Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Bullying: It Stops Here
Aired November 23, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey.
Welcome, everyone, to this ANDERSON COOPER special: "Bullying: It Stops Here."
Here is New Jersey's Rutgers University.
We've come here, all of us, drawn together by the power of absence, the absence of kids, of young adults, of future parents and friends, healers and leaders, none of whom will ever be, all of whom have left us because as young adults or as children they were bullied beyond their capacity to endure.
They are the reason we are here. We owe them and we owe them more than talk. In the years since a wave of bullying suicides struck the country and got worldwide attention, there's been too much talk and not enough action.
A year ago, Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, that young men right there, his life was thrown on to the Internet. It was more than he could bear. He went to the George Washington Bridge and took his own life.
Almost a year to the day from Tyler's suicide, Jamey Rodemeyer lost his battle with bullies. He took part in the "It Gets Better" campaign online. He hoped it would get better. Then some night he lost that hope. The bullying outlived him. His sisters and friends were taunted the night of his wake at school.
We've come to know Jamey and Tyler this past year just as we came to know so many children. These are the faces of other students. Other students who've taken their own lives after being bullied.
The bullying happens every day in school and online. Sometimes we don't know about it. Sometimes we just hear stories about it. And sometimes it is even caught on tape. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your ass off my book bag.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move. Move.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. (CROSSTALK)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? Why are you talking to me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No. No. Why are you stabbing me like that. Stop
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give it to him hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You heard the other kid saying, "Give it to him hard." That's a boy named Alex. Some of the abuse that he endured every single day. It's from a remarkable documentary called "The Bully Project."
We're going to show you more of it tonight on the program. Our question tonight, the reason we are gathered here is to make sure that Alex's story and all the other kids' stories of bullying don't become a never-ending story, handed down through generations of bullies and victims and hurt and loss.
Tonight we want to say and say out loud the bullying stops here. We want solutions. And tonight we hope to begin to find them.
Dr. Phil McGraw is with us. So is bullying expert Rosalind Wiseman.
You're going to meet so many brave students tonight as well. Parents, members of the Rutgers community. Out friend Kelly Ripa is here as well. She's got three kids and like any mom worries. And Jane Lynch who's raising a young daughter with her wife is also going to be joining us tonight.
It's been a year since Tyler Clementi's death. And the issue came to a lot of the country's attention then. I want to bring in Phil McGraw and Rosalind Wiseman.
What kind of a grade would you give in terms of progress that's been made this year on the issue?
DR. PHIL MCGRAW, HOST, "DR. PHIL": Well, I would give a real high grade as far as intention to both legislators and administrators and teachers. Teachers are heroes. I mean, come on, these are people that work for very little money. They're very dedicated. But I would give us a very low grade for execution. I'm going to give us a low grade for what we've accomplished.
And I will tell you, Anderson, it's for the -- it's because we're going at this from the wrong point of view. We're dealing with this with -- with bullies as criminals. And they're -- and then their victims. And we can't see them in that way. There's got to be intervention with both. And it's not just consequating it. They both need help. They both need social skills training.
They both need things that they can only get if we put it into the curriculum. And it can't get into curriculum if we don't put money behind it and we don't make it just as much a part of the students' day as we do history and math and science.
COOPER: Rosalind, what kind of grade would you give to educators, to schools?
ROSALIND WISEMAN, AUTHOR, "QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES: HELPING YOUR DAUGHTER SURVIVE CLIQUES, GOSSIP, BOYFRIENDS, AND THE NEW REALITIES OF GIRL WORLD": I would give to legislators and educators about a C- minus for many of the reasons that Dr. Phil spoke of because it's so punitive. Because it doesn't understand the complexities of the issue.
We've got good people who are intending to do well, who are reacting to anxiety, and are not thinking through how this impacts the school. But what I do give an -- who I do give an A to are the kids and to the young people who are making videos and songs and music videos, all these different kinds of things that they're trying to express that's really authentic to their life experience, and they're sharing it with other people.
MCGRAW: I don't give the kids an A.
WISEMAN: You don't? Why not?
MCGRAW: I don't give them an A.
WISEMAN: Are you disagreeing with me?
MCGRAW: No, I give the kids that do what you're saying, that get on YouTube.
MCGRAW: Those that are reaching out for their own experience. What I don't give an A to are the kids on that bus that sat there and watched that happen and they're just as guilty as the kid that was doing it.
COOPER: One of the amazing things, and we conducted a study, and we're going to show you the results of the study throughout the hour. But in more than 75 percent of the cases, I think it was, kids don't intervene. Other -- nobody intervenes. And we're going to look today at the importance of intervention and how that really can make a difference.
It's interesting, when I first started trying to understand the bullying issue I saw it very simply. That there were bullies and there were victims. But after really researching this and talking with Dr. Phil and Rosalind and other experts, what I realized now is that it is far more complex.
We decided to team up with sociologist, a man named Robert Faris who's doing really groundbreaking research on bullying. We launched an in- depth investigation at top-rank high school, The Wheatley School, it's on New York's Long Island.
We want to truly look at how this problem plays out in one school. And what's really interesting is that in doing this study, sociologist Faris believes that we've uncovered some larger -- larger truths about schools and about bullying nationwide. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call me like gay, faggot, dumbass.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would get comments like you're a slut, you're fat, you're a whore, you're disgusting.
COOPER (voice-over): Like a lot of schools in America, the Wheatley School has a bullying problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They physically abuse me, they mentally abuse me, emotionally abuse me. And I will admit, I had thoughts of suicide in ninth grade.
COOPER: More than 700 students at Wheatley were asked very specific questions about aggression at their school. Like, did a student in your school pick on you or do something mean to you? Did you pick on or do something mean to another student at your school?
The results were eye opening. A key finding, bullies, what researchers called aggressors, are often also victims.
(On camera): Do you think somebody is an aggressor and somebody is a victim or do you think it crosses over?
BRIDGET, STUDENT, THE WHEATLEY SCHOOL: Everyone is a bully and everyone is a victim.
COOPER: Everyone is a bully?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every -- like you've bullied. I have bullied. Whether you know it or not, you've bullied someone.
COOPER (voice-over): The study also shows why kids bully. Sociologist Robert Faris calls it social combat, using aggressive bullying behavior to climb the social ladder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty much a race to the top. By getting to the top, you view yourself as one of the important people of your school. And that is -- that's the reason why bullying occurs.
COOPER: The study found the higher they get, the more aggressive and victimized they become. Fifty-six percent of Wheatley students surveyed said they were involved in either aggression, victimization or both. And over 80 percent of incidents were never reported to adults.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: And joining us now are two teens from Wheatley you just heard from. Bridget, a junior -- Bridget was rated by the research as being in the top 5 percent of victims and also interestingly in the top 20 percent of the aggressors. You were kind of surprised, I know, to hear that.
And Josh, a senior, who is rated as the top 5 percent of victims and also the top 5 percent of aggressors.
We're also joined by the study's author, Robert Faris. And Kelly Ripa is also in the audience with us, mom of three.
Bridget, were -- you say that everybody is a bully at one time or another and everybody is a victim. What do you mean?
BRIDGET: Well, either you -- there's the obvious bully that picks on someone else and is like what that video showed. There can be a physical bully. There can be an emotional bully that attacks whether it's behind a computer or if it's just you two. It doesn't always have to be, like, I'm going to punch you in the face and stuff like that, but threatening is bullying. Or you can bully yourself.
COOPER: The impact it had on people.
BRIDGET: Right. You're not going to just -- it's not going to go away. It stays with you.
COOPER: It's interesting, Bob. I mean to me the study that you did was really eye-opening. And we picked Wheatley because it's an excellent school that really does take this problem seriously. But the results are very similar to schools around the country that you've also studied. The idea of social combat -- I just find it fascinating. Just explain that a little bit more.
ROBERT FARIS, CO-AUTHOR, A.C. 360 BULLYING STUDY: Well, one of the things I think we found at both Wheatley and the other schools I have studied, there's really kind of two types of patterns going on. One is where, you know, maybe a vulnerable kid who's a little bit different in some way, who's kind of violated some of the unwritten codes of social life in a school is getting piled on and picked on relentlessly. Sort of a chronic fashion.
But then there's this whole other sort of hidden, you know, actually more common form of aggression where kids are using it a little more tactically to climb these social hierarchies. And that's much more prevalent in all the schools that we've seen. And it seems to peak in the middle to upper ranges of the status hierarchy.
COOPER: And Josh, this rings true to you because you had two friends who turned on you to try to advance themselves. What happened?
JOSH, STUDENT, THE WHEATLEY SCHOOL: As their life went on, they felt like, oh, we can make better -- we can make new friends, be cooler, go to parties every Friday, Saturday night. But this kid, oh, he's a nerd. We've got to hold him back. And I don't know. We're, like, one day you're, like, close buddies hanging out. And then the second day they're treating you like trash.
COOPER: Do you think you're -- you know, both a victim and an aggressor? Because your score is about the same on both.
JOSH: I mean I can definitely see the victim part. I went through a lot of with that. And -- but the aggressive part, I don't really see because I'm not all that -- I'm pretty quiet in school. COOPER: Did you find it interesting -- I mean a lot of kids didn't actually see themselves as aggressors.
FARIS: Yes. And I think and maybe not realize that they've done something, you know, that was interpreted as mean, you know, to a peer. And so they're not -- kids may not always be aware of it. That's certainly the case.
COOPER: Kelly, you've got three kids. I mean does the idea of social combat -- to me that was really kind of eye-opening phrase.
KELLY RIPA, TALK SHOW HOST: Yes -- no, I think it makes a lot of sense because nobody wants to be the kid that is suddenly turned on, I think. You know, if you're -- if you are sort of swept up in the group and you see a good friend who is at the top of the social food chain, say, and suddenly the tables have turned and suddenly this sort of popular kid has become the victim in an attempt to take over the social hierarchy, I don't think there's going to be a lot of interference because nobody wants to be the person that is suddenly turned on.
COOPER: Does the idea of social combat ring true to both of you?
WISEMAN: Well, it's what I have been writing about for -- and teaching about for 20 years. Teachers, administrators, parents will look at this and say, well, that's just the way it is. That's the way human beings are. And the thing that we have to consistently say to people is degrading people is never right.
And it always comes down to what you're being degraded by race, you're being degraded by socioeconomic status, by class, not having as much money as somebody else, from where you come from, from your sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. It always comes down to that.
COOPER: The other thing that's true, is that -- I mean it is so different than it used to be for -- I mean adults will say well, look, this has always been around. Yes, that's true. But online bullying -- you know, bullying is now, and you talk about this a lot on your program. It's not just in schools anymore. It is 24 hours a day.
MCGRAW: And the problem with this, and -- that you were talking so much about the impact of bullying after the fact. What happens is the victim takes over for the bully when the bully leaves. The bully leaves, but the victim repeats it in their head over and over and over, this internal dialogue where they repeat and even enhance and embellish what the bully said. And therefore embrace it from the inside out. COOPER: Yes, I mean, you had a Formspring account. And time and time again I'm hearing kids talk about Formspring. I know it's not as popular as it was once, but I mean people can anonymously say things to you. And people would say horrible things to you.
COOPER: But you kept it just because -- why did you keep the account?
BRIDGET: Because they weren't all negative. I did get a few nice ones. And --
COOPER: And that was enough to make you want to keep it?
BRIDGET: Well, no. I also liked to respond to the bad ones. I did respond. Because if you are just like, all right, I see what you're spending your time doing, like --
MCGRAW: Plus you want to take the temperature, right? See if they're still on you or not.
BRIDGET: Right. And you know --
MCGRAW: You want to check and see. There were 100 tonight, 80 tonight, hey, it's getting better.
BRIDGET: You could get seven an hour. I could get seven in one hour. Seven in a week. I could get one.
WISEMAN: But also, didn't it feel like if you didn't respond that was weak?
WISEMAN: And you couldn't -- you couldn't let it pass.
BRIDGET: And sometimes they would write back and say, oh, look at you not -- you know, writing back.
COOPER: We got to take a quick break. Up next, more startling research from the study on bullying including some -- actually some good news on bullying. We'll also talk with the principal of Wheatley.
Plus, in Minnesota's largest school district facing a lawsuit and federal investigation. The teachers are barred from talking about homosexuality.
Coming up we'll talk to some students at the school and in that district who say the policy creates a dangerous, even toxic environment where they are harassed routinely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get shoved. And you feel like -- just that you're a piece of garbage that they can just throw away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A piece of garbage they can throw away."Bullying: It Stops Here." We'll be back in a minute.
COOPER: Welcome back to "Bullying: It Stops Here."
Before the break, we were talking about the results of a pioneering study. We discovered that high schools are sort of social battlefields with students fighting for supremacy. To rise on the social ladder students use aggression or bullying to improve their position.
The good news, our study also shows that more often than not it just doesn't work to really improve your social standing long term. The other key is that we're learning about the importance of kids intervening to help other kids.
Dr. Phil talked about this earlier. Right now in 77 percent of aggressive incidents, no bystanders intervenes. Seventy-seven percent. And that has got to change.
Joining our conversation is Jacob, another Wheatley student. He caught our eye because the study ranked him as one of the students who most often tries to stop bullying in his high school. Also here is Sean Feeney, Wheatley's principal. Back with us is the co-author of our study, Robert Faris, and of course Phil McGraw and Rosalind Wiseman.
First of all, Principal, it is I think incredibly brave of you to allow us to do this study in your school. And I do want to stress that your school takes this problem very seriously and is one of the top ranked schools in the country.
Were you surprised by some of the results?
SEAN FEENEY, PRINCIPAL, THE WHEATLEY SCHOOL: I was surprised somewhat. I have worked in a number of different schools, in a number of different social and cultural contexts overseas, in the city. And what I found in my experience with kids, kids are kids are kids. And unfortunately these sort of dynamics occur in all places.
Now that's not to excuse it. That's not to tolerate it. But you can't be a high school principal and not acknowledge and recognize problems such as drugs, alcohol, sex and bullying. I mean these are all issues, many of which are tied into the issue of self-esteem and sense of self. Which is something that's developing in high school kids.
COOPER: Bob, you talk about the power of bystanders to actually stop this.
FARIS: Bystanders, I mean, are form of majority, you know, of the school. And they have -- they're the ones who actually allocate status. I mean collectively they decide who's cool and who's not.
They have the sort of power to step in and change the culture of the school and intervene in specific situations.
COOPER: And that's a hopeful thing, because if you can get the norm being kids intervening, that can change that dynamic of bullying.
WISEMAN: Absolutely. But they have to have the faith and the trust that their teachers and administrators will do right by them.
WISEMAN: And so what I want to applaud is, you know, you saying this is a problem that happens. And the more information that I can get about this problem like doing this evaluation helps me do right by my kids. That's the kind of principal we have to have.
COOPER: Jacob, you're one of the top interveners in the school. Why do you think that is? What is it about bullying that you've seen that makes you want to intervene?
JACOB, STUDENT, THE WHEATLEY SCHOOL: Well, I believe that no one deserves to feel bad about themselves or have other people view bad of them. So if you have the opportunity to make someone feel better about themselves or prevent this from happening to them, then I believe you should take it so.
COOPER: Did you know you were one of the top interveners?
JACOB: I -- I didn't -- no, I didn't.
COOPER: Yes, you must have been incredibly relieved, because, like, you know, you open up the study, you're like, oh, whew. I'm the intervener.
COOPER: That's good. How do you -- Principal Feeney, how do you get kids to -- how do you get more interveners? How do you get -- how do you build that number of interveners?
FEENEY: The power of the intervener was very exciting to me because this study and Dr. Faris's research clearly showed that if you are friends with someone who is an intervener, you're more likely to intervene the next time. So this sense of cultural norms which I think you -- you spoke of earlier, renormalizing the culture, you can change. And the key is from students.
COOPER: I was also interested in your study to see that bullying doesn't actually work. I mean, as a strategy long term to get to the top of the social hierarchy, it's non-sustainable. It doesn't really work. Is that correct?
FARIS: On average it doesn't. And -- COOPER: So sometimes it does.
MCGRAW: It works in the moment.
FARIS: Right. Right.
MCGRAW: It doesn't work long term but it works -- the immediate gratification is there. And that's the most powerful reward a kid can have, is immediate gratification. It doesn't work long term, correct?
FARIS: There were some exceptions to that. It depends on who they're picking on. But, you know, I don't want to get into details of how, you know, bullies can be successful. But there were some exceptions to it. But by and large it's true that they -- that's the kind of the great irony is that, it's not working.
It actually -- it even sort of more surprising is that it increases the anxiety and depression of the bullies themselves experience. So they --
FARIS: Yes. We know that it increases their anxiety levels, increases their depression levels. I think they end up, you know, hating themselves on some level.
COOPER: Why do you think that it doesn't -- for the by and large does not work as a strategy for gaining -- becoming the top of the heap?
FARIS: If your goal is to climb the top of the hierarchy, you know, excel in something. You know I think there's a lot better ways, you know, that are respected and admired. So if you play the flute, you know, you know --
COOPER: Yes, that will do it.
FARIS: Yes, well --
COOPER: We ought to play the flute.
FARIS: I did want to say score touchdowns but you know.
FARIS: But there's a lot of better ways --
COOPER: You were in the band, weren't you?
FARIS: There's a lot better ways to do it. I think kids aren't -- you know, aren't really fooled by, you know, the aggressive behavior. They're not overly impressed. In fact -- (CROSSTALK)
FARIS: They don't trust a bully.
MCGRAW: They don't trust a bully so they stay away from them. COOPER: Do you think that's true?
WISEMAN: Yes, absolutely. I mean the thing that's so amazing as you watch kids go through this process is that they realize that they are, like, paranoid about constantly having to reaffirm their power position. So they're never sure who their friends are and if they really will back them up. Or if they back them up it's because they fear them. And so loyalty becomes that you're backing them up because they're doing something unethical but loyalty is not speaking true to power. And friendship really is speaking true to power.
FARIS: Yes. I think kids are getting caught up in these status games. And what they really should be doing is focusing on coming out of high school with a, you know, handful of really good friends. Having good friendships is really protective. It may not prevent any -- all the bullying from occurring but it helps kids heal.
COOPER: We got to take a break.
Coming up next, an up-close look at one school system where at least seven kids have taken their own lives. Is the school's policy of not discussing sexuality part of the problem? They're facing a lawsuit, a federal investigation right now. We'll talk with students from the school district ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DYLAN, STUDENT, ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT: They would call me like fag and gross and say that I'm going to hell and stuff. It just makes you feel like you're the grossest person in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMEY RODEMEYER, STUDENT: People would be like, faggot fag. And they taunt me in the hallways. They made me felt like I could never escape it. I promise you it will get better. I have so much support from people I don't even know online. I know that sounds creepy. But they're so nice and caring. And they don't ever want me to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: They don't want me to die. That was Jamey Rodemeyer. He lived in New York where an anti-bullying law was passed last year. But laws differ from state to state and bullying policies differ from schools to schools sometimes in a district.
In Anoka-Hennepin, Minnesota's largest school district, seven students have taken their own lives in less than two years. The school district is now facing a federal investigation and a lawsuit from two advocacy groups and several students.
The allegation, pervasive anti-gay harassment. The students suing say the district's policy of barring teachers from talking about homosexuality jeopardizes their safety at school. They want the policy changed. The school district, a heavily conservative area, declined to speak to us citing the ongoing litigation. But they did defend the policy to CNN in April. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENNIS CARLSON, ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT: All the students come with parents in this community. And the parents have a wide range of beliefs. We serve them all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was the superintendent of the Anoka-Hennepin school district.
With us now, four students who are fighting back. Kyle, Damian, Brittany and Dylan. Also with us is actress and activist Jane Lynch, as well as Sunny Hostin, legal contributor for "In Session" on truTV.
So Kyle, we -- I met you yesterday. And you told me about an incident that happened to you in a bathroom. What happened?
KYLE, STUDENT, ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT: I had to use the bathroom. And I walk in the door, and these people were just watching me. They were just staring at me. I go into the stall. And then I hear laughing. I hear laughter. And I look up, and I have something dripping down my head. And someone was peeing on me.
COOPER: And how often do you get bullied, do you get pushed around?
KYLE: Almost every day.
COOPER: Almost every day?
COOPER: And Damian, how about you? You're straight. But your two dads are gay. And you're on a gymnastics team which people make fun of you for. What do people say to you?
DAMIAN, STUDENT IN ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT: They would call me gay, faggot, fag boy, gay-Mian, gay boy.
COOPER: Brittany, what do people call you?
BRITTANY, STUDENT IN ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT: They call me dyke (EXPLETIVE DELETED) faggot. I have been even called words I'm ashamed to say to this day.
COOPER: When -- if you go to a counselor, Brittany, in your school, what do they tell you? What do they say to you?
BRITTANY: They tell me not to use that language, that's not appropriate. And...
COOPER: As if -- but you're not the one using that language.
BRITTANY: Yes. I'd explain to them what they'd say and how they said it. But they'd tell me not to talk that way, not to use that language, or that just forget about it, ignore them or -- like walk away like it didn't bother you because if you don't act like it bothers you, they're going to stop. And it never did.
COOPER: Dylan, you've recently been taken out of the school. You're now being home schooled. Did you just not feel safe in school?
DYLAN: Kids made me feel like I was the grossest person in the world. And they would just go against the walls and say, "Here comes the he/she" or "Here comes the trash." And they just made me feel gross. And I didn't feel safe at school. So I just left.
COOPER: Damian, if -- I know you had an incident where someone called you the "N" word. What -- did teachers do something about that?
DAMIAN: Yes. They were more -- they would take care of it faster than they would have if someone called me "gay" or "faggot" or "fag."
COOPER: So if someone uses a racial slur against you teachers respond?
DAMIAN: Yes, right away.
COOPER: But if someone calls you the "F" word what happened?
DAMIAN: They wouldn't say -- they would shrug it off and tell me not to use that word like Brittany said.
RIPA: Anderson, can I jump in?
RIPA: I have to tell you as a parent I'm sitting here, and I'm stewing with rage. And I just feel so angry and so upset for the four of you and your class experience. And it seems to me that this is all backwards. Instead of taking it up with the kids that are tormenting daily and using abusive language and being abusive to their students, this young man can't even go to school anymore.
He shouldn't be the one having to stay home. The bullies and the aggressors should have to be made to stay home or expelled from school. And I just want you to know that people do care about you. I care about you. And I really feel touched for your experience. Really.
COOPER: Jane, you and your wife are raising a daughter. When you hear these kids, what goes through your mind?
JANE LYNCH, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: Well, you know, these kids do need to know that they are loved. And it's really, really sad that they don't have an advocate. And I think this neutrality policy is abdicating their responsibility, the adults' responsibility of protecting these kids. And it's really very sad. It makes me very sad.
COOPER: Sunny, the school district is facing not only a lawsuit but also a federal investigation. What could happen? I mean is that -- is this a criminal federal investigation?
SUNNY HOSTIN, LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR, "IN SESSION" ON TRUTV: Well, certainly. Because a lot of this behavior is protected by federal law, right? These are civil rights violations. And I think that's what the problem is here. These children aren't allowed to be their authentic selves, and our laws have to protect that. Don't we want our children to grow and be their authentic selves, not try to be someone that they are not? And act in this sort of shame-based way? And I think the law should be here to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
COOPER: Rosalind, you know, this -- the idea of a neutral policy, I mean, a policy where you do not use specific words, does that work as an anti-bullying policy?
WISEMAN: No. It plays right into the bullies' hands. Because it stops well-meaning people from being able to speak out. It makes these children feel that they have no resource. And I really want to go back to what the superintendent said when he said we have a variety of beliefs here, and we need to address all those beliefs.
The single belief that a superintendent of a school should be focused on is the health and dignity of the children. That is it.
COOPER: Do you think it would make a difference if you could talk to teachers and talk to counselors? Do you think it would make a difference in your lives?
KYLE: Yes, I do.
COOPER: How so?
KYLE: I think if people understood what we are going through, that maybe, just maybe they'd understand. And if they would just listen to us speak and actually meet us before they jump to conclusions, maybe this wouldn't happen. You know, I -- I prayed every day that I didn't have to go back to school. And I go...
COOPER: You pray every day that you don't have to go back to school?
KYLE: Yes. I'd hide under the seats of the bus. And I would... COOPER: You'd hide under the seats?
KYLE: I would.
COOPER: I understand at one point how many kids did you know who were bullying you?
COOPER: Forty kids?
COOPER: You could identify 40 kids?
COOPER: I want to thank you kids for your courage and your strength. I think you're just so impressive and so brave. And I think -- I think you have tremendous courage. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Coming up, we're going to show you what happened to this little boy, Alex, after the bullying that happened to him was caught on camera.
But before we go, I met Kyle yesterday. And all the kids yesterday. And Kyle loves Lady Gaga.
KYLE: She's amazing.
COOPER: She's amazing.
But yesterday when I was -- I interviewed Kyle, and I was talking to him. I said, is there anything else you'd like to do and -- or like to say, he said, "I would like to sing a song." So he said that to me today when he came and sat down. Here he's like, "Can I sing?" So Kyle is going to sing his favorite song.
KYLE: All right.
(singing) Hold your head up, girl, and you'll go far. Listen to me when I say. I'm beautiful in my way, because God makes no mistakes. I'm on the right track, baby. I was born this way. Don't hide yourself in regret. Just love yourself and you're set. I'm on the right track, baby. I was born this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: As we mentioned, the so-called neutrality policy has since been changed, and the new policy reads, in part, that the staff "shall affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, regardless of sexual orientation." The settlement also required the district to hire staff to improve the climate for LGBT students and more closely monitor and report bullying.
The government dropped their investigation, but the Departments of Justice and Education will monitor the district for five years.
One last update: two out of the four students you just met have since left the school system, including Kyle, who, yes, is still singing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Hey, welcome back to this special report, "Bullying: It Stops Here," from the campus of Rutgers University.
So much bullying today occurs online, as we've talked about, as well as in school. And it's rare that it's actually caught on camera. There's an extraordinary documentary called "The Bully Project." It's been shown to the Department of Education. Parents featured in it have met with the president and the first lady.
It really gives you a look at some of the horrors that some kids face in school. This is what 13-year-old Alex faced on a school bus in Sioux City, Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your ass off my book bag.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move. Move.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not hit me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no. Ow. Why are you stabbing me with it? Stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give it to him, hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining me now is the filmmaker, Lee Hirsch. And back with us: Kelly Ripa, Jane Lynch, Dr. Phil McGraw and Rosalind Wiseman.
Lee, the film is just really extraordinary. And I know Kelly watched it last night. We've all seen it. Just incredibly, you spent a year in this school. Did it surprise you what you saw and were able to actually capture?
LEE HIRSCH, DIRECTOR, "THE BULLY PROJECT": It didn't surprise me. And it was sort of -- I think the goal of making the film was to get out there and to show what kids go through. To show what Kyle goes through. To give it something really real so that we could stop denying it, so that we could stop sort of saying this is just a rite of passage. It didn't surprise me. And I think that's -- the scary part is it didn't surprise a lot of people.
COOPER: You were so concerned about Alex, the little boy on that bus, that you actually showed the footage to his mom.
HIRSCH: I did.
COOPER: I want to show another clip from the film.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you understand that at some point you've gotten used to this? And I'm not. I'm not used to it. Because I didn't know. And I'm not about to get used to it.
Does it make you feel good when they punch you or kick you or stab you? Do these things make you feel good?
ALEX: No. Well, I don't know. I'm starting to think I don't feel anything anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You watched this last night with your kids.
RIPA: That's what -- that was the moment that I think scared me the most. When he said, "I don't -- I don't feel anything anymore." And you see a boy who has been failed on every level.
My children were afraid of his experience on the bus. They watched it, and it terrified them. It's far -- it's very far away from what their experience has been at school.
And when he said, "I don't feel anything anymore," well, kids will go to great lengths to feel something. And I feel like somebody needs to intervene on his behalf in the right way.
MCGRAW: Well, that's -- that's what bothers me about this. Look, these bullies have parents. Where are the parents? Look, if your child's a bully, it's your job to know your child is a bully. It's your job to know that. It's your job to intervene at that level as a parent. It's your job to talk to the school. It's your job...
COOPER: I've talked to a lot of parents who have tried to intervene with the parents of bullies, and the parents don't recognize it as a problem.
MCGRAW: That's what I'm saying. They don't see it, because a lot of times it's modeled in the home. There's aggressive behavior in the home, either verbally or physically, and that becomes the norm.
These kids aren't born this way, Anderson. They're -- they learn this -- it's a social skill deficit that they learn. And their parents need to know that and intervene. And I...
HIRSCH: The place where we stop it is the public forum of the school. Because we can't control these homes. But we can control what happens to kids at school. And we can have -- we can push for more empathy; we can push for understanding. And we can -- you know that's where we have a chance to make an impact. And I think...
MCGRAW: But what bothers me is I don't think you can put a fence around the school. I hear administrators say it happened off campus. It wasn't actually on school. It was in a chatroom. It was this. It was that.
You've got to take down the fences and the boundaries. We are responsible adults. If we know this is going on, then we need to caucus. We need to talk to the parents. We need to have a discussion about this, and not to come in and put the bully under the jail. You're not going to punish this out of the bully.
That young man that was doing that on the book -- on the bus, that bully, to me that is a tormented child. The bully. There's something going on.
RIPA: But when he went home that night for dinner and his mom said, "How was your day? What did you do today," he didn't say, "You know what I did? I tormented this little boy, Alex. And I punched him, and I strangled him, and I told him I was going to stab him."
WISEMAN: He said, "I was fine."
HIRSCH: Yes. Right. It's all right.
COOPER: Jane, do you agree with Lee, Jane, that the school -- I mean, yes, it would be great if -- if people could fix families. But the school is the place to address this? At least it's the most obvious place to or -- not that it's easy, but easiest place to address it?
LYNCH: Yes. I think changing the hearts and minds of people is almost a fruitless enterprise. I think you have to institute it in the schools. And there has to be real -- there has to be real consequences for the kids who bully.
I don't -- you know, these kids are not shot out of a vacuum. They come from a home that instills certain values and certain behaviors, and there's really nothing we can do about it. But at our schools and at the legislative level, we can do something about protecting these kids.
MCGRAW: If I could comment on what you're saying and what Jane was -- Jane, you were saying that it does have to happen at the school. But here's the point. If that's going to happen, then we have to teach the teachers what to do. These teachers don't know what to do.
They haven't got -- nobody has sat down and given them courses in life skills and intervention with these kids and teaching empathy.
MCGRAW: We can't ask them to do it if we don't teach them what to do and we don't fund it so it can become part of the curriculum.
HIRSCH: I think that's an excellent point, is that, you know, we do need to help with professional development. Not just teachers, but administrators, cafeteria folks, bus drivers, all the support personnel. You hear this when administrators, teachers watch our film. They will say, like, "I don't have the tools."
COOPER: Yes. We've got to take a break.
We'll be right back with our panel.
COOPER: And welcome back. We're back with our panel.
RIPA: You captured a moment in the film that will stay with me forever. And it sort of crystallized everything perfectly. These two boys are coming in from recess, and the principal is there to greet them. And one is distraught, and the other one is chasing him. And she slows them down and says, "What's going on?"
COOPER: Let's actually show this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is offering his hand and let this drop. You may go.
Cole, I expected more.
COLE, STUDENT: He criticizes me every single day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why are you around him?
COLE: I don't. He comes to me. I'd try to get away from him. He follows me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. COLE: And he criticized me, calling me a P-U (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Honey, that's not right and he shouldn't do that.
COLE: I don't even know...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you know what? He was trying to say he was sorry.
COLE: He already did, and he didn't mean it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know...
COLE: Because it continued on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You didn't mean it when you stuck your hand out either. So that means you're just like him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's incredible.
RIPA: I mean, I was screaming at the screen. I was screaming at the screen, because...
COOPER: And you see this all the time. I mean, where you work in schools.
WISEMAN: I do. I do. I work in schools, and I see it. And what is so infuriating is that we often say to kids that they should trust us. They should believe in adults. And when they have adults in their life who fail them in this way or fail the way that the Anoka-Hennepin kids have been failed, then why should children believe that we can do differently? Why should they take this enormous leap of faith and reveal this vulnerability and all of this fear?
There are two things that I talk to teachers all the time about. One is that they are the bridge. That they -- you know if they're good teachers, if they're in chem or math or French or Spanish, the kids are going to talk to them.
And the second thing teachers need to do, regardless of what they teach, is if kids use the word "fag" or "retarded" or any of that stuff, they say to the kids who said it, "Mark," or whatever your name is, "if you say that word and you are saying this word to put somebody down, it's not acceptable in my classroom. Are we good? We're good."
It takes 10 seconds. And it sends a message to every single kid in that classroom what the teacher really stands for.
MCGRAW: But they don't -- they don't say it in front of the teachers as often as they say it away from the teachers. And that involves the parents. Everybody keeps saying the parents just know what the kids tell them. If you're a parent, it's your job to observe your child and know what they're doing.
Show up when they don't know you're going to be there. Observe them when they don't think they're being observed. Find out how they treat other people. I've had parents on the show that said, "My 5- year-old would never be aggressive with anyone else." I put them behind a mirror and let them watch, and the kid's in there stabbing another kid with a Barbie doll like "Psycho."
HIRSCH: I mean one of the things that I'm hopeful for with our film and the conversation -- like conversations that we're having is that parents will feel more empowered to have those conversations. Not just if they're afraid their kid's a bully. But if their child, you know, is being bullied, and that they're able to be in that conversation.
MCGRAW: But it's more than conversation. They need to see what you saw.
HIRSCH: But it's...
HIRSCH: Hopefully, that -- you know, the empathy to have the third conversation, to have the fourth conversation.
COOPER: Yes. It can't just be one conversation.
HIRSCH: The sixth conversation. You know, and for fathers and sons, you know, it maybe is great advice to say, "Go on and, you know, deck that bully, and it'll stop." But when it doesn't, and it's the second and the third and the fourth conversation, you know, how are you going to be able to talk to your son?
COOPER: I also want to reintroduce Stu Snyder from the Cartoon Network, because CNN has teamed up with the Cartoon Network and Time Inc. to create a Facebook app.
Explain what the app is.
STUART SNYDER, PRESIDENT/COO, CARTOON NETWORK: The app is a "Stop Bullying, Speak Up" app available through Facebook. And what it is, is it's a great platform where young adults, kids and adults can get together, take a pledge to speak up to stop bullying. And also create a community where everyone can share resources so that we all can make a difference.
Today 40,000 people have taken the pledge to speak up against bullying. And I'm really requesting that if anyone hasn't taken that pledge, to please do so, and hopefully by taking the pledge, we all are able to speak up and stop bullying.
COOPER: Stuart, thanks very much. If you or anyone you know is having trouble, thinking about suicide, having thoughts like that, we have resources to help on the AC360.com page.
I want to thank everyone here. Especially the kids who are here today who've had the bravery to speak out about what they are facing every single day.
This is not just a problem for the kids who are here and for their parents. It's a problem for all of us. That all of us have to solve together. So much is at stake. Let's not let our kids down.
Bullying, it can stop here. Thanks for watching.