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Bullying: No Escape

Aired October 10, 2010 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for joining us.

We've been planning this special for a long time, for a number of months and have been covering this topic for years, really. But given what's happened in just the last few weeks, it feels like this next hour is more important than we even thought it.

Just in the last couple of weeks we've seen headlines of kids killing themselves after years of bullying. Why is this happening and how do we stop it? That's what we want to try to learn tonight.

No child should be scared in school. No child should be harassed online at home. No parent should have to bury their child because he or she took their own life because other kids made it hell. It doesn't have to happen.

What we've learned, though, is that it does happen in part because of what parents simply don't know and what some kids just can't bring themselves to share. We just did a special survey, a polling people, interviewing hundreds of kids and adults. Thirty- seven percent of kids that we asked, more than one in three, say they've been bullied.

But take a look at this. Sixty-five percent of parents we asked say bullying is either a minor problem or no problem at all. So there's a dangerous disconnect here, and kids are hurting because of it. Take a look.


JOEY, BULLYING VICTIM: I came out of the closet as gay in eighth grade. A kid had a knife on school premises and said, "I'm going to kill him. I want that faggot dead."

DESHIRA, BULLYING VICTIM: I've been verbally abused because of my religion. I'm a Muslim girl.

JASON, BULLYING VICTIM: I didn't even see him coming. He just came out of nowhere and hit me.

COOPER (voice-over): Bullying, not only at school, it follows kids home, online, on their cell phones, nowhere to hide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People can just post things anonymously. It's for bullies that are afraid to say it to your face. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're fat, you should just kill yourself. We don't need you in our school. The world would go on without you.

COOPER: Other kids, bystanders, scared into silence.

COOPER (on camera): Is there a fear in talking to teachers or talking to the principal?



COOPER: How so?

KRYSTINA, BULLYING VICTIM: You could just get called a snitch.

COOPER: It can actually make it worse?


COOPER (voice-over): As for the victims, a long day at school or back at home.

JOEY: You just think, I have to go face them again. I have to spend another eight hours in that prison. And no matter what you do, you can't escape.

JONATHAN, BULLYING VICTIM: Death is the only escape. Because if you kill yourself, it's done. You don't have to do it anymore.


COOPER: Well, you heard Jonathan say it there. For some kids, death seems like the only escape.

I want to you meet Asher Brown. He lived in Texas. He was 13 years old. About two weeks ago he was found dead in the bottom of a closet in his home. He shot himself in the head with his step dad's gun. His parents say he had been relentlessly taunted for -- for being small, for the kind of clothes he wore, for his religion and the fact that he was gay.

Phoebe Prince, 15 years old, she was bullied in -- in school and online. Her suicide resulted in criminal charges against six teenagers.

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, he hanged himself. Kids called him gay even though he said -- he never said that he was, he was just 11 years old.

Thirteen-year-old Hope Witsell, she made a simple mistake. She texted a topless photo of herself to a boy. He circulated it all around. The bullying from that was too much for her to bear, and she hanged herself in her room.

Four kids with dreams and desires and lives to grow into, and there are so many more just like them. In fact, all the kids that you see behind me are kids who took their own lives because they were bullied.

And this is a problem that has gone far beyond isolated incidents and there are so many more kids who right now are being tormented. So tonight, along with "People" magazine and the Cartoon Network, we're going to talk as much as we can about solutions and about prevention.

We've got kids who are being bullied, kids who have been bullies as well as educators and experts. Carl Walker-Hoover's mother, Sirdeaner is here, so is Carl's sister, Dominique. Also, Hope Witsell's mom, Donna, also joins us from Florida.

Dr. Phil McGraw is with us throughout the hour. He has made children's and family issues the focal point of his syndicated series "Dr. Phil." Also with us is Rosalind Wiseman, a globally recognized expert on children, teens, parenting and bullying. Also "American Idol's" Crystal Bowersox joins us to talk about her own experiences with being bullied in school.

I want to start off, though, with Sirdeaner, how -- first of all, how are you doing?

SIRDEANER WALKER, CARL HOOVER-WALKER'S MOM: Try to take it one day at a time. It's very difficult, especially when you know that there are other families that are suffering. It's very hard.

COOPER: Did you have any idea how bad the bullying was that Carl was experiencing?

S. WALKER: Carl informed me that he was being bullied at school, so I had some idea. I went to the administrators and I informed them that this was happening to Carl. But Carl was afraid to identify his -- the people that were bullying him because he was afraid he would be labeled a snitch, a fink, so it was very difficult.

But I thought the school was handling it, handling the situation.

COOPER: And, Donna, how are you doing?

DONNA WITSELL, HOPE WITSELL'S MOTHER: I'm -- the same. It's one day at a time. And it's basically all that can you do. You have your highs and you have your lows. It's -- there's a void, and there'll always be a void.

COOPER: In the days before your daughter, Hope, took her own life, the school had met with her. She'd actually met with a counselor, but they -- they didn't inform you about that. What happened?

WITSELL: There was an incident the Friday before the Saturday that my daughter committed suicide. She was actually called into the office to speak with the social worker. The social worker and my daughter actually filled out and signed a no-harm contract, and the school did not notify me. COOPER: And a no-harm contract is -- is something that she had pledged that, if she thought she was going to harm herself, she would talk to an adult before -- before doing so?

WITSELL: Exactly. And there was actually a phone number of the social worker on that paper. There was also a 1-800-SUICIDE help line card -


WITSELL: -- that was folded up with the no-harm contract.

COOPER: And I understand that after her death you actually found that contract in the garbage can in her room?


COOPER: Dominique, what sort of things would -- would kids call your brother?

DOMINIQUE WALKER, BROTHER COMMITTED SUICIDE: Well, I found out that some of the peers -- of his peers called him faggot or call him just anti-gay slurs, and to hear from my -- from my view, it -- it really hurts, because my brother wasn't any of those things. He didn't really classify himself as being gay, so I can understand the level of hurt and pain that he was probably going through.

COOPER: Dr. Phil, Rosalind, you know, when you hear this, it seems like we're seeing more and more, I mean, just in the last couple weeks, we've seen a number of kids take their -- their own lives. We're talking 13-year-old children, 11-year-old children, in Carl's case.

DR. PHIL MCGRAW, RELATIONSHIP COUNSELOR: It is the loneliest time, a child -- can you imagine the lead up to how bad it has to get for a child to -- to take their own life? To even know what that means, to -- to contemplate and plan out, taking their own life. They're too alone because the adults are not tuned in enough to how terrible and how violent this is, just because it's all on the internet, in addition to what's on at school. You know, we used to have school board bullies -- schoolyard bullies, but now they go home with the kid.


MCGRAW: They get in the kid's room, and there's nowhere to escape this.

COOPER: And we're going to focus on cyberbullying in just a few moments, but Rosalind, you work with schools. I mean, do you -- you know, Dr. Phil is talking about adults. Let's talk about adults in the schools, do administrators, do teachers -

ROSALIND WISEMAN, BULLYING EXPERT: I think some do, but I also think that what teachers do is they feel overwhelmed and they feel like, well, I don't want to be the counselor. And so one of the things I say to -- to teachers all the time is you do not have to be the counselor. But if you're a good teacher, if you're a science teacher, a math teacher, then the child is going to come to you because of the relationship that they have with you. So you are the bridge to somebody who can help this kid. Because they're not maybe going to go to a counselor who's got 400 kids on their list, and they've got things they've got to administer.

MCGRAW: Anderson, if we're going to ask these teachers to do this, then we've got to help them. I mean, look. Teachers are the most overworked and underpaid profession in America. We pay them so little and we turn our greatest assets over to them during the day.

And if we expect them to be able to recognize this, intervene, remediate, then we've got to give them the training to do that, the funding to do that. We've got to put it into the curriculum in a structured way, so there is -- we're educating the students that this is not OK.

A kid that's 13, 14, 15 years old, their brain's not through growing yet. And the last part that grows is the ability to predict the consequences of your actions. These kids don't think they're killing somebody. They don't think they're destroying somebody's life.

So they -- we need to not just punish them, we need to counsel them and educate them. But to do that, we've got to train these teachers and give them the funding and the time and the curriculum to do it.

COOPER: And, Sirdeaner, you actually went to Carl's school, you sat in on a classroom. You were involved.

S. WALKER: Yes, I was.

COOPER: Did you feel the school took it seriously?

S. WALKER: I don't think the school took it seriously. And I'd like to also make a comment that, you know, on the last day of Carl's life he was -- it was an incident at school, and the school did not inform me. And to this day, I don't know why the school did not call me and say that my son was threatened, his life was threatened.

And the mediation for that day was he had to sit down with the person that was bullying him and for the rest of the week they had to have lunch together. And when I asked the director of the school why would you allow some -- like, allow this to happen, she said that's what we do for mediation.

WISEMAN: Well, that's actually incredibly irresponsible. And it's a real -- it doesn't help your kid, and it makes the problem worse, actually, when a school does something like that.

What I would say also is that, you know, schools have been -- have been very focused on wanting to do assemblies for kids, but we don't as much want to do it for the faculty. So one of the things I do when I'm working with kids is I say to them, I just met with -- if it's true, right? Is that I just met with your faculty for four hours, or six hours, or I met with them for three days, and we're in an ongoing process as a community to be able to address this issue. Because it's not just -- we're not just putting this on you, because it's not fair to the kids.

MCGRAW: And, again, I think what we have to do is not just criticize them, we've got to train them. We've got to fund them. We've got to make it part of the curriculum.

COOPER: Right.

MCGRAW: You know, we can stand up and talk about it, but until we do something about it, until we go to the -- to the legislature and get the funding to put it into the curriculum, it's not going to change.

COOPER: And, Sirdeaner, that's what you've been campaigning since Carl's death to try to do.

MCGRAW: Very effectively, by the way.

S. WALKER: The Safe Schools Improvement Act and that would be federal legislation that would mandate professional development and training for our teachers, it would mandate reporting the data of who is being bullied and who are the perpetrators. It would provide a resource for our teachers.

I think that what's important is, it's important for us not to be reactive, but to be proactive. It takes a collective effort from everyone, and we have to build a sense of community.


S. WALKER: If we build a sense of community, then we wouldn't have bystanders that are standing by and allow a child to be picked on and be bullied.


S. WALKER: We have to build a sense of community.

MCGRAW: There's got to be a partnership.

COOPER: Donna, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Sirdeaner, as well, Dominique, who are going to be in the audience. Dr. Phil, Rosalind Wiseman are with us throughout this hour.

When we come back, "American Idol's" Crystal Bowersox and the bullying that she -- that she experienced when in school.


CRYSTAL BOWERSOX, AMERICAN IDOL: It gets better. I'm living proof, and I'm sure, you know, a lot of people have been bullied and celebrity types and public figures. It's -- it's OK. There's a light at the end of the tunnel.



COOPER: Crystal Bowersox, American idol, you would think that the worst anyone would call her would be runner up, but she was called far worse in high school. She was bullied for the -- the way she dressed, the way she looked, for how her classmates perceived her to be or how they wanted to paint her.

She hasn't forgotten the pain of that, but it's important to point out that she made it through and glad she's here with us tonight.

I also want you to meet Daniel Harrison. He's a tenth grader from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Daniel used to be on the other side of this equation, I say used to be. He was a bully, taunting some of his fellow classmates for years.

Also with us, Dr. Phil McGraw and Rosalind Wiseman.

Crystal, let me start off with you. What would people say to you in school?

BOWERSOX: I got a lot of different things. I guess I'll start off by saying I had a chaotic home life, and that carried over into school with me. In the hallway, a lot of them -- I don't want to single anyone out, but, you know, just the more popular kids, I guess, would -- would just make fun of me and call me names and -- because I was different, I dressed differently.

When you're in high school, you're really searching for -- for who you are and trying to find your place in the world. And, you know, you go through phases and things. And instead of accepting differences, I think kids are -

COOPER: Essentially, I went to a high school reunion a couple of years ago and realized that the kids who were the most unusual in high school are the ones who are the most interesting now. And the ones who were popular are dull and boring -


COOPER: -- frankly.

BOWERSOX: Serving the punch at the punch bowl. I mean, you know?

COOPER: But, I mean, you know, you can kind of laugh about it now in retrospect, but at the time -- and I read you were -- you were writing suicide notes in poem form.

BOWERSOX: Yes. I never attempted, thankfully, but I -- the thought was in my mind constantly. Coming home from dealing with bullying at school and then dealing with bullying at home as well, so I would often spend time in my room, and my -- my escape was music. If it weren't for having a guitar or a pen and paper to write it out and get it out of my head and out of my being, I'm not sure if I would have made it through. I would have been one of these tragic stories.

COOPER: Daniel, first of all, I've got to say it takes a lot of guts to actually say that, you know, I used to bully people and so I appreciate you being here. You no longer do bully people.

But at the time that you did, what -- why do you think you did it?

DANIEL HARRISON, FORMER BULLY: I did it because I thought it made me happier. I thought taking somebody else's power would just add on to mine.

COOPER: So it actually made you feel powerful?

HARRISON: Yes. I felt like people looked up to me, and I felt like I always had crowds, you know, laughing with me at the victim. And it just -- it felt good.

COOPER: Did you ever worry about being bullied yourself or -- ?

HARRISON: I had been bullied a little bit about a year or two prior to when I started bullying, but it wasn't serious enough for I wasn't hurt too bad.

COOPER: But the fact that -- that you had power over others made you feel good.

HARRISON: Oh, definitely.

COOPER: And, I mean, Crystal, I guess, you must have just felt powerless.

HARRISON: Yes. It definitely steals you of any -- any kind of confidence and power that you may have had. You know, it's -- it's just such a hard position to be in.

COOPER: Did you think, Daniel, at the time about the effect on the kids? Or not really.

HARRISON: Oh, no, never crossed my mind once.

COOPER: What was it that -- that made you change? You read a book, I understand.

HARRISON: Yes. I was suspended because I had harassed a girl so bad that she came to school just sobbing, and I was in suspension and they let me read a book, "Touching Spirit Bear" and it really connected with me, and it kind of just taught me how to be a better person.

COOPER: And you actually wrote to the author and told him that.

HARRISON: Yes. COOPER: Have you done it since then? Have you bullied?

HARRISON: No, I have not.

COOPER: What -- what do you think the key is to getting kids to stop bullying?

WISEMAN: I think one of the things we have to really connect with is that lots of kids are thinking that it is entertainment to humiliate somebody. And that comes in all different kinds of ways, and we need to address that directly.

The second is, I think, we need for bullies, is we need to give them a way to come back into the community that combines consequences with -- but we still want to be in a relationship with you. So, I mean, I work with kids of all different who have moments like yours are on the longer road to basically being decent human beings.

And, you know, sometimes it really takes a pretty tough moment, when you're sitting in a room with a kid and you're saying, look, I think you're a man of honor, woman of honor, we've had this conversation that this is going to stop. But I need to be really clear with you, that if you walk out of this classroom, out of this meeting with me and for whatever reason the life of the target becomes more difficult as a result of this conversation, you and I are in a whole different level of a problem.

COOPER: Dr. Phil?

MCGRAW: Well, you know, I think we have this misperception that bullies are actually -- have real inferiority, and so they just try to fluff themselves up, but that's not necessarily the case. We get bullying from all different kinds of personality types, but they generally perceive themselves to be powerful. And so they -- and they don't know how to manage that power. And we have to counsel them. We have to teach them to manage that power.

You know, many say we have a generation now that is growing up without empathy, without the ability to put themselves in someone else's shoes and say, I'm inflicting pain on this person. I can -- I can imagine what this person is experiencing when they go home at night. And if a child can't go there, if they can't put themselves in that position, then they don't have a reason not to do it.

BOWERSOX: That's interesting, actually, and I comment on that, with my home life, I'm not an expert on bullying by any means, but from my personal experience, empathy is such an important quality for us to have, and it carries through your entire life. And that starts in the home with parenting.

If you teach your children tolerance, acceptance and the ability to empathize and not everyone has it, but even sympathy, it's such an important thing to be able to do.

COOPER: It's also -- I think you being here is nice, because I think it's important to also send the message to kids out there that, you know, while there may be no escape from this sort of 24-hour-a-day bullying we get online and stuff, there is an escape and that you grow up and it gets better. It does get better.

BOWERSOX: It gets -- it gets better. I'm living proof and I'm sure, you know, a lot of people have been bullied and celebrity types and public figures. It's OK. There's a light at the end of the tunnel.

COOPER: And you've actually, some of your bullies actually have written to you now that you're famous, right?

BOWERSOX: I have received some through fan mail, yes?

COOPER: Do they want like concert tickets?


BOWERSOX: Yes, everybody wants tickets now.

WISEMAN: Like that was a bad choice.

BOWERSOX: I don't hold any disdain or hate in my heart for these people. I realize, it's high school. But the problem is when it also carries over into adulthood. There are adult bullies, too.

COOPER: Daniel, Crystal, appreciate you talking. Thanks very much.

As Crystal says, there is hope. There's plenty to get through, and it's much worse than it was for previous generations as we've talked about. Now the bullying follows kids home. It's online, it's texted, it's in video games, it's on social network sites, mobile devices. Cyberbullying and what to do about it, next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's basically like, oh, you should -- no one would care if you died. You should just go kill yourself. You're ugly. And like no one deserves to go through that.



COOPER: We're calling this special program "BULLYING, NO ESCAPE" for a reason. It's because the taunts and the jeers that used to be limited to places like schoolyards and locker rooms now follow today's kids around 24 hours a day. Everywhere they go, everywhere there's an entire online social scene that your kids are using that you probably don't even know about. Your kids could be the victim of these websites or they could be doing the bullying on these websites.

Maybe -- have you heard about the site called Formspring or Topix or 4chan or These are some of the sites that experts tell us they see the most of cyberbullying on. Back with me right now is Dr. Phil McGraw and Rosalind Wiseman. Also joining me is Justin Patchin, Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center.

Justin, you say the biggest site is -- is what -- Formspring?


COOPER: Formspring?

PATCHIN: Formspring is maybe the most recent site that a lot of parents just don't know about in terms of what it's about and why kids are interested in it.

COOPER: What is it?

PATCHIN: It's basically a social networking site where users have the ability to ask questions to those who have profiles. One of the key features is it's easy to be anonymous on this site, so people can ask you questions, maybe inappropriate questions, about your sexual orientation or why you're so stupid or why you're so dumb, and when the students reply, they get posted to their profile, but if they don't reply, then it's almost like, well, obviously then you must be gay or you must be stupid.

COOPER: I want to show you -- Dr. Phil, somebody that we talked about, a student named Jason, who is a middle schooler. He talked about Formspring.


JASON: I would have a friend of mine that would call me basically every night and she would be literally crying and bawling her eyes out because of stuff that would go on in Formspring, like you're fat, you should just kill yourself. We don't need you in our school. The world would go on without you.


COOPER: And yet kids want to be on these sites, which is one of the interesting things. I mean, you have to put up your own account on this site.

MCGRAW: You know, it's where the -- that's where the action is, and people want to know what's going on and get the buzz about music or, you know, what's happening with a movie or this or that, then, you know, they want to be there because that's where people are going.

But then if you get singled out there -- and this is the problem that I was alluding to earlier, Anderson. Your child can be in your own home. I mean, it used to be the bullies were at the schoolyard. You would come home, OK, now you're safe at least in your own home. Or if you were really getting picked on at school, then you can say, all right, you know what? We're just going to leave this school. We're going to move to another school. But there are no boundaries to the Internet. So it goes with you to the new school. And parents think, well, I'll limit the time that my child is on the computer. But a lot of the game controllers now for Xbox and other things have Internet capacity. They can get on -- you think they're playing a video game -

COOPER: You can be bullied on Xbox or one of these games.

MCGRAW: Yes. You can be -- you can go online there. On the cell phones, you know, now you can connect to the Internet on the cell phone. So they can find these kids everywhere. That's the upside of the technology.

But the downside is there are no boundaries, and -- and they can do it anonymously.

COOPER: And Rosalind, do kids -- when they're bullying online, do they think that's somehow different than bullying face to face?

WISEMAN: Oh, I think they think it's different. They think it's not as bad.

COOPER: Justin, do these companies, the Internet companies, I mean, they know this is going on but I guess they feel they're like the phone company, not responsible for what people -- how people are using it.

PATCHIN: Well, some of the -- the major companies now I think are realizing cyberbullying is a problem and they're trying to take some things -- take some measures to educate the users and parents about what's going on.

But you're right. I mean, in general, some sites just take, you know, an approach that this isn't my responsibility. People are going to misuse our site and there's nothing we can really do about that.

COOPER: You say, Dr. Phil, also that it sort of enters kids' internal dialogue.

MCGRAW: It does. It's like you take over for the bully. I mean, somebody says this to you on the Internet or whatever, you internalize that, and you might hear it from the bully 10 times in a night, but they'll repeat it to themselves a thousand times in their internal dialogue.

And, Anderson, the scars that are left from verbal and emotional abuse run deeper and last longer than even physical abuse. You get a black eye, it heals up. But somebody burns your psychological skin, somebody damages your self-esteem, that can last the rest of your life. So this is serious, serious stuff.

COOPER: But, you know, we've been talking about bullies and kids who are targeted, but there's another group of kids that we need to talk about, bystanders -- we touched on this a little bit -- the kids who are witnesses to bullying but do nothing to stop it.


COOPER: You think being a bystander is not acceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just as bad as being a bully.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a constant, vicious cycle. And the fact that there are so many bystanders and the fact that there are so many people that don't do anything and just sit idly by and let it happen -- that's why it doesn't get better.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon live at the CNN world headquarters. Now a look at your headlines.

Excitement and cheers just a few hours ago in Chile. The ordeal for 33 trapped miners may soon be over now that rescue shaft has reached them. The Chilean mining minister says the first miners could be freed by Wednesday. A specially designed capsule will bring them to the surface.

A British aid worker being held hostage in Afghanistan has been killed by her captors during a rescue attempt. Linda Norgrove was being held by two Taliban commanders, who were killed in that raid. She was among five people kidnapped last month.

North Korea is celebrating 65 years since the founding of the country's Communist Workers Party. Present at the celebration was ailing leader Kim Jong-il, who's expected to turn over power soon to his son, Kim Jong-un.

Pakistan is reopening the main border crossing for NATO supply convoys into Afghanistan. The Torkham crossing was closed after three Pakistani soldiers were killed in a U.S. helicopter attack. More than 100 NATO fuel tankers and supply trucks have been destroyed in militant attacks, the latest happening in southern Pakistan.

A terrifying and seemingly random attack of a child in a Long Island restaurant arcade. Police say 23-year-old Evan Sachs walked up behind an 8-year-old boy and stabbed him five times with a folding knife. The victim's father and another witness held Sachs until police arrived. The boy suffered a punctured lung and other wounds. Police say he was randomly targeted.

Those are your headlines right now. A CNN special, "Bullying: No Escape," continues in a moment.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do something. Don't sit -- don't just sit there and don't do anything about it. If you do that, you're a bystander. You're letting it happen. You're -- basically, you're promoting it.


COOPER: A student's plea -- if you see bullying, say something, do something.

I've got to be honest, when I was in middle school and high school, I didn't get bullied, but I remember seeing kids being picked on, being made fun of, and I don't think I did anything about it. I think I was relieved, frankly, not to be the one being picked on.

Take a look at this. Thirty-four percent of teenagers we surveyed tell us that most of their peers take no steps to stop a fight. Twenty-three percent say they find an adult. Nineteen percent say they try to stop it. But get this. Another 19 percent say they would encourage a fight to continue.

Back with me now, Dr. Phil McGraw and Rosalind Wiseman. Let's also bring in Kevin Jennings, who serves as assistant deputy secretary of education, heading the department's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, and Dr. Susan Limber of Clemson University. Dr. Limber and Mr. Jennings are advisers to the Cartoon Network's "Stop Bullying: Speak Up" initiative. And Stuart Snyder, president of the Cartoon Network, is here, as well.

So Dr. Limber, what is this, the bystander effect?

DR. SUSAN LIMBER, CENTER ON YOUTH PARTICIPATION & HUMAN RIGHTS: It's interesting. My colleagues and I conducted a survey of -- with more than 500,000 3rd through 12th graders. And what we found was fascinating. The vast majority of students say tell us feel badly for bullied students. They don't like it.

Unfortunately, that sympathy doesn't translate into action. We found that fewer than 50 percent said they would try to help a bullied student, even though many felt really badly about it.

COOPER: There's also, Dr. Phil, the pressure -- besides not just saying anything, the pressure to kind of join in on the bullying. I want to show you what some of the students we talked to had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do I bully this person, even though I know it's wrong, so that I am accepted? Or do I not and go with what I believe in, and risk the possibility that I become the victim over the next couple years?

COOPER: Do you think that's part of the reason some people bully, is that they're afraid that if they don't, they're going to get targeted?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think peer pressure has a lot to do with it. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I mean, it sounds like, for some kids, it's almost a defense mechanism.

MCGRAW: It really is true that peer pressure is a huge, huge factor in getting someone to just leave their values, leave their beliefs, and do something that is really bad or evil. But here's the thing that, again -- and I don't want to sound like a broken record about this, but the research on a bystander just stepping up randomly here and there for a target is not really good.

What we need is a structured program in the curriculum where you teach all of the students that this is not OK, where the cool thing is to not bully. You know, one kid standing up and saying, Hey, leave him alone, won't necessarily deter the mob. But if you've got 30 kids who say, We signed a pledge that this wouldn't happen, and we're going to all come over here and say, Look, we stand with him, you need to leave, you need to go away, that will make a difference.

We need structure. It needs to be part of the curriculum, and all the kids need to be educated.

COOPER: Rosalind, do you agree with that? I mean...

ROSALIND WISEMAN, BULLYING EXPERT: Yes, I do. And I also want to go back to what Dr. Phil said in the beginning of the show, which is that -- and what some of the parents talked about, which is the kids don't want to come forward because they don't want to snitch. Well, I think what happens is, is that kids will report, they will talk about what's happening, if they have confidence in the adults in their community.

And so if the adults have the training that we're talking about, then kids will meet us more than halfway. But they have to think that what they're doing might have a good outcome. What they now know is, I don't know because I'm seeing my teacher look the other way when it's happening in the classroom or in the school yard or in the -- you know, during sports activities or anything like that.

COOPER: It's interesting. I talked to a young guy named Matt. I just want to play you some of what he had to say about kind of adults standing by and being bystanders.


COOPER: And you guys don't think adults these days really have a conception of how bad it is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't take it seriously enough because what could eventually happen is quite possibly suicide. And if an adult is one of those bystanders that just chose not to do anything on that particular day, and that kid goes home and commits suicide, essentially, their blood is on your hands. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Kevin, I mean, do you think some teachers don't get it?

KEVIN JENNINGS, ASSISTANT DEPY SECRETARY, EDUCATION: Absolutely. I think that's very true. I think a lot of teachers think, as you said earlier, this is just something you go through. You'll survive. And one of the things we need to educate people about is that this literally can be fatal.

One of the things the department has done is convene the first ever national summit on bullying in August because we want people to understand that we take this very, very seriously. The recent rash of suicides are unfortunately not the first, but we'd hope they'd be the last.

COOPER: You're wearing a button with Carl's -- Carl -- Carl's picture on it.

JENNINGS: Absolutely. Carl died the day I was offered this position and Carl was why I chose to go to Washington. And I believe what we need to do is listen closely to the kids. And what we're doing at the department is launching a new program called Safe and Supportive Schools, where we're actually going to use student surveys to assign school safety scores to individual schools.

If we ask the kids what's going on, they will tell us. As Dr. Phil pointed out, a lot of the stuff happens out of the view of the adults, and adults don't even know. We adults need to listen to the experts, who are the students. And we're going to systematically collect their point of views for the first time through this program.

COOPER: Stuart, why is empowering bystanders the focus of the Cartoon Network's efforts?

STUART SNYDER, PRESIDENT AND COO, CARTOON NETWORK: First of all, 160,00 kids don't go to school every day because of bullying. And in our research that we looked at, over 75 percent of kids are aware of bullying that takes place.

If we can develop a culture where everybody's working together and create an environment where it's OK to talk and to share and to speak up of that bullying that's taking place, we can start making an impact to get those kids to school, feeling comfortable and to, hopefully, make a dent in this epidemic.

COOPER: Yes. The question, of course...

WISEMAN: One of the things I want to say also about teachers is that when I'm talking to teachers and school resource officers, counselors, math teachers, math teachers will say to me, But I teach math. I don't know how to do this.

But if we can teach them -- and you can -- very concrete things, the teachers relax. They feel better about it and they feel empowered and feel like they are contributing to the culture of the school in a positive way. So it's not impossible. These are things that we really can do and that teachers, and that really, the vast majority of teachers...

COOPER: Want to do, yes.

WISEMAN: ... want to do.

COOPER: Question, of course. Who's ultimately responsible and accountable when bullying happens? And to Stewart Snyder's point, how can we all play a role in trying to stop it? We're going to talk more about both of those subjects ahead. And we'll hear from a student at a Massachusetts high school where accused bullies are on trial right now for the death of one of their classmates, a girl named Phoebe Prince.

And as we go to break, a message from Cartoon Network's "Stop Bullying Now, Speak Up" campaign.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dude, what would happen if one of us was a bully?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and you bullied one of us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We decided to do a bully situation and figure out what would be the best thing to do about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I played the bully and hated it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on, little guy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It felt awkward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) haven't grown at all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was the one getting bullied, and that didn't feel so good, either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I was just watching it all go down. I had to do something, and the best thing to do is to get an adult.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's enough. That's enough. Back up, Jackson (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Together we can make a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop bullying. Speak up. Go to to find out more.



COOPER: Phoebe Prince was 15 years old. She hanged herself in January after months of alleged bullying by classmates in her high school in South Hadley, Massachusetts. These are the six alleged tormenters, now facing trial on a variety of felony charges.

In the wake of Phoebe's death, many parents came forward saying the school administration ignored their complaints of bullying. State lawmakers subsequently passed anti-bullying legislation, and this summer, the local school district adopted a more comprehensive anti- bullying policy.

Rosalind Wiseman is with us. She's actually working in the school to try to implement the policy. I'm also here, of course, with Dr. Phil McGraw. Also Andre Perry, CEO of the Capital One University of New Orleans Charter School Network, and Alex Parker was one of Phoebe Prince's classmates at South Hadley High. He joins us, as well. He's on the school's anti-bullying task force. And from our partners and corporate cousins at "People" magazine, managing editor Larry Hackett.

So Alex, have things gotten better in the school? I mean, you said last year there was a fair amount of bullying you would see.

ALEX PARKER, CLASSMATE OF PHOEBE PRINCE: Last year, yes, there was quite a fair amount of bullying. As the year went on and up until Phoebe's death, bullying was almost an everyday thing.

COOPER: So not just her, other people, as well?

PARKER: It -- it was other people, as well.

COOPER: And you say, actually, that years ago, you actually used to bully, as well.

PARKER: Yes, I did. One of my -- she's now one of my friends -- I would always, like, pick on her in middle school. And at the vigil the night of -- the night after Phoebe's death, I personally took her out in front of everybody and apologized to her. And I subsequently went around and apologized to all the other students that I've ever picked on or made fun of.

COOPER: Do you think change can really happen? I mean, do you think bullying can actually be -- we can cut down on it and get it stopped?

PARKER: I feel like we can cut down on it a lot, but with technology these days, it's going to be almost impossible to completely eliminate it because you can use FaceBook, you can use Twitter or Formspring, and just get to anyone at any time of the day. You can even text them, and like, harass them that way.

COOPER: Rosalind, you're working at Alex's school.

WISEMAN: I will be doing that.

COOPER: Was it any different or is it any different than any other school?

WISEMAN: Look, I think all of our communities are messy. And I think that what South Hadley is going through happens at other places. I think what is important to really remember is that you don't just take ownership of your community when your kids are making you look good. You take ownership when you are struggling, when you have problems, when you don't know what to do, when kids are not doing things that make you so proud.

That's when you step in and that's when you're present. And that's when you say, I am the adult, and I am going to create a safe culture for this school.

ANDRE PERRY, CAPITAL ONE-UNO CHARTER NETWORK: But to create a safe culture starts with curriculum instruction, particularly in the school. When you have 30 percent of your students failing in math, guess what you do? You create a better math course.

WISEMAN: Exactly.

PERRY: When you have 30 percent of your students getting bullied, you create some type of social course. And unfortunately, our accountability systems do not address these very pragmatic ends.

COOPER: It seems like when schools talk about doing an anti- bullying curriculum, it's, like, maybe a 45-minute or 50-minute assembly.

WISEMAN: Forty-five minute presentation. Check it off your list.


PERRY: If we're not teaching students to -- students aren't learning good behaviors, how to treat each other, then what exactly are we teaching? The end is to get people to work together, to grow together.

LARRY HACKETT, MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Anderson, we've covered a lot of this story, as you know, from the very beginning, when Phoebe died. And one of the things we discovered that's, hopefully, on a positive note is that a nearby school system, West Boylston, has wanted -- they've tried to bring in and have talked to the folks at South Hadley.

There what strikes me as being most unique about it is that older kids team up with younger kids. It's kind of the "my bodyguard" effect. And the younger kids are free to speak to the older kids about what they're experiencing. There are anonymous bully boxes in every classroom where kids can put in a note. They have an assembly every year where teachers, students, all the people gather together and talk about, as teachers, as students, adults and youngsters, I was a bully, I was bullied. It ends the isolation.

Everything that's being discussed here is about how these people are isolated. Whenever we write stories about Phoebe or other people, it always begins and ends with this profound isolation. That's what's got to stop. These people -- all of us need to be part of this.

We cover pop culture at "People" magazine. To say that there is a kind of fear of humiliation that goes on in the programs we watch, reality programs and things like that, where it's OK to make fun of people -- you cannot expect children to separate those things out.

COOPER: Yes. I talked to one student, too, about the importance of language and what language is tolerated. Take a look at what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a kid says, "That's so gay" or "That's retarded" or bipolar, or whatever they say, that -- and a teacher steps in and they say, That's not acceptable, I'm not going to accept that in my classroom because I know that words can hurt -- that's one of the simplest things you can do, but that can make the day of a child in need.


COOPER: Do you think that can make a difference?

PERRY: Oh, absolutely. It's that interaction between the teacher and the child that matters most. And I'll tell you what really has insignificant consequences are these no-tolerance policies that kick people out of the school. We're seeing increases in expulsion, particularly around minority youth.

WISEMAN: Thank you. Thank you!

PERRY: Right. Particularly around minority youths. But it's not changing the violent cultures in our school, so we can't just expect to kick people out. We have to have that one-on-one engagement with teachers. But again, teachers can't be everywhere, so that's where the peer group and peer work comes in.

HACKETT: Well, and bullying won't stop. Bullying is aggression. It's as old as humanity. What you have to do is have this zero tolerance program that runs all over the place, in the schools, among the parents, among the bullies, and -- you know, and as part of the culture.

COOPER: When you try to stop it, it's got to be specific and it's got to talk about words and it's got to be -- it can't just be this generalized...

WISEMAN: (INAUDIBLE) You can name it.

COOPER: You...

WISEMAN: You can name the behavior.

COOPER: Nobody should bully and you shouldn't be mean.

WISEMAN: Right because kids are, like, Oh, whatever. Who cares about that? And it's another policy. It's another assembly that doesn't mean anything. One of the things I would really want all of us to think about is that people -- we sometimes think that, OK, we're going to do this in 7th grade. Well, just like we teach math all through a child's education, we also have to do this, age-appropriately, all through their education.

MCGRAW: It's not enough to tell a child what not to do, and that's what's happening. You know, teachers and administration come in and say, Don't do that. That's wrong. Don't do that. We need to teach them what to do.

If you're not going to do this, what are you going to do? How can you express yourself appropriately? How can you put in a program of inclusion where minorities or kids that are different can be included? But right now, there's a void. It's either do this or do nothing.


PERRY: ... don't say gay and not explain the whole concept...

MCGRAW: Exactly why!

PERRY: ... of homophobia is ridiculous.

MCGRAW: Why not say that? And here's what to say instead. Here's what you say. That's what I said about empathy. You can't teach empathy, but you can teach everything that leads to a child evolving (INAUDIBLE)

COOPER: And that teaching has to be both in the schools, but also in the home.

MCGRAW: It's not just one talk so you can say, OK, did that, so now we're proactive. No, you're not. You just started a dialogue, but now you need to continue it.

COOPER: We're going to have some final thoughts when we come back.


COOPER: For more information, please go to our special Web site, Cartoon Network also has a special page at, and "People" magazine has more on bullying in their current issue.

I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who made this hour possible -- the people at the Cartoon Network, "People" magazine, Dr. Phil, Rosalind Wiseman, all our guests, also the parents who've lost children and are working to make sure that no other parent does.

Special thanks to all the young men and women, also, who lent their voices to this effort for opening our eyes.

We're going to continue to cover this issue because it is too important to ignore. And we urge you to talk to your kids, to be involved in their schools, to know what's going on in their lives.

Thanks very much for joining us.