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Could My Kid Be a Bully?

June 25, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Michigan parents who have seen the YouTube video of seventh-grade boys harassing an elderly school bus monitor in New York may be wrong to assume that their children would never do such a thing. At least one of the parents of the bullies says she was shocked and embarrassed to learn of her son's behavior and apologized to the victim, Karen Klein.

Christy Buck, director of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, says parents who don't want their kids to turn into bullies need to help them understand that bullying can be deadly.

"Even the strongest-willed, athletic, super person at a school could possibly have the predisposition for depression and ultimately, something that somebody says, or how they're treated, that person can go take their life."

Buck runs a program in the schools that raises awareness about depression and bullying to prevent incidents like the one in New York.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 26 percent of American high school students struggle with depression, and nearly 14 percent of students have seriously considered suicide.

Buck says studies show that 80 percent of pupils would never bully another child. However, she adds...

"There are a boatload of kids that, they just don't want to be mean. They stand by and watch it, but they don't know what to do."

The "Be Nice" program teaches students about mental health. Buck says when she presents it in the schools she is blunt about telling the school children that reporting or getting up the courage to confront a bully could actually prevent a suicide.

"That's by leaving after a day of school and actually having been nice to someone who is treated poorly all the time, and maybe over the weekend that person contemplated killing themselves. Imagine going back Monday morning and you actually saved that kid's life."

Buck's advice to Michigan parents: If the kids are old enough to handle the profanity in the YouTube video, use it as a teaching tool to discuss how harmful bullying can be to everyone.

The victim, Karen Klein, has received more than $450,000 from sympathetic donors.

The bullies have become victims themselves, getting threatening e-mails and phone calls, but Klein has asked that they not be prosecuted.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI