Paul Coughlin is a former newspaper editor and author of numerous books, including Raising Bully-Proof Kids. He is the Founder of The Protectors, a freedom-from-bullying program and movement.
Posted 3/6/13 at 12:09 PM | Paul Coughlin |
Flags flew half-staff at an elementary school in suburban Philadelphia this Monday as yet another elementary school mourned the death of an innocent student. Instead of a gun, this death was the result of approximately five brutal blows from the hands of a known and stronger bully. A criminal investigation continues.
According to his grieving mother, Jina Risoldi, target Bailey O’Neill was challenged to a fight by a taller boy during recess. Like many targets who say they are worried that they too will be suspended for defending themselves against physical violence (adults, imagine if you were assaulted at work, you defended yourself, and then were suspended or terminated for “fighting”?) Risoldi said her son didn’t fight back and instead absorbed the physical assault that broke his nose and gave him a lingering and fatal concussion.
According to news reports, Bailey spent the rest of the day at school, but throughout the following days complained of severe headaches and dizziness, began sleeping too much, and was irritable and confused. "He had no problems before the fight," Risoldi said last month. "He was always extremely healthy, rarely got sick." Doctors put him into a induced coma but were unable to save him. He was taken off life support on Sunday--one day after turning 12. FULL POST
Posted 12/27/12 at 3:15 PM | Paul Coughlin
Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
While singing Silent Night on Christmas Eve this week in church, I was startled by the words above. Like you, I've been singing this song all my life--how did I fail to see them before? But given the recent tragedies we've absorbed as a nation, this year they got my attention.
Of course the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was more than tragic. It was also evil. We are familiar with the expression: Evil targets the vulnerable. What we tend to overlook is that it also wants those with the power to help to remain on the sideline: dismayed, fooled, and cynical regarding any substantial opposition and solution. But as this beloved song reminds us, justice as well as love is part of God's nature, a part of his nature and an aspect of our faith that we sometimes forget. I was reminded of this connection while singing this beloved song, and how in His name oppression should cease. FULL POST
Posted 12/13/12 at 2:23 PM | Paul Coughlin |
While school shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold continued their killing spree through Columbine High School, one student, Cassie Bernall, hid under a table and prayed fervently to God. "Dear God! Dear God! Why is this happening?! I just want to go home," reports the girl who crouched next to her. Klebold peered under and said sardonically, "Peekaboo." He then killed Cassie.
Fourteen-year-old Michael Carneal, a bespectacled ninth-grader, walked into Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, carrying a large parcel wrapped in a quilt. He lied and told a somewhat suspicious teacher that the bundle contained "props for a science project."
Shortly before 8 am, just before the first bell rang, this son of a respected lawyer and church elder put down his bundle, inserted earplugs, drew a weapon, and fired twelve shots into a circle of students gathered for Christian prayer in the lobby. Students screamed, clutched their own faces and each other, crying hysterically. Soon two girls lay dead. A third died a short time later. Five others were hospitalized; two partially paralyzed for life. FULL POST
Posted 12/10/12 at 2:42 PM | Paul Coughlin
Bullying is "Why we finally left the Church for good"
Famed painter Vincent van Gogh created this seemingly beautiful painting of The Church at Auvers. But look closely: No doors. It's how he felt after being denied priesthood, and this is how a growing number of families feel, especially those with special-needs children, due to the solvable but challenging problem of bullying.
Wendy (her real name) writes: "Bullying is why we finally left the church for good. Our special needs child was being picked on by 'good Christian kids' in Sunday School and youth group. Thankfully he doesn’t have the self-awareness to be cognizant of the cruelty, but his sister does, and even though she alerted 'good Christian leaders' as to what was going on, NOTHING was done. After several kids picked on both brother and sister (sister for the apparent crime of having a special needs sibling?), and several emails/phone calls that fell on deaf ears, we were out of there." FULL POST
Posted 8/30/12 at 1:44 PM | Paul Coughlin |
Sometimes despair is concealed by a long and desperate fuse, as revealed this month in Albany, Oregon, the state in which I live, labor and love.
This month, friends and family of Kaitlyn Boris wonder why the 15-year-old took her life. But Kaitlyn told us why. As in so many cases where bullying is a contributing factor, the answer is not found in a riddle, which is insolvable. It’s found through pieces in a puzzle that those with the right mind, heart and courage need to assemble. One piece of this puzzle is found through the recognition of evil, something many of us no longer believe in—including those in church.
“I’m ugly. I’m horrible. Everyone laughs at me. … I look in the mirror and can’t believe what I see,” she wrote in notes her parents discovered after her death. We hear this unholy trinity so many times at The Protectors that it is par for the course. We can tell you where she heard such lies: School bullies. They don’t just attack our bodies. Like vampires, they want our souls. ”We’re finding notes saying how she despised herself,” said Dennis Boris, Kaitlyn’s father. And contrary to what many in education, ministry, and psychology tell us, this is the wicked goal that many bullies cherish. They wanted young Kaitlyn to hate herself, a condition that gives serial bullies dark power, perverse pleasure and glee. FULL POST
Posted 8/2/12 at 10:43 AM | Paul Coughlin
Former and self-professed "mean girl" Jennifer LaFleur was fortunate. Her high school art teacher knew that what Jennifer really needed wasn't more self-esteem, a common error among those who work with youth. Like most serial Bullies, Jennifer's cure came in part through seeing her own dominating behavior in the theater of other lives, so her teacher made her a peer advisor for younger mean girls. Jennifer saw herself in their selfish and cruel eyes and saw the light.
But this wasn't the only ray of unbecoming light that brought sobriety. Jennifer crossed paths with Debbie, a more powerful bully, giving her the gift of insight and humility. Still, it wasn't till after high school that Jennifer self-diagnosed herself as a full-fledged bully, a fact she hid from her mother.
The Canadian psychotherapist, who was not reared in an abusive home, began the difficult work of making amends for her past sins and transgressions. She called Tracy, the girl she drove from class by coercing 10 other girls to sign a contract to hate her. "I know who you are," Tracy said, seconds into the phone call, stunning Jennifer. Does anyone forget the name or even the voice of their tormentor? FULL POST
Posted 7/17/12 at 10:33 AM | Paul Coughlin
Throughout history, if you were to ask the sages of a given culture why people do bad things, you would be told that somehow, someway pride and selfishness were leading culprits. In fact you will still hear this answer throughout most of the world today--except in America and a minority of related nations.
Our great country is at the tail end of what was a seemingly large-souled campaign and compassionate experiment. We have gone against the grain of thousands of years of belief and created a bold, intriguing and seemingly humane hypothesis: People actually do bad things because they feel badly about themselves. The remedy, we've been told for nearly 40 years, is a heaping dose of greater self-esteem.
So how's it working? Has "positive discipline," having students write stories and poems about how great thou art, peer mediation, and a host of other programs designed to combat bullying in our schools actually transformed the minority of children who bully into better people?
Though it is true that "hurting people hurt people," a growing body of research tells us that this is not the main reason why people become serial Bullies. Your average Bully does not feel badly about himself or herself. Your average Bully actually possesses average to excessive self-esteem. Many Bullies intentionally harm others with superior power and over time due to self-love, not self-hate, as Dr. Roy Baumeister among others continue to show us, even though we seem to have limited stomach for such an old-fashioned belief anymore--an aversion that will continue to tear at the tapestry of our culture until we adopt a wiser orientation to this growing problem. FULL POST
Posted 7/10/12 at 10:20 AM | Paul Coughlin
Meet bullying Target Jason Carroll Moss, 38, who shortly before his 20th high-school reunion last week in San Antonio threatened those who bullied him and was arrested.
“I stayed away from graduation at the time because I would have started the Columbine shootings early,” Moss allegedly wrote on the San Antonio high school reunion's social network page. “I was picked on and bullied by a bunch of you when I went to school and I wanted to kill everyone that hurt me.”
Moss continued, “I'm still seeking vengeance on all those who bullied and harassed me when I was growing up or went to school. You people do not know what you did to me.” Studies show that his last point is completely and sadly solid.
Detectives arrested Moss, who confessed to writing the rage-filled post and said he did it because the fear he experienced then in school has not died. He worried and probably obsessed that two decades later he’d be abused again.
The party went on as usual at a local country club. We can assume that Moss was the subject of a lot of conversation, speculation, and derision, at least by some. But what about those who bullied him? Were their names run through the mud? Was their behavior spoken of honestly and with the same fervor and derision? You can bet it was not. FULL POST
Posted 7/2/12 at 12:40 PM | Paul Coughlin
When we began The Protectors freedom-from-bullying movement about eight years ago, a unique movement in that it works within both faith-based and values-based organizations, some thought it was a good but not necessary creation--like places that change your vehicle's oil. Now according to a recent Harris Poll, bullying is the #1 concern among both parents and students--surpassing sex, drugs and gang activity.
Hardly a week goes by when bullying does not make it into our nation's media and our collective mind and worry, reminding me of that ominous phrase: You might not be interested in war, but war is interested in you. More and more studies reveal that this intentional form of abuse affects most everyone the way a stone creates waves through water. It's as if we've been re-introduced to an old enemy that we thought we knew but didn't, leading to anxiety, and hardly know how to resist, leading to paralysis and even more anxiety.
But there is a way out, which is what this fresh blog is all about. This path toward freedom, justice and the defense of human dignity is forged by helping all four "characters" in the "Theater of Bullying" (Bullies, Targets, Bystanders and Authority) change their role. Because life really is a movie. And when it comes to bullying, the ultimate question is: What role will adults as well as children play? FULL POST