third thing to do is to teach that child some resilience skills, um, to teach some simple assertiveness. A lot of kids--a lot of times children don't know how to simply say, stop it, I don't like that. Will that always stop the bullying? No. But it will help that child's, uh, sense of self-worth to--to be able to say I don't deserve that kind of behavior or that type of treatment. It's going to keep shame from developing.
Diane Sullivan: What about telling the kid to punch the bully in the nose?
Bill Vors: Wrong.
Diane Sullivan: Wrong, okay, don't do that. Why?
Bill Vors: No, I--well--
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Well, maybe--maybe not.
Bill Vors: Hold--let me finish my point.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: No, please.
Bill Vors: Um, that I believe that generally a bully is typically going to--let's talk boys--is typically going to pick on someone who's smaller and physically weaker.
Diane Sullivan: Mm hmm.
Bill Vors: And if that child, from a practical standpoint, doesn't know how to defend himself he's going to wind up getting creamed, okay? I--I personally prefer to teach--teach kids, you know, very--nonviolent ways to deal with--nonviolent strategies, and there are--there are different opinions on this--on this topic. But, uh, I--I would not encourage parents to, um, have their child--child go and, uh, retaliate physically.
Diane Sullivan: And there would be concerns, I suppose, over legal issues, as well. The lawyer in me.
Bill Vors: Yes.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: And--and I wasn't--I wasn't advocating that.
Bill Vors: Yes.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: If I--may I?
Diane Sullivan: Terrence, you may.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Um, and this is going to bring up a lot of controversy, but I--I was thinking about it during the break, what you said that--I'm--I'm going to advocate what I call martial arts for peace. I'm going to advocate what I think is a holistic program called conflict education. I think what's wrong--what's not working in public schools is what they call conflict resolution. There's already a conflict. And it's after the, you know, the horse is gone, so to speak. There's a--there's a resolution of something. And it's usually done--kind of a tattletale mode. Go tell the teacher, go and tell the Principal. We're usually not listening, or too afraid, particularly of the bully, and so on. What I think needs to happen is to have a conflict education program that has three parts. Conflict avoidance--understanding the basic factors that create conflict. The conditioning--the thinking, the learned behavior in the child, and addressing that in--in some kind of plan. And then also awareness of a situation--being alert and aware to your situation of--of bullies and--out on the playground and so on--being out of that. The second one is the resolution, but the resolution should be what I call the 12 ways to walk away with confidence. It could be 1,200, but let me--please. The--there are 12 ways to walk away with confidence--now I'm bullying. And that, um, that--these are verbal skills--that a child should be empowered to use the verbal skills and not necessarily call on an authority--be able to talk well, use humor, walk away, reason, you know, make friends with the bully. The third, and it seems the most controversial, and I think we're going to get in a little, you know, uh, debate about that, is the martial arts. Not, I would say, and I--and I think this is what you'll be saying--not just conventional martial arts that doesn't teach the mental part of it. I'm talking about a program that has what I--the avoidance and the resolution part of it, equal to the physical part. The physical part--the first thing a bully feels when he or she is on the playground--the bully comes up--is what? Freeze, fight, or flight. That's the first thing they feel. And I know--I went through it. And I've taught this thing for 42 years--I know it. And these kids just freeze up. They can't--they can't be rational--they can't think of all these things. So what I've done, I've taught them to take care of themselves, so to speak, if it ever should happen. But if you have all these other skills--so the physical martial arts is for the prevention of this fight of flight, so you can be rational, so you can think--you can use your avoidance skills--you can use your resolution skills. But this goes together as a whole program in conflict education. Avoidance, resolution and management. And by the way, Stuart *Tremlo, uh, and *Dr. Franc Sako, and people like this, in this forensic psychology work, with the, uh, Secret Service on these issues of bullying--said that martial art programs that are very structured programs does attract bullies, and it makes bullies.
Diane Sullivan: Nancy, just one moment and then I'm going to give you the floor.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Okay, thank you.
Diane Sullivan: When you're going like this, are you saying when a child is being bullied, they should take a--
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: A stance.
Diane Sullivan: A stance like this.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: That's number 12--that's number 12 on the list. And you have to have what I call mild, medium or hot, like salsa. If a kid just--give me your lunch money. You don't go, yah, like this and come on, let me do it. You know, no, you don't do that. You don't call the teacher necessarily. You do a smile. You say no, I'm sorry, you know, I don't want to do that, and you walk away. So you have to have--the punishment has to fit the crime. So you really--on avoidance level, you have to teach the child this--how to do that. So you wouldn't necessarily go in the stance. But there may be a time, believe me--this whole idea of zero tolerance, and not using anything physical, but in fact, if your life is being threatened, you have a right to defend yourself. I absolutely believe you have the right, but if it's taught correctly, you can do that in mild, medium and hot. If someone's just grabbing you like this, you don't have to hit them like that. You can just take their hand off and say no.
Diane Sullivan: Okay Nancy, you're up.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Thank you. I--I think there, uh, you know, I don't want to get into a battle of statistics here with you, uh, Terrence, um, but there--there is evidence that suggests when kids respond in kind, that the cycle of violence is more likely to escalate.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: I'm not saying be violent.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: But I think that there a couple of things that I want to clarify, um, based on what, uh, what you said. We are not--I think neither Bill or I would argue that we--we wouldn't want victims to be assertive, or we wouldn't want them to have sort of a social tool kit of a variety of different responses that they can use in different ways. But I think one thing that you raise that's really an important myth that we have to address, and that is that bullying is not a form of conflict. Conflict resolution is an effective tool when you think of people being on a fairly equal playing field, so there's little right and little wrong on both sides. With bullying, what we're talking about is one person or group of people having a lot more power, so conflict resolution skills don't work in those situations. The other thing that I'd like to address is I think we're leaving out the majority of students who are the bystanders--that we know that at least 60 percent of kids are bystanders in any situation. So what we need to do is make sure those kids have skills to be able to step in and say hey, you know, cut it out--leave that, you know, leave Bill alone--don't pick on--don't pick on Bill, don't pick on Terrence. And--and that--that the climate of the school is such that--that, um, those behaviors are, uh, are rewarded when kids try to step in, even if they aren't effective.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: I think resolution skills are important but we need to have more of them for the child so they can do it simply on the playground.
Diane Sullivan: Panel, once again, we need to take a break but we'll be right back, so please stay tuned and we'll be right back to talk more about bullying. Welcome back to the Educational Forum for our final segment on bullying. Nancy, let's go back to advice for the audience. Let's talk about bystanders, whether it be teachers, or kids who are observing bullying. What advice do you have for them to handle the situation effectively?
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Well, I think that the advice really is for parents and for teachers, um, that, uh, for parents for example, that we really want to reinforce, uh, for kids, that, um, when they make, um, sort of a social blunder--they hurt someone's feelings--that--that we want to let kids know that it's our expectation that they make amends, even if a situation is accidental. We want to give them skills so that they can problem solve in social situations and it becomes even more important as kids get older. So what do you do when you see somebody being put down, you know, whether that's somebody who's your friend, or somebody that--who--who you don't like. Um, and we want to reward kids, uh, or reinforce for them, praise them, when they make these acts of courage, even if they're not successful. I think from a--a teacher's point of view, we want to create a climate in the school where it becomes, uh, sort of more the norm that we expect kids to step in, and that--that to recognize that it's pretty hard to be the Lone Ranger and be the only kid saying quit it, but you want to have social supports there, and you want kids as a group to recognize when things aren't right, and say hey, cut it out. 'Cause what we're going to be doing then is changing the norm so the bully is going to have to start thinking about, oh gosh, this isn't, you know, so cool, that I'm doing this anymore, and so kids who are victimized begin to feel that they have some sort of support, um, and that they're not out there by themselves, either.
Diane Sullivan: Specifically though, what do you do with the school gossip--the girl who just runs her mouth with such harsh untrue statements about girls that are pretty, or popular, or the like?
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Mm hmm. Well, I--I think with any bully, whether it's a kid who's sort of hurting somebody with words or hurting somebody physical, that we know kids tend to, uh, deny that they did anything wrong. They tend to minimize it or they tend to blame the victim. So, um, I think that, um, that we need to deal with that student on an individual basis, and sort of go through those doors and address those issues, and build a sense of awareness and perspective-taking, and also let kids know that there are rules in our school--that we don't believe that it's okay to treat--treat each other that way. And if you do, here are some of the consequences, and the consequences may escalate, depending on the severity of the incident, or--or how often it happens.
Diane Sullivan: How do schools handle bullying? What do they do--do they bounce the kids out?
Bill Vors: Well some of them do. And some schools have zero tolerance policy, which initially seemed like a good idea, but we're starting to see that that's not really the best idea. It can create more problems than, um, than it solves. And it's sort of like, we're--we're trying to, uh, catch a bunch of horses that have run out of--run out of the barn--we're trying to deal with the horses one at a time. What we need to do is get the horses back into the barn or back into the corral, and then deal with it. What we're--we talk about how can we deal with this, how can we deal with that. What schools need to do is to implement systemic change, and that takes time.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Right.
Bill Vors: It's not something that happens in a week or a month or even a year. It takes time. Kids need to learn gradually, and so do adults, because some research shows that 25 percent of teachers don't believe that this is any serious issue.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Mm hmm.
Bill Vors: So adults need to be educated as well as children, and then it may take several years before a system--a school system is at the point where bystanders know that okay, the general ethic in this school is that's not funny.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Mm hmm.
Bill Vors: That's not cool. And you're going to have John and Joe, or Sally and Sue and they're going to stand next to you and say, you know, they're--that's right, it's not. And they're--the bystanders are the second most potent force for change. The number one is adults, okay? We want to mobilize the adults, and we want to mobilize the bystanders to, uh, to intervene in bullying situations.
Diane Sullivan: What am I missing, Bill? Because it would seem to me *(inaudible) they had in my day--maybe they don't refer to them this way anymore, but a student assembly. And you called everybody in, and you said, you engage in bullying--defined as teasing, harassing, physical threats, physical violence--you're out of here for two weeks. You are suspended for two weeks. Wouldn't that work?
Bill Vors: That probably--it probably wouldn't happen, for one thing.
Diane Sullivan: But--but what if it did, would it work?
Bill Vors: Um, in the short term it might work.
Diane Sullivan: So then why don't we try it?
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Well if that's the only solution than it--it's not likely to work. That--we want that--that's okay as part of the bigger picture, but when those messages are reinforced on a daily basis as part of the regular curriculum, and helping kids make connections, for example, between that individual power over stuff that happens in their social cliques--how does that relate to, um, how we treat each other within our country, you know, connecting into issues, for example, of discrimination--to, you know, how we are, or how--how cultures treat each other in--in, uh, the world, you know? Uh, if you look at--at, uh, societies who tend to dominate, I think you can make those connections through literature, through social studies, and it's much more meaningful when it happens on a daily basis for students.
Diane Sullivan: Before I talk with Terrence more about the martial arts for peace, let's go back to you, Bill. Parent gets a call from the school that says your child has engaged in bullying.
Bill Vors: Mm hmm.
Diane Sullivan: What concrete advice do you have for that parent to stop that child from bullying?
Bill Vors: First of all, that parent needs to understand that the school is on the child's side. This is not an attack against a parent. Because a lot of times parents will get defensive and they'll say, no, not my child. But the parent needs to realize that it's--it's hard being a parent. And sometimes your kids will do things that are--that are antisocial or wrong and do need to be addressed. But they need to take a cooperative position with the school and do everything they can to cooperate with the school to help that child learn the social skills to function in school. But the--the number one--the number one point to remember is, don't take it personally. It's not--this is not against you as a parent.
Diane Sullivan: Okay, but how do you discipline the child to get them to stop engaging in the behavior?
Bill Vors: It takes more than discipline. The word discipline, by the way, comes from the Greek root--Greek or Latin, I'm not sure--for disciple.
Diane Sullivan: Mm hmm.
Bill Vors: Meaning, to learn. And so when we discipline children, what we're talking about is teaching. So what a parent needs to do is to take a look at what am I teaching my child here at home. It calls for a hard inner search of that parent, to ask well, am I teaching any bullying behaviors at home? Do I call names to my spouse or my partner? Do I call my child names? Do I put my child down? Do I tell racist or sexist jokes? Do I--in--in what ways do I exhibit behavior that I wouldn't--that--that really could lead to bullying, and to take a good honest look inside. Because parents are the most important teachers a child's ever going to have.
Diane Sullivan: Without being confrontational, though--my mom would've sent me up to my room. No TV, you know, no telephone calls and for two weeks you come home after school--you stay in your room and you don't do that again, Diane, and I wouldn't have.
Bill Vors: And that's fine. And--and I--and I think that--that appropriate logical consequences make a lot of sense. I agree with that, too.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Although, I think we tend to find taking away social contact is much more effective than taking away TV. So it's--it would be much more effective to say, you know, until you make amends you're not going to--you're not going out with your friends, rather than no TV for a month. So--
Diane Sullivan: And you're not using the phone, and you're not, right.
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Right. So--so that's one thing. The other thing that we want to begin to praise those kids each time they act in a pro-social way, so really catch them being good. So those two things together, not just the negative consequences, but providing some positive reinforcement for the good stuff.
Diane Sullivan: Good comment.
Bill Vors: Yes.
Diane Sullivan: Terrence, Martial Arts for Peace.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Martial Arts for Peace--the real controversy. Well, you know, kids want power. I think they feel powerless. And they--and they think that martial arts are cool. It even attracts a lot of bullies--I hate to say it, but martial arts do. They think they're going to be stronger and cooler. You know, they see all these movies--they think I'm gonna be cool. "Matrix" and all of that. But I--and unfortunately the kids see conflict resolution, or peaceful things as uncool. I hate to say it, but they just don't--they--kind of wimps--oh, those peace people, they're wimpy. They want something cool. So actually, it's got--it's like homeopathy. I think Martial Arts for Peace--and I have to emphasize for peace, 'cause it has the--the three levels of the program--avoidance, resolve and--and manage--that the Martial Arts for Peace are cool to kids because it has a disciplined environment.
Diane Sullivan: Yeah.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: It has an environment they can come into and say yes sir, yes ma'am, and it's a part of the environment that the discipline in--in the schools--I think the--the teachers have a terrible time trying to discipline the kids to learn. Because they don't want to learn. There's a--there's a--but I find in 42 years I've been in the martial arts, that kids I've had want to be there, they know what we're doing, they learn from it. I--I remember a child going home, uh, and--and after one lesson, the parent coming back, said my child ended up in the Principal's Office. I said oh no, no. No, she said, no, no, this is great. Because the child got out of a bullying situation by using humor. And humor's a very difficult one 'cause the bully can take offense at this. So I know that it works. I've done this for 42 years, and this is a practical, down-to-earth program. Even your niece, I think, has a--is your niece--has a black belt in--
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Mm hmm.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: The martial arts--I think that the martial art industry has to start seeing; it's not just pugilism. It really is in an educational environment that we can teach about character development, conflict education--all of these things could be done in a martial art environment--believe it or not. I know there's controversy about this. I'm not talking about the typical martial arts school that attracts bullies and really just exacerbates the problems--makes them worse. This is a place where children--and--and I've done this for 42 years, and I say I've written books that--these things have worked. I've seen it. And I want something down-to-earth. As a parent, which I am--
Diane Sullivan: Mm hmm.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: --as a teacher, which I've been, and as a school Principal, which I've been, I want something simple, down-to-earth, that kids are going to like, they're going to want to be there, and they're going to learn. And in all my experience, uh, and some martial arts schools, yes, I find again, there's a kind of like the Miyagi against the other one, you know, the--the violent one in the "Karate Kid". But more and more these martial arts schools can work together with the schools and provide an environment where the children get this physical--this biological, bio-reactive situation--this fight or flight, where that's--that's a very big factor. We don't take it--we try to overlay with this kind of, quote, peaceful things that the kids can do, but underneath it, they're still feeling this, oh my goodness, what got--what's going to happen if this bully really starts pushing him, you know?
Diane Sullivan: You know, before I give you a minute for your final comment for the audience, I just have to go back to my mother. My mother would tell me, you know, stay away from the bully. But then she would say to me, and if he says something to you--and she would use the word he--if he says something to you, what do you care what he has to say anyway? You know, ignore it. Why--why--why do kids care so much about what the bully is saying to them?
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Well, that's one of the 12 ways, quote, is ignore it. But as I say, there's a point, and there's zero tolerance--if a child is aggressing upon you physically, and is really beating you up, you can't just use conflict resolution skills--you're not. This is--this is the--at a third *(inaudible) level where you have to do something. And we can teach a child to protect him or herself with physical skills--hopefully skills that, you know, match the crime, so to speak. We're not doing lethal--I don't believe in teaching lethal skills at all. I'm teaching, what I call--
Diane Sullivan: That's good to hear.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: --SOS, I call SOS. You know, safe--you know, these are safe skills.
Diane Sullivan: Terrence, thank you. Nancy, final comment for the audience?
Nancy Mullen Rindler: Well I think, um, I would like us to move away from the very common notion that, uh, it's really up to the victim to stop the bullying behavior. I think it's important for us as parents, as educators, as a society, to look at ways to help build a sense of community and connection among kids, so kids aren't feeling alienated or--or marginalized. That we-we build into--back into our schools, perhaps, um, ways of--of teaching kids how to develop the kids of social skills they need to get along with other people--that these are things that are important to us, lifelong. And that I think in terms of dealing with this issue of bullying, that we have to focus on the majority of kids who are the bystanders. Otherwise we're going to continue to be putting out these same fires over and over and over again, that we're never really going to be changing that overall culture that--that makes, uh, bullying more likely to happen.
Diane Sullivan: Bill, add to that.
Bill Vors: Okay, I'll add to that. Um, what I would like for people to do, and parents in particular, is to get involved with your PTAs, get involved with your PTOs, make sure that your school has a clear policy on bullying. Make--research programs--there are a lot of good programs out there--and research them, see if your school can--some of them don't even cost anything. And see if your school can--your--talk to your school board about getting a program on board at your school to make sure everyone from the bus drivers to the cafeteria workers, to the Principal, is trained--and the students are trained.
Diane Sullivan: Terrence, wrap us up.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: I would agree with everything everybody said, and I think this is a very, very serious issue. I think it runs from the playground to the battlefield, and I'm not going to start to get into that.
Diane Sullivan: We don't have time.
Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle: Not at all. But I think that, as I said before, that martial arts that offer peace--that include avoidance, resolution and management skills, all together in a healthy and sane way, will create a disciplined environment for children to learn the skills they need to deal with bullying *(inaudible).
Diane Sullivan: Got it, Terrence. Thank you very much for joining me today. And to our viewing audience, until next time, be well and thanks.