Today’s Bullies – Tomorrow’s Criminals?

by Diane Dimond on August 23, 2008

A Criminal in the Making?

Have you ever been the victim of a bully? Ever stand silent and let a bully pick on someone?

Most people wouldn’t consider bullying a crime – but it could be creating criminals right before our very eyes. A study from a group called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids concluded that nearly 60 percent of boys whom researchers classified as bullies in grades 6-9 were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24. And get this, 40 percent of those same boys grew up to have three or more criminal convictions.

In other words, today’s bully could be tomorrow’s criminal. So, what can we do about it?

I’m a big believer in families taking responsibility for the actions of their children. But boys and girls reserve their bullying for when they are away from Mom and Dad. That means other adults have to step up at schools, camps, sporting events and youth activity centers. We need to tell parents when their children are being bullies. And we should teach all kids to refuse to join in the taunting. It is abuse, pure and simple.

Children can be scarred for life by a bully. And, once robbed of their self esteem they can suffer from mental and physical problems, drop out of school and even commit suicide. I’m not being dramatic here. It happens too often.

Case in point: In 2006, A 13 year old Missouri girl was the victim of cyber-bullying by a former friend’s mother and ultimately took her life. 13 year old Megan Meier hanged herself in her bedroom after believing a MySpace boyfriend had dumped her. In reality, there was no boy. A neighbor, 49 year old Lori Drew, had concocted the on-line persona after Megan and Drew’s daughter fought. Drew now faces criminal charges.

Newsweek Magazine recently featured a cover story on a gay teen named Larry King who was bullied for years and fought back by being flamboyant in his homosexuality. He was murdered by a 14 year old classmate, shot in the head in an Oxnard, California computer class in front of a teacher and a room full of students.

Many mature adults still get teary when recalling their humiliating days at the hands of the class bully, mainly because bullies don’t operate alone. They pick up sycophantic disciples along the way and that multiplies the victim’s pain.

I don’t usually recommend books in this space but I do now. It’s called “Letters To A Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing And Hope” and it is dramatic in its simplicity. I recommend every parent buy it and read it with their children.

The real life backstory centers on Olivia Gardner, a teenager from Novato, California. After suffering an epileptic attack at school she became the brunt of a horrific series of bully-fueled events. Her tormentors taunted her with hurtful names, dragged her backpack through the mud and after they created an “Olivia Haters” website on MySpace a group of bullies took to wearing bracelets declaring “Olivia Shall Die.”

The internet ugliness followed Olivia to three different schools over more than two years. She wanted to kill herself until a newspaper story about her plight appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and her life changed forever.

Two sisters in a neighboring community read the front-page story about Olivia and were compelled to action. Teenagers Emily and Sarah Buder asked friends to write letters of support to Olivia. More than four thousand poured in.

The book borne of this Samaritan effort features the letters from males and females who were mercilessly teased for being short, tall, fat, skinny, smart, having buck teeth, eyeglasses, bad skin or a large nose. Some letter writers revealed they had taken grief for being poor, having an alcoholic parent or because they were from a minority group. Many admitted they wept when they read about what happened to Olivia.

Some who wrote were contrite former bullies who admitted they did what they did because their own lives were out of their control. They told Olivia, and through her the rest of us, that bullies seek to humiliate to make others feel as insignificant as they feel.

Many of the letters in the book offered words of wisdom for the young girl. One of the most touching is from “Joshua” who wrote to Olivia, “Please love yourself in the same way your family loves you. As you go through life, you will realize that there are a lot more of ‘us’ holding you up than ‘them’ putting you down.”

Simple advice for those suffering at the hands of a bully. All adults should pass it forward and step up when we see behavior that could be creating criminals right before our very eyes.




Montana August 23, 2008 at 12:29 am

Excellent…am cross posting if you will agree.


Diane August 23, 2008 at 9:22 am

“My son was (the victim of a bully) … It was not another student, but a teacher at the catholic school he attended..Although, both my husband and I were very active and volunteered at the school quite a bit..And, had four other sons at the school..We did not know the depth and the degree of emotional hurt he was subjected too.
We talked with our priest and our lawyer,(never with any desire to collect money), but felt with this womens history it had to be documented, to protect children in the future..As new parents in this school, we were not aware of her treatment towards children..It changed my son from a happy outgoing child always smiling,to a sad, and unhappy guy at times..He has had alot of support and has come along way…”

via Facebook

Diane August 23, 2008 at 10:20 am

Oh, yeah..i was picked on by bullies…the way i solved my problem? i beat the s**t out of the worst one! got in fights with a few others, then the word was out to leave me alone; i’m still waiting to see one of them, after thirty years…….! i couldn’t do much when i was smaller, but when the testosterone FINALLY kicked in, it was like…”okay, f****r…you ain’t big enough..bring it on!” i must have really been picked on, because even today, if someone goes too far with the mouth, i become growly! and stupid as it sounds, a guy has to be awful big before i think twice about taking him on! lol sorry about the “salty” language…bullying is a subject dear to my heart….i’ve even stepped in where ladies are being abused by their “honeys”…i also tell them how to get even with their abusive men…oh, yeah….i got all sorts of ways to get even, whether they do it or i do it!

via e-mail

Dave August 23, 2008 at 10:42 am

Look at the latest school violence, shootings, stabbing and fights. Are victims starting to fight back or are the aggressors getting more violent in their efforts of being the bully. I strongly believe if we don’t have stricter rules, better counseling in school and more vigilant parents and teachers this is only the tip of the iceberg. Schools need to step up their efforts on these situations before they get out of control and parents need to be held responsible for their children’s actions, as do the students themselves. Counseling, better intervention methods, and classroom discussion is a good start. We have to act now or continue to read more and more about these incidents in the newspapers and on CNN. My heart goes out to the victims.

Patricia Smith August 23, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Last March I witnessed an 8th grade girl mercilessly and physically beating a younger boy at LBJ Middle School in Taylor Ranch. Though she stopped when I yelled at her, there was no other way to intercept the bullying at that instant. I had to walk home; call APS; call the principal of LBJ (available only by voice mail); and ultimately leave a message with the LBJ principal’s secretary. Albuquerque ought to have a “Bully Hotline” just like New Mexico has a “DUI Hotline.” One number a witness can call for immediate response to intervene to protect the jeopardized. This is ultimately for the bullier’s well being as well as the bullied. In a state where 46% of our children are born to single moms, the blowback of dad-less-ness is better addressed sooner than later. Additionally, APS has no formal public protocol for adults in the public to follow when witnessing bullying, nor does it have a formal public protocol for protecting the bullied and accessing social rehabilitation for the (obviously socially stunted) bullies.

Chuck Aspinwall August 24, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Most commentators recommend expelling bullies from school. Great. What do we do with them then?

Ron Gabioud August 26, 2008 at 11:35 am

I am a school counselor have been focusing prevention efforts on the bullying issue for sometime now. I was interested the book of letters your article referred to, but I couldn’t find the title. I would like to incorporate some of the letters in my presentations. Ron

Barby Woods August 28, 2008 at 4:06 pm

The principal in the middle school where I teach sent a copy of your article to each teacher here and asked them to read it, review appropriate areas with their students, and has asked our counseling department to look into reading/purchasing the books mentioned. We have a “Bully Proofing” program that is now 4 years old and all teachers use it with fidelity. Your article was a reminder to each of us that we all have a part in this. Did you hear Michael Phelps statements about his experience with a bully???!!! Wonder where that guy is now and how he feels!

John September 19, 2008 at 7:16 pm

Bullies are criminally insane and violent, so treat them the way they deserve, with the Nobel Prize-winning lobotomy treatment. Works every time, according to a long list of state and local courts that imposed it on all kinds of people for much lesser offenses, like sassing their mothers. The Soviet Union found that it made violent types become passively obedient – just the thing for bullies.

Sue September 25, 2008 at 3:41 pm

My son was being bullied at school, the kids were taken to the principal’s office and talked to I had no knowledge of this until he took his BB gun (without BBs) to school to scare the bullies. My son was suspened from school for six months.

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