Letters to the Editor

Cruel bullying

April 17, 2010


To the editor:

I read with great sadness the story of Phoebe Prince, the Massachusetts teen who hanged herself after being subjected to a torrent of cruel bullying. It dredged up my own memories of being bullied as a youth. I like to think that bullying made me a better person. I befriend the friendless. I stick up for people who are being picked on. I taught my daughter to treat everyone with kindness, and she is a beautiful person.

No one should tolerate bullying. It makes me sad to know that there are people who can be so cruel. How can we make it stop? I think more parental involvement in their kids’ lives. Teaching kids, by example and by word, that kindness and good moral values are important.

When I was a kid, I used to fantasize about different ways to kill myself. I decided to walk onto a railroad track when a train was coming. I didn’t go through with it because of the kindness of a teacher and my parents.


Tom Shewmon 8 years ago

My (now senior who can bench press 335 lbs.) was bullied when he first started at Basehor-Linwood after we got custody a couple years ago. It was actually one of his football team mates who tried to "test" him. Well, the first attempt by this kid, my son merely pushed him away, knowing the consequences of an all out fight. The second time the kid came at him, the kid ended up head first in a locker bank with a gash on his forehead. They both were suspended for two days. That's how you handle a bully.

ivalueamerica 8 years ago

And that is why you should not be a parent.

Liberty275 8 years ago

Sounds like he raised a good kid that doesn't need others to protect him. Kudos to Tom and his son. I'm just guessing, nut I'd be willing to bet Tom's son and the bully are pretty friendly with each other now.

parrothead8 8 years ago

I'm guessing most kids who get bullied don't possess the physical prowess to put their bully headfirst into a locker bank.

Seth Peterson 8 years ago

Sounds to me like a one-sided story that Tom loves to buy and he's child's actually a bully.

A bully who uses violence when he doesn't like how someone else is acting.

A bully who is prone to violence and probably inherited Tom's anger issues.

I see two divorces with at least one battered spouse the future...so...yes...kudos...Tom has a child just like him.

High school is nothing more of an extension of the rest of the world where might makes right and a name or money makes everything okay. It is unfortunate that things became so bad this poor girl did this to herself, but this is not new. I hope that her family is coping and pulls through and the school tries to prevent this from happening to others. It would be nice if the community could stand behind the school or try to help, rather than continue to focus on themselves.

cowboy 8 years ago

Had the same thing with my boy , he finally cold cocked him one day and got suspended , I went to the vice principal and laid into him as they well knew this kid had a Hx of harrassing kids and got the suspension lifted immediately for my boy.

independant1 8 years ago

my son did same, I laid into the principal but didn't get suspension lifted. It worked anyway, the bullying stopped.

bankboy119 8 years ago

False. Great job Tom. Independant can preach peace and love and flowers all they want, and that should always be the first step, but there is a time for escalation.

bankboy119 8 years ago

Independant, I apologize. The first remark was meant for ivalueamerica. I clicked wrong.

independant1 8 years ago

I have problem with that too. No apology required, I am nobody. uh let's see ready, fire, aim nope nope uh fire, aim, ready ok i got it ready aim fire

rbwaa 8 years ago

Your examples describe one bully against one other person. The girl in Massachusetts was bullied by a multitude of individuals who kept up the harrassment for days, possibly weeks, and for which there was no adult intervention. It was impossible for her to defend herself like your sons did.

frank mcguinness 8 years ago

My kids are taught to mind themselves and avoid confrontation.

If all else fails though, my kids have every right to throw blows if any harassment persists.

On a final note, I believe that the parents of these kids should be held criminally responsible for their kids actions, to a degree.

independant1 8 years ago

Yup growing up has it's speed bumps. The pecking order especially at the H.S. level is extremly cruel.

acg 8 years ago

The girl is Mass was bullied horribly and there were a few boys in on that but it was directed by a group of awful girls. Boys do bully but they do it in a different way. They'll "test" as Tom talks about but they (most of the time) lose interest and move on to something/someone else. Girls can be so much more cruel than boys. First of all, we know how to attack someone emotionally, which is so much worse that attacking them physically. We are more manipulative than the male gender, so I can just see those hateful little b's talking those two guys into doing what they wanted them do to do that poor girl with hardly any effort. Teenaged girls are already a bundle of emotions and u throw in constant torment and its a recipe for disaster. If that sort of stuff happens to my kids when they get older I'm going to teach them that you don't get mad, you get even!!

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

Public school staff should have no qualms about calling in parents with their children and dealing with this in no uncertain terms.

We had a friend who would NOT let his son strike back. The young child was small for his age but a taekwondo black belt. The father,also a black belt, did not want to violate the discipline.

HOWEVER the father decided to address the issue with school officials. The matter was resolved.

Obviously I believe school officials and parents should resolve the matter. When the matter reaches the point to where a child feels the need to strike back the stress involved prior to reaching the point of return violence is unhealthy.

I say parents and school officials should nip it in the bud pronto.

jafs 8 years ago

Why aren't the schools doing more to prevent this sort of bullying?

eric1889 8 years ago

Schools are doing things to help prevent bullying. Most have character ed classes that deal with the issue. Most even separate the classes by gender, because girls and boys do bully in different ways. Many question is when are parents going to do more to prevent this sort of bullying?

acg 8 years ago

Sometimes the parents can't do much at all. Case in point, my best friend lives in Tongie. She has a daugther that goes to middle school out there and is being constantly harrassed and threatened by a hateful group of girls. They even went so far as to threaten her life repeatedly on her facebook page. Her mom called the school, who did nothing. Then she called the bully's parents, who trivialized the situation with "kids will be kids" and finally she's had to file criminal complain charges because it wouldn't stop. So far, the DA hasn't decided if "the situation even warrants their involvement". So what's a person to do? The school can't stop it, the bully's parents won't stop it and the law doesn't know if they should get involved. I told her daughter to corner the chick one day after school and beat the holy living crap right out of her and then she'd learn. I know it's not the most mature of advice but it worked for me. Every time one of those snooty b***es bothered me in school I would punch them in the mouth and/or set their pom poms on fire. They all learned real quick to give me a wide berth.

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

When you are being verbally assaulted and physically harassed directly in front of a teacher who turns away and refuses to recognize or acknowledge the abuse, it doesn't exactly give one the confidence or courage to report it. In that refusal to recognize the abuse is the unacknowledged statement that the school will do nothing until forced to do so. I know this because it happened to me. It took having someone kick me in the a$$ and sending me flying down the hall before a teacher responded. Then the response was to send me to the counselor while the perp went undisciplined.

acg 8 years ago

I know some of it comes from class/money distinction. When I was in school if your jeans didn't say Guess you weren't cool and the other girls let you know. Maybe it's high time we put them all in uniforms and take away some of the reasons they have to belittle one another. Then we need to teach them that its not okay to find someone's fault or flaw and berate them about it constantly. I just don't know how one would do that. Is it human nature to be mean to one another? I see it in little ones, too, when we go to the playground or my 4 year old has slumber parties. It seems someone is always getting alienated or picked on by everyone else. I would be interested in hearing from anyone with a psych background. Is this our nature?

denak 8 years ago

I would like to think it isn't human nature but it probably is. I think when you get people in a pack, the natural instinct is to root out the weakess link and destroy it. I think the difference today, as opposed to when you and I probably went to school, is that back then it took a few hours to destroy a person's reputation (notes and telephone calls take time) but now you can literally ruin a person's life with a few clicks of a mouse. I'm not sure we can do anything about this. As you stated earlier, women/females engage in covert means of violence as opposed to men who are more overt (ie the men on this board advocating cold cocking a bully--which I don't necessarily disagree with) so I think trying to stop these things from happening is going to be futile especially now that they have social networking sites where girls can destroy another girl in a matter of seconds. I don't know if girls are worst then they use to be they just have more sophisticated means in which to do their damage.


Mike Ford 8 years ago

Tonganoxie is where the school district settled for a big chunk of money with a kid, I think Theno was his last name for being bullied out of school. There's something called the 14th amendment which gaurantees equal access and protection for a public school education under federal law. That kid won on the premise that his fourteenth amendment rights were violated at tonganoxie. A sibling and I were both bullied at McLouth. Like this girl my sibling had to deal with 7 or 8 kids bullying stealing and threatening and call pranking 24/7 before caller ID. Cowards roll in groups in small towns. After we left, a kid by the name of Subelka was bullied into hanging himself. Wonderful place, really?

Kathy Theis-Getto 8 years ago

You make good points, denak. Witness the frequent pack mentality of this board . Our children learn through modeling and repetition. There is much that can be done through example. We need to teach our children how to treat others and the best way to do this is by setting examples, even in the cyber world. The children are watching us even when we don't think they are - what do they see?

Jaylee 8 years ago

Thinking back, I done some bad things defending myself. Maybe had held every time that person had bullied me til that breaking point, then unleashed it all at once? Who knows? All the instances I can think of were between 3rd grade and maybe 17 or so years old, but I feel like I was always the kinder subject in any argument. Certainly least likely to strike, but certainly wasn't about to get beat down. I did walk away from a few sucker punches. Ramble ramble ramble.... this girl needed some friends or counseling or something? Just a guess, but I bet she would have done it for some other reason(s) in the future.

What I'm saying is, I don't think it is the bully's faults, as messed up as it sounds. This girl killed herself because she wanted to kill herself.

parrothead8 8 years ago

And she wanted to kill herself because her life was seemingly an inescapable, living hell. To deny the culpability of the people who willfully and continuously created that hell seems ignorant, at best.

Jaylee 8 years ago

Talking out your parrot a$$ if you are trying to tell me I don't know what it's like to be a troubled youth, bullied or depressed or wanting to kill yourself. That doesn't mean I was to the point of doing it, but it crossed my mind more than once.

Her hell wasn't in the environment she was set, it was in her inability to properly cope with, either herself or with the help of adults who care, that environment.

If you wanna talk ignorance, I'd say assuming that these childrens' bullying would be so much worse than what every other bullying victim went through that it would be the cause, let alone the sole cause, for a little girl's world being so bleak and dim she would take herself from it at such a young age is the ignorant stance.

These bullies were kids being kids, certainly at their worst, but by no means warrants a criminal manslaughter charge, which seems to be just shy of what some people are calling for.

Amy Heeter 8 years ago

Every time a kid kills themselves these days it is blamed on bullies. A lot of kids are picked on and don't kill themselves. There are other issues in most cases.

Jaylee 8 years ago

THHHHHHHHHHHHANK YOU artheart!! This girl had issues other than some mean boys or girls at school.

denak 8 years ago

No, I don't think it was a simple matter of "this girl had issues." Perhaps she did. Maybe they knew she was insecure, a new immigrant, and wanted to fit in. Maybe it was because she had "issues" that they targeted her.

From what I am to understand, after she killed herself, one of the girls wrote "mission accomplished" on the dead girl's Facebook wall.

According to police, many of the 9 boys and girls show absolutely no remorse for what they did and the police and DA obviously think it was more than just a little bullying, because their charges range from everything from criminal harrasment, various civil rights violations, to stalking and statutory rape.

So, not only do I think these teens need to be held accountable, I think the school (school district) needs to be held responsible because there is overwhelming documented evidence that the school knew about the bullying (most of it on school grounds and in full view of teachers) and who did nothing to stop it.


Jaylee 8 years ago

Dena, it sounds like you're trying to say it WAS these children's fault this girl killed herself?

Bullying cannot have been the cause for this girl killing herself in my opinion. It may have been a contributing factor in her lack of self-respect or general sadness, but not a reason to kill oneself.

All the tidbits you added about the nasty or even vindictive nature surrounding the bullying are great points supporting my argument that these were kids AT THEIR WORST, but I refuse to believe that they alone coerced the girl to hang herself.

Aside from being heartbroken or considering yourself a messenger of God(etc.), I can't think of situations where people kill themselves because of someone else, even if told to.

denak 8 years ago

Why, yes Jaylee, I am saying that it WAS these "children's" fault that the girl killed herself.

Why is it so hard for you to believe that a person can be targeted by an individual or 9 individuals and after a long campaign of terror, the person saw only one way to end it and that was to kill herself,in order to stop the abuse.

Why do you "refuse" to believe that such a thing can happen? Or that the viciousness of these kids attacks were the main reason for her dying.

If you don't believe it was the only reason or even a mitigating factor, do you think these "kids" should not be charged?


Linda Endicott 8 years ago

You can't think of any situations where people kill themselves because of someone else? What about a breakup? Many people have done it over that. Or a death in the family, and the person left behind didn't want to face life without them...

Issues? How many issues do you think are required to make someone want to kill themselves? You don't think having a bunch of other teenagers sending cruel messages constantly for months is enough? Really? I do...

As for her not having a lot of self-esteem, confidence, etc...you show me a teenager that truly has that...oh, they put on a good show from time to time, you see a lot of bravado, but that's what part of being a teenager is...it's considered perfectly normal to have "issues" with self-esteem during the teen years...

I hope you never have to go through losing a loved one due to suicide...especially fi you have people around you saying that the note they left behind can't be the real reason, because they must have had other "issues"...

How many "issues" does it take to hang yourself? One? Two? More?

Mike Ford 8 years ago

the subelka kid I mentioned earlier was bullied by his McLouth classmates because he was poor. They made fun of him going to a junior high dance. He hung himself. the kids bullied him into it. I survived a junior high suicide attempt 28 years ago brought on by bullying in Manhattan, Ks. Some of the kids that taunted me then are different as adults now. Still they knew no conscience as these massachucetts kids know no conscience now.

tomatogrower 8 years ago

I heard a story on CNN about a school who compiled a bullies list and was trying to do something about the kids who bullied. The kid even admits to having bullied kids. Now he is being bullied for being on the list, and his mother, who was never concerned about bullies before wants the teacher disciplined and the principal fired. Maybe she should have raised a nicer kid in the first place. I can't remember where this kid lived.

Jaylee 8 years ago

Nope. I still agree with myself. You don't kill yourself for other people They were unhappy with themselves and multiple things in their lives.

Getting bullied on the way to the dance made him kill himself? Why would he even go to the dance if he was that unhappy about the people he'd have to be around? So many circumstances that none of us will ever truly know could have been the reason(s). This is almost getting silly.

Bruce Liddel 8 years ago

I was bullied from 1965 through 1971. School officials usually called me a tattle-tale, and managed to never see the attacks. My own mother always believed I had brought attacks upon myself. Once, I was severely beaten with my own baseball bat. In elementary school, I tried to always carry a bookbag full of books, which I would swing to keep attackers at bay. I believe what finally stopped it (in high school) was three things: #1. I began carrying a 4" locking penknife that I could quickly flick open with one hand. #2, I made it very public that anyone who started a physical fight with me would find themselves in a fight to the death, and #3. I genuinely meant what I said. Fortunately, I was never attacked again.

So, no, I'm not at all impressed with public schools, or police, and yes, something drastic needs to be done about bullying.

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

I find it amazing that not a single teacher has responded to this article in this forum. Where are they? Where is there voice?

Glen Moore 8 years ago

My daughter whom is in 3rd grade had a boy picking on her in class, calling her names and such. This was a topic of conversation during a parent teacher conference in which the teaher said she would move the boy to a different pod. She didn't and one day another boy whom sits in the same pod (pod of 5) seen the boy picking on my daughter and pushed the other boy down at recess telling him to stop. The other boy got in trouble. The teacher failed to remove the boy from the pod still. One day my daughter brings home a note from the bully making fun of her. I looked the boy up in the school directory and called the parents to describe the situation to the dad whom had a good laugh and hung up on me. So I went to his house with my daughter, knocked on the door and his dad answered. I said "hi $@face this stops today or I will become the bully and I'm not very nice as a bully" along with other statements (I'm 6'1 210 he was 5'8 140) guess what, the lill boy is just as nice as can be :) (Dads can sometimes be the hero).

workinghard 8 years ago

LOL, I was known as the meanest parent at my kid's school one year (only went there one year), had no qualms about going after the kid and telling them off or showing up at their house. They started leaving my kid alone because they were afraid I would look them up. Never, never threaten them though, it will just get you I trouble.

Linda Endicott 8 years ago

When my daughter was in 2nd grade, she suddenly started coming home with bruises. She told me that one of the other girls was bullying her on the playground, during recess and after lunch.

I went to the school and conmplained to the teacher. Who said to me, "Oh, that girl is so sweet and nice, I find it hard to believe she's doing that." Hoever, when I asked her if she was then calling my daughter a liar, she said she'd look into it.

Well, of course she didn't. Or if she did, all that was done was asking the little darling if she was hitting my daughter, and of course she was going to say no. I went back to the teacher once more, with the same results. Nothing done.

I then went to the principal. Called him out of his office without an appointment, and while his secretary fumed at me, but he took the time to talk. I told him this was to stop, and stop now, or I would go to the authorities. And if they didn't think this other girl would do something like that, then I would just have to assume that her teacher or some other staff member was doing it, as she didn't used to come home with bruises.

The problem stopped instantly. The other girl wasn't allowed on the playground with my daughter again unless there was staff there. Of course the kid wasn't going to do it in front of a teacher.

workinghard 8 years ago

Your comments all bring back memories of trying to get my kids through school. It is a real problem. One thing that did help was threatening the parents with a lawsuit. If it means it would cost them money they somehow find a way to control their kid. Also pressing charges and sending the police to the school also gets the parents and the schools attention. Seriously, if it is physical, press charges with the police, don't mess with the school.

Christine Anderson 8 years ago

I have to say I am so frightened for my sons. Right now, they are 4th and 5th graders at Prairie Park, and if bullying occurs there, the teachers and Mr. Barnhardt shut it down right fast and quick. I am scared of when they move on to Jr. HIgh. My older boy is my autistic fella, and very big for his age. He does understand everything that is said. He is surrounded by paras at all times, so it would be harder for a bully to directly bother him. If my younger boys hears someone else say something unkind about his brother, he lets them have it verbally. Thankfully, this does not happen very often where they are now. I'm fearful for my younger boy. He's small for his age, and a sweet, compassionate personality. He gets upset when he sees another student being picked on, and yes, he tells a staff member immediately. I don't usually share disturbing news items with him, but I did talk with him about Phoebe Prince. Still very scared, but I hope he will believe that it's best to come to me, a teacher, etc. long before he ever feels like doing that.

Christine Anderson 8 years ago

I was a bully in high school. I once tricked a mentally disabled girl into stealing fruit from FHA orders. Yes, disgusting. This week, I found another former classmate on Facebook whom I was very mean to in Chorus. I sent her a message asking her forgiveness. I just hope I didn't cause more damage by apologizing. Why did I bully? I think it was because I felt so worthless myself. No, it absolutely did NOT make it okay. I was wrong, plain and simple.

workinghard 8 years ago

Is there any way you could homeschool? I didn't realize it was a viable option (things were different 15 to 20 yrs ago) until my third child. It was a godsend. I was lucky though, I could take him to work with me even though he was probably old enough about the 2nd or 3rd year (we started in 5th grade) to just stay at home and work by himself.

pumpkinpatch 8 years ago

We had my daughter enrolled in a catholic school, where she was bullied. My husband and I contacted the teacher about the boy that would kick, hit and call her names, we were told 'Oh that is just his personality'. We pulled her out and now home school her. The best thing we could have ever done for her. Not all bulling is done in public schools.

Christine Anderson 8 years ago

Well put. It is true bullying happens in private schools, too. I have thought about the virtual school option for my younger boy if problems develop after he starts Jr. High. I would not be able to give my autistic boy the specialized instruction he needs. If I did end up schooling my younger son at home in the future, I'd have one hell of a fight on my hands, from the other parenting party with whom I share custody. He would be the type to tell our son, "You're a guy-suck it up." Right.

jaywalker 8 years ago

The Prince case is tragic and normally I'm not quick to blame others around an incident. However, from what I've heard thus far some teachers and administrators better be havin' a hard time gettin' to sleep after allowing that to go on under their noses.

tomatogrower 8 years ago

But check out this story. Schools are in trouble when they try and do something, and they're in trouble when they don't. The responsibility lies with the kids who did it. They are old enough to know right from wrong, and they chose wrong. It's called personal responsibility, and the fact they show no remorse is very disturbing.


rtwngr 8 years ago

I taught my children that we are not victims in our family. We engage administration and staff first. If my children were not able to resolve the issue then their mother or I would step in. My children, at every step of the process, had my permission to resist with whatever force they deemed necessary. Physical violence was always understood to be the last resort. It was never, however, removed from the list of possibilities.

Bullies will perceive kindness as weakness. There will always be those in our society that feel the need to bully in order that they may feel better about themselves. Resistance to this behavior is absolutely necessary.

Deja Coffin 8 years ago

My oldest daughter is only 5 so we haven't had a lot of experience... if any in the bullying department yet, thank goodness. Knowing that these behaviors in children can start at an early age we focus more on her being a good role model to other kids then defense against bullies. One thing we always tell her is that if she's playing that everyone is allowed to play but everyone doesn't have to play. It helps her to know that it's important to include everyone and not leave someone out but know that sometimes other kids don't want to do the same thing you're doing. We also encourage her to tell her preschool teacher thank you each day before she leaves school. At first I'd tell her to do it but now she does it on her own. I know it's not a big deal but I feel like it's the little things we teach our kids that will shape them into the teenagers and adults that they become. I may not be able to stop other kids from becoming bullies but I just hope as parents we can show our children that bullying isn't the answer.

LoveThsLife 8 years ago

powershopper....the bullies encouraged her to kill herself and when they found iout she had killed herself- one of them posted "accomplished" on their facebook page. Also, one of the boys was charged with rape. This was very serious. Phoebe and her parents both went to school officials and asked for help..it fell on deaf ears. The day she killed herself a teacher overheard her being bullied and did nothing.

I am glad these kids are being prosecuted. What they did was ridiculous. However, school administration should be charged as well. They knew what was going on and failed to protect her.

somedude20 8 years ago

"Takes more than combat gear to make a man Takes more than a license for a gun Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can A gentleman will walk but never run

If, "Manners maketh man" as someone said Then he's the hero of the day It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile Be yourself no matter what they say"

Englishman in New York- Sting

LoveThsLife 8 years ago

I think prosecutor needs to file criminal charges against school administrators for ignoring the bullying. I was reading another article and it was common knowledge amongst the school STAFF what was going on. The day the girl was killed a teacher overheard her being taunted in a library and did nothing. I find that ridiculous. I recently read a statement from a mother of one of the bullies...she blamed everything on the victim! Absolutely ridiculous.

whats_going_on 8 years ago

Honestly, I think a lot of schools are scared of the parents; they can be just as much of a bully to the district, especially if they have money and power in the town, so they don't do anything to stop it. That or they are scared of the kids themselves, which wouldn't surprise me either.

gccs14r 8 years ago

I can't believe that behavior that would be cause for termination in the workplace and subject to a restraining order &/or jail time if it happened away from work is tolerated and sometimes encouraged in the schools. People wonder why school shootings happen, but with the prevalence of bullying, it's a wonder they don't happen more often.

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