Last week nine Massachusetts students were charged in connection with the death of a young woman who committed suicide allegedly because of bullying. The victim, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, hanged herself on Jan. 14. Officials say Prince was ostracized and subjected to almost three months of vicious bullying after briefly dating a popular guy at her high school.
This has led to conversations around the Web and water cooler about how to stop bullies and help kids deal with bullying. I don't yet have children and I can think of just one instance where I was bullied when I was a student.
I do, however, remember my parents telling me not to start a fight — but to finish it if someone touched me. In their opinion, I should stick up for myself if things came to that, but the first line of defense was to walk away.
Yet, as I listened to William Pitt, a former bullying victim who attempted suicide, tell host Michel Martin today about how four kids held him down and pressed a razor to his hand, I wondered how my parents' instructions would work in that situation.
"I was shy, I was short, I wasn't particularly good at athletics," said Pitt, who faced bullies in two different schools before trying to take his life at age 13. "There's no real way to pin down what it was about me that brought this out in people."
It's just as hard to pin down solutions for stopping bullies.
In the conversations I've followed about this topic, some people strongly believe parents should handle bullying incidents with school officials. Others felt that strategy might make the situation worse, rather than better, as kids may decide to come down harder on the "tattletale."
Still other people recommend enrolling kids in martial arts classes to help them learn how to defend themselves as well as working with them to develop the coping skills needed to deal with taunting and bullying.
I think some combination of those ideas might work, but share your ideas with us in the comments for ways to stop bullying.