April 12, 2010

Bullying in School: What Can Be Done About It?

Posted: 09:00 PM ET


Adolescence, that swampy zone between safety and power, is best patrolled by adults armed with sense and mercy, not guns and a badge. That's one of many reasons the awful story of Phoebe Prince leaves me so uneasy.

The tragedy is now a global parable: a cute Irish girl moves to a new town — South Hadley, Mass. — and starts dating a popular football player. Other girls, alpha girls, get jealous. They taunt her, cross out her picture on a student-body poster, fling abuse on Facebook. It goes on for months; her mother tries to get the school to do something. Finally, on Jan. 14, after a day when she was allegedly harassed in the library, in the hallways and on her way home from school — a canned drink thrown at her, and the words "You Irish slut, you Irish whore" — Phoebe Prince went home, picked out a scarf her sister had given her for Christmas and hanged herself in a stairwell. Her sister found her. The mean girls? They logged on and mocked her death. 

These dismal stories have grown familiar, but it is what happened next that tangles our instincts. When district attorney Elizabeth Scheibel charged nine students in connection with Phoebe's suicide, she forced us to explore the line between the cruel and the criminal. 

Scheibel had to be creative to find charges that fit. Seven girls were charged variously with stalking and criminal harassment, civil rights violations and assault by means of a dangerous weapon (the drink). Two boys were charged with statutory rape (sex, even consensual, with someone under 16). The town now turns on itself: Is this who we are? Who is to blame? The alleged accessories to the crime range from the teachers who overheard the abuse and did nothing, to the adults who appear just as cowed by the powerful kids as their peers are, to the technologies that give new meaning to mean.


Filed under: Larry King Live

Share this on:
Scott Stodden   April 12th, 2010 9:19 pm ET

Speak out against it and hold the parents and schools more responsible for this serious thing we call bullying, lets not see anymore children take there lives!

Scott Stodden (Freeport,Illinois)

Smith360   April 12th, 2010 9:36 pm ET

I've enjoyed the comic skits which Bill Cosby has performed from Coast to Coast.

It seems to run contrary however in regards to his tirade against Bullying in Schools across the nation to his Black Muslim disciple days with his riot shotgun toting militant guards marching down the street and daring anyone to come up and even say hello.

Muslim ruled country's routinely have a great many Muslim clerics who bully all women out of school entirely, by and far that is more pervasive than the minor problems across America, what if anything does Bill Cosby have to say about Muslims bullying women out of schools across the world?

Sandra Zerner   April 13th, 2010 1:42 am ET

If we really cared about how kids treat each other (and I'm not sure we do) we would pay closer attention to how we treat each other. Do we really understand the powerful impact negative words can have? If we did we would stop using public humiliation, temper tantrums, practical jokes, belittling and backbiting as forms of entertainment. Kids see this stuff – in comedies and in reality shows – and say, "Adults think this is funny; I guess it's ok." We need a serious reality check!

PROF Dave W. Dawson   April 13th, 2010 5:12 am ET

Do you know how easy it is to make ANY bully FEEL 2 INCHES TALL ?????? ?????? ??????
ALL bullies MUST ask themselves "CAN I TURN OVER A NEW LEAF?" to maintain any height above 2 inches.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   April 13th, 2010 6:06 am ET

Bullying comes in many guises, none of which are pleasant. That is the big question........What Can Be Done About It? Something urgently needs to be done about it..........because it is just getting worse and worse out there and everywhere in society.

Schools need to get all their heads together and knock this one on the head, I think. Who can these children turn to I wonder........if they are not being listened to. Someone has to listen and care about them, surely. Or is it put in the TOO HARD BASKET!?

Parents need to take note as well and how they are bringing up their children. I think what is happening nowadays is unprecedented.

Theresa   April 13th, 2010 8:39 am ET

How many children are taught respect these days...respect for yourself first...if a person truly respects themselves I doubt they would even consider treating someone else so viciously. These bullies to me have NO self confidence...if they did they wouldn't feel the need to make themselves feel better by making someone else feel worse. In the last decade what have parents taught their children...not to accept yourself for who you are. If you don't like your body image we'll just take you to the Dr. will cure all your ills. Parents want to be their child's buddy...parenting takes too much effort & work. How many people sit down & eat dinner wiyh their that's soo out of date. How many people would really qualify for being a parent if examinations were mandatory. How long has it been since a child has to be responsible for something they've done wrong...either parents will fix it or if your parents can afford it ...the best lawyer will do the job. How many children actually have to help out with the housework, actually get a parttime job & pay for those games or that cell phone that just have to have? Parents think if they can talk to their child via cell phone..all is don't need to know your choldren's friends or their parents. veryone has to ake responsibility for how our youth treat their some situations it's not a pretty sight. These young people(the bullies) hopefully will get the penalty they deserve..along with them the parents & the school & the school board have to take part of the responsibility. I feel sorry for mnany of the youth of today...what kind of society are we if some have no conscience & have NO remorse for what they did to Phoebe & many like her. This story has effected's so sad how this girl had to live her last days onthis earth. This is utterly shameful!!!

Expat American   April 13th, 2010 9:53 am ET

The school administrators should be held accountable for failing to take action in defense of Ms. Prince. They failed in their duties as educators and administrators and should be removed from their positions. They are incompetent cowards. It is this failure of these professional ‘adults’ that will lead to even more deaths – by more victims of bullying who choose to turn their pain on themselves, or for the other victims of bullying who choose to turn their pain on their bullies; often times at the cost of innocent bystanders like in CO.

There should be stiff penalties of jail time for the physical assaults against the ‘Mean Girls’ and statutory rape charges against the high school football hero. Not only that but these bullies should carry on their permanent record what they did for the rest of their lives; on every college/graduate school application and every job they apply for. Let them be marked for life for who they are.

The parents of the bullies are as responsible for what happened and if anything they encouraged their children’s behavior. Such a mindset is taught and learned and ultimately begins in the home. The parents of these bully teens are responsible because they chose to have children. If the parents of the bullies never had children, Ms. Prince would be alive today – a life more worthy and valuable than that of any of the bullies.

Lastly, I hope that the Prince family files civil charges against the families of all of the bullies. Take away their homes, incomes and livelihood. The bullies destroyed a life. It’s time to destroy the lives of the bully’s families. It’s time to make take a stand against bullying.

Crucify these teens and their families so that a message is written in stone.

Louise Caprio   April 13th, 2010 10:03 am ET

What is happening in our schools is a total disgrace. It shows the sad state the our society is in.
We all knew that we were in a sad state when police officers have become apart of every school. Which I would like to know what they were doing when a child was set afire in Florida and also when another was kicked in the head so bad that she remains in a coma. If they couldn't not protect our children from these physical crimes how can a school protect them from bullying? Parents need to be parents !!!!!!

sally   April 13th, 2010 11:51 am ET

yes, bullying is a CRIME !

Joe   April 13th, 2010 12:28 pm ET

it is just wrong what those girls did. Facebook is a tool not a new way to hurass people.

Just Me   April 13th, 2010 12:32 pm ET

I am a gay male born in 1956 and Canadian. I was bullied because of my (difference) regularly and so badly in school as a child and young adult that I finished junior high and never completed high school. I have a grade 9 education. I was cheated out my right to learn. School was a war zone, I had to watch my back, and never knew what day I would be physically assaulted. As an adult I was fired from a job for suspicion of being gay. All bullying !
I was forced to make my own way, my own job. After working for 30 years seven days a week and three nights in three of my own businesses I retired at 47 and am living a life in two countries. A dream come true. I am Canadian so I was able to marry a wonderful man. In the USA in the large city we live in half the year we still hear homophobic slurs and have had people yell fagots out of their car windows as they drive by or walk up to us and make rude comments to our face when we are in public, if we hold hands. We never have the same threats hurled at us in Canada now.
I managed to pull myself up from the hate and bullying I was forced to experience, and still receive. I know many gay men and women that have not been able to succeed in such a harsh world. Why do children and adults bully? I still do not and can not understand.
If your child was gay like I was would you want them robbed of their education?

Just Me   April 13th, 2010 12:46 pm ET

I have wondered if we have not come to terms with the fact that we may have many more children and adults with antisocial personalities then we are willing to believe. If so sadly there is no fix.

megan   April 13th, 2010 1:42 pm ET

i tink bullying should not go in my school cause i have been bullyed in one of my classes

megan   April 13th, 2010 1:43 pm ET

i think bullying should stop in my school cause i see kids getting bullyed and i dont like it

Cajazz76:24:8   April 13th, 2010 4:39 pm ET

If the acts committed by those accused of 'bullying' then, it is highly probable that there are violations of the laws regarding harassment, assault, battery, slander, libel and a host of associated charges that do not have any boundaries regarding the age of those who perpetuate these crimes.

But, most egregious is the fact that this type behavior is found first and foremost in the home. Doesn't it make anyone wonder why we, as a 'Christian' majority in this country, ignore and actually incite this type behavior?

It fuels the reason that so many are throwing out their learned belief systems in lieu of just plain common sense without the need to pit one's religion against another, one's political party against another, one's nationality against another, one's sexual orientation against another, and you can run this list to the length of a Sunday sermon size list or end it with one word...BIAS. The printable four-letter word that is more vulgar than most, yet we want to deny it exists... We are all to some degree guilty of it. The big question is can we reduce its ugly effects on society? Highly doubtful...silly human race we are..

Hugh in California   April 13th, 2010 5:52 pm ET

School administrators need to enforce discipline and punish the ones who do the bullying, not just offer counseling for the victims who get bullied! They need to do their job of providing safety for kids who are the innocent targets of actions by disturbed young people; if not these incompetent adults should be fired like anyone else for failing in their responsiblities, especially when they are dealing with the lives of our nation's children. There is no excuses for failure here - zero tolerance!

Diane   April 13th, 2010 6:13 pm ET

I feel part of the problem with bullying at school is the people who work there. I have a daughter who is in special ed and she is picked on everyday by other students. She is required to be in some regular classes in order to graduate but she is only on a third grade level which makes her an easy target. I recently went to the school concerning a boy who would not keep his hands to himself but was told that the teacher didn't see it happening so there was nothing they could do about it. I feel that my daughter isn't treated equally because she is a special ed student. A few days ago I recieved a call from the assistant principal telling me that my daughter had been sexually assaulted while the teacher had stepped out of the room. Her clothes were ripped and she had scratches on her arms and legs. Several girls who wittnessed the attack reported it, my daughter did not because she was so afraid of not being believed. Only now does the school admit that this has been an ongoing thing, but they only suspended the boy for 10 days. He has been sending messages through all his friends telling my daughter he will make her pay for all of this and I consider that a threat . I know if the principal or teacher had only listened when my daughter tried to tell them we wouldn't be dealing with a sexual assault now.

doncolecartoons   April 13th, 2010 9:00 pm ET

This problem of teenage suicides in schools needs to be correctly identified before it can be solved. bullying, unhappiness, negative peer preasures and such, are not rational excuses for committing suicide! These are the results of the problem, not the heart of it. Our society reaps what it sows. The first step was in taking God out of our schools... –dc

kathleen ann bauman/crawley   April 13th, 2010 9:17 pm ET

I too am an parent of children who have been bullied at school. We just this year after 5 long years of lawyers, several meeting at school etc. removed our children because of all the kids killing themselfs at school. this is a very serious situation in our schools, and the teachers, principles etc. do nothing. my children went to pink ele in frisco texas... and now they are home schooled. we pay our school taxes and cant even send our children to school.

Bobby   April 13th, 2010 9:19 pm ET

We talk about teachers and parents being accountable...but we should also talk about fellow students who watch and don't take a stand to help those who have been bullied. ALL have a responsibility.

I was bullied at school and I remember it being in class and the other students just watched and did nothing. People who think it is normal for children to do this and it is part of school life should think again. We are all born equal, no one should have the opportunity to be superior and make others feeling inferior.

Sue   April 13th, 2010 9:21 pm ET

I think self esteem and self worth need to be differentiated. Bullies have high self esteem but low self worth. Self esteem is rooted in the ego where self worth comes from God. The ego wants to think it's "all that" so it constantly causes us to seek "worldly" power...which is what bullies do by ensuring they have the upper hand. So doesn't it make sense that only individuals with extremely low self worth have the need to do this?

kathleen ann bauman/crawley   April 13th, 2010 9:22 pm ET

comment to what bill c just stated.. yes if the school would talk to the bully child parents and the parents do something about it .. that might help some.. but most of the bulllies have parents who are bullies themselfs or just dont care.

Steve   April 13th, 2010 9:26 pm ET

I grew up in a north suburban Chicago suburb. My high school years were during the early 1970's. I had a nack for attracting bullies. Why, a number of reasons. My response was to ignore the problem, and pull back inside of me. I had very few friends. When I went away to college I did not know how to make friends, relate to others, or deal with my own fealings. The people skills needed to be sucessful were never learned.

Ashley   April 13th, 2010 9:27 pm ET

I was bullied in grade school, to the point where I had to change my name from Ashley to Thomas. I believe that teachers ignored the bullying unless someone tattled. This was hard to do since you would be bullied even more and called a "rat".
Online bullying is not only public defamation of character, it provides a venue for more friends of bullys to partake in this. Bully's can use there cell phones to take pictures of victims, and make photoshoped" demeaning pictures of victims. It's sad that teachers are only starting to talk about bullying since the victims gun down schools or commit suicide. it's only getting worse, and I hold the teachers responsible for not stopping this while it starts. I have even seen teachers promote these actions from laughing at the "jokes" of victims.

doncolecartoons   April 13th, 2010 9:32 pm ET

Low self-esteem, kids taught in school –theory as fact, that humans evolved from lower life forms, no God or higher intelligence involved, no appreciation for parents or value of life. I was disappointed that Bill Cosby or the discussion never touched on this. These teenagers have no clue how to handle life tribulations, or hurts. This is really, or should be, about why there is such a high rate of suicides amongst teenagers. –dc

Roz Carroll   April 13th, 2010 9:47 pm ET

I think it is about time to throw the book at these kids who bullied this girl. If the punishment does not fit the crime then no one has learned from it . The Courtrooms are all about the Lawyers now not the actual crime that has been committed by the perp. It has become a lawyers game now and making the Lawyers rich. Which lawyer can win. I hope they feel what bullying is all about. The bullyies are a product of their own enviroment.

gerald   April 13th, 2010 9:48 pm ET

I was bullied continually, I relocated to the west coast from Arkansas, I was teased for my speeech and the way I dressed, these teasings often resulted in beatings, by 2 or 3 guys, on the other hand, the gals found my way of talking charming, and my appearance more then acceptable, so vengenge against those involved was quite easy, ask thier girl friends 🙂

Betsy   April 13th, 2010 9:49 pm ET

It think the teachers and administrators at this S. Hadley high school should be held responsible for this beautiful girl taking her life. They looked the other way and protected their "football captain" and popular students. We send our children to school and trust these people to take care of our children. I hope this serves as an example to all other teachers to take their job seriously and use common sense and not just do "whatever is in their contract". These people should be filled with remorse over this case. I hope to God they will be prosecuted.

Ashley   April 13th, 2010 11:06 pm ET

I agree that this is the responsibility of the teachers. Parents, unless they are teachers, don't have an idea of what the social norm is for their children. Talking with acronyms, or 1337 speak is only a small, yet confusing way of speech. What more do we not know about life in present school society's. We pay taxes to provide an opportunity for our children to be educated and cultured. Parents may have no clue about whether their children are being abused. Maybe it's "just a phase", is what we may assume. Also, as to what Mr.Cosby was mentioning, is that their are millions of children that are part of the cyber life. It's part of our society in general, and not every parent understand this technology, or can afford a computer consultant.
On another note, it is simple for someone to download hacking tools to provide more modes of way's to bully people. I really think this should not be 15 minutes of noteriaty. If anyone is interested, I would like to pursue this with an online community, helping to diagnose and provide ways to combat this type of hate. If you're interested reply, and we can exchange information to continue this battle.

Vickie   April 14th, 2010 12:00 am ET

If a 5 year old hits another 5 year old, we punish him. If an 18 year old or older hits, slanders, harrasses another he can be held accountable at the criminal and civil level. So why between kindergarten and high school graduation is it ok for certain people to do what it is not ok to do after 18? Bullying is not new, it is just more violate. In the past, threatening notes and drawings were the "internet".

I was bullied as a child and believe me, it is not about the bully having low self worth or low self esteem. It is about power and gaining more power with each attack. It stems from bullys belief he/she is better than others and therefore entitled/justified to harm/terrorize at will without consequence. Teachers and administrators often share this belief and/or fear the power or perceived power of the bully and his/her family. We have seen this pattern of entitlement and justification before, in child abusers, wife beaters, bigots & Nazis.

Bullys have major charactor flaws, lack empathy/sympathy for thier fellow man. When confronted they will lie, feign poor memory and paint themselves as victims. This adds agony to thier victims and increases their power.

Victims live in a state of hopelessness and helplessness and near paralyzation and devastation from the inside out. The effects last long after graduation and leads to depression, substance abuse and underachievement and as we are seeing today – suicide.

So how do we stop them?

First we have to see them as they are and for what they are. Mean, vicious, social terrorists. Stop making excuses for them, stop blaming the victims and witnesses. Then, identify and remove the head bully from the school by permanent expulsion (stop the head and kill the tail) and if a crime has been committed, hold them accountable at the legal level with a permnanent unsealed record. Let the parents pay for costs incurred. For future prevention, teach accountability to God and the goldern rule from kindergarten and reiterate it through graduation.

We will never completely stop bullying. But, perhaps we can discourage and reduce it. Lives depend on it. Doing nothing only feeds the problem.

Gen   April 14th, 2010 12:12 am ET

To Dr. Cosby,

YES! Teachers need to be more vigilant. As a retired teacher, of only two years, when teachers are on the playground, at lunch duty, in the hall..... they should not be allowed to have casual talk with each other. teachers should be constantly aware of students actions. I have seen it happen where teachers are having too much "person talk time" on the playground.

KATY   April 14th, 2010 12:23 am ET


Rosa Elena Calvo   April 14th, 2010 4:11 am ET

I´m a teacher at Monterrey, NL Mexico, I saw your program and I will like to get in touch with Bill Crosby. As a International Profeseour at my work. I can tell you that as I heard teachers DENY this responsability, thinking that was not a SCHOOL MATTER. Now school are kind impacted by this situation, but how teachers turn and walk away?
Even a lot of movies, tv programs accept that always at school was a boy or a girls being *bullying*


chris   April 14th, 2010 4:31 am ET

i think bill cosby should do about being bully'd like on the cartoon to keep from getting into trouble.from like others would get bully'd on.the kids on the cartoon skit should learn how to keep out of school bullys.thats what i think how he should do it.

Tim   April 14th, 2010 10:39 am ET

Great show on bullying Larry. Glad to see you covered it. With all the comments you received concerning school accountability, maybe you will dig a little deeper. No doubt students bully other students. But what happens when it is the school bullying the student ? It happens more often than you think, especially to special needs students. When parents confront districts about the problem, then they are bullied themselves.

Delance   April 14th, 2010 11:08 am ET

This Georgia Department of Labor which is part of the EMERGENCY MANAGMENT which part of the City-State-National Government (Except Obama and Biden) all involved in Conpiracy-attempts-solicitations, and etc... in crimes ranging from first degree murder to genocoide to Sexual Abuse of a minor a ward of the court under age 12, false and fabricated statments,medical malipractice,fradulent medical records,stalking-harassment-communications,Racketeering Influence Corrupt Organization Acts,Theft by conversion committed by government employees and officers,Bribery,Extortion,Fugitives Fleeing From Justice,Flight to aviod prosecution /giving testimony, supporting deadbeat fathers', and etc...The entire Bibb government Directory (except Obama and Biden) all colleges Mercer law School, Central Georgia Technical College, Macon State College, Department of Labor , gang and organizations informants, County/city of macon ,georgia false witness /hindering the apprehension and punishment of a criminal, Pleasant Hill Community, central Highschool, Party to the Crime, NAACP and Black Organizations,mayor and mayor and municipal corporations, media contacts and lists , Governor of Geogria , and etc... The story is one of the city-state-federal (except Obama and Biden ), Transco Plant a.k.a. Georgia Southern railway-Flordia Railway-Norfolk Railway- local Branch NAACP and Black Organizations hugest conspiracies in Macon ,Georgia /Georgia.My grandfather has ten children all with immediate knowledge some served in United States Army just like their late father.The best part about the general public statments/accusations are all inadmissible both for court and out of Court . I'm not in jeapordy of going to the mental hospital for telling the truth.(Smiling and laughing!!!)

Just Me   April 14th, 2010 4:55 pm ET

Vickie, you hit the nail on the head, you are a very insightful person, thanks for taking the time to post !

Steve and Jennifer   April 14th, 2010 4:57 pm ET

My wife and I were bullied growing up in the Northeast. I had to face it every day going to school. I dreaded it. My parents don't know this but because of it, I wanted kill myself several times. I was physically attacked in the halls, harassed in the High School library, and had the books knocked out of my hands!! Might I add in the gym lockerooms too!! Jennifer was pushed down the halls and tripped. When Jesus Christ(Yeshua) came into the life of my wife and I, we were able to forgive our attacker that terrorized us every day, but God has been taken out of the schools, yes includes prayer, and we wonder why our children have no consceince?!! I had to run for my life every day!! May God have mercy on those souls that did this to us!! Even the teachers feed the problem and encourage it!! We have heard several stories of the teachers asking the students to stand up and spell a word, and when they stutter, or spell the word wrong, the students laugh at the mistake and that student, and that student is scarred for life after High School graduation!! Had it not been for Jesus in our life, we don't were we would be today!! I think the Bible is clear that when God is taken out, we "reap what we sow". I forgot to add this, because I was raised in Judaism which gave me a foundation of morals, I did not bring a gun to school myself and blow all of their heads away, because I feared God and was afraid to die at that time.

Just Me   April 14th, 2010 5:03 pm ET

Bullying should be a crime no different then domestic violence.

Steve and Jennifer   April 14th, 2010 5:10 pm ET

Correction: We forgive our attackers because of the grace of God on our lives now. Thank God for the Lord or we would not know where we would be today.

Jonee   April 16th, 2010 1:53 pm ET

Bullies are special pieces of sh!t - so completely insecure with their own self that they need to prey on the weaker or meak. This I know first hand, having been bullied from kindergarten on up; basically for being an only child, I assume. Now in my thirties, I still remember those SOB's and to this day, I see a couple of the a$$holes around, but they have nothing to say to me now. I've noticed they're kids are exactly how they were. Needless to say...that stinkin' apple really doesn't fall far from that rotten tree. "Pushers get Pushed!" One way, someday, it'll come back around. Karma has excellent radar - beware you stupid, stupid wannabe bullies....probably couldn't wrestle yourselves out of a paper bag!

Shika   April 16th, 2010 10:34 pm ET

This is a sad thing that is happening in America. How many more children must kill or be killed before parents and schools decide to do something. I feel like this is something that could be prevented. The schools need to take more initiative to help those who are being bullied, this can save them from hurting others and themselves. I am about to send my son to school for the first time, is this what he and I have to look forward to.

Shika   April 16th, 2010 10:38 pm ET

I am upse about this news. I don't know why the teachers are not doing anything. This girls family told the school that she was susceptible to being bullied. Why are children so cruel. I was bullied in high school, and sometimes I thought about ending my life but, I pushed through and got over it. But there are those who can't get through it, who is going to take care of them.

meghan   April 17th, 2010 9:58 am ET

I think bullying is a very bad habit of people. I've seen it and never really dont anything about it. I really wouldnt want to be someone to pull people down because i don't like them

Josh   April 18th, 2010 9:15 pm ET

My son encountered bullying this year in a Central Florida Middle School. I asked why the teachers don't write up the students for bullying. The teacher as well as a teachers aide told me that if they wrote up the students for bullying then they would be writing them up too way much, so they don't write them up at all because they don't want the kids to get in trouble.

When I spoke with the Vice Prin. he told me that the students were given a "STERN" talking to....... but no punishment.

The students seem to be running the school and completely not listening to teachers, teachers aides and anyone else.

Comments have been closed for this article

Keep up to date with Larry

Follow him on Twitter

Become a fan on Facebook

Contact us
Go Behind The Scenes


LARRY KING LIVE'S Emmy-winning Senior Executive Producer Wendy Walker knows what it takes to make a great story.

With anecdotes, provocative emails, scandals, show transcripts and insights into Walker's long working relationship with Larry King, her new book PRODUCER issues readers an invitation to listen in on the most intriguing conversations on the planet.

Order from:
Barnes & Noble

King of Hearts

Larry King's King of Hearts

Saving a heart a day is the goal! Learn more about the Foundation and it's efforts to help the uninsured

Visit the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.

subscribe RSS Icon
Powered by VIP