The mother of a boy who was severely beaten in a Liberty, Missouri middle school lunchroom in February said she’d written to the school a month earlier — telling administrators her son was being picked on.
Blake Kitchen has Asperger’s Syndrome and as part of his condition, he likes routine. For example, he likes eating in the same spot in the lunchroom each day. When Blake put his tray down in that spot, an older student allegedly beat him so badly he ended up in the hospital with a broken skull and jaw.
We heard from victims, perpetrators and parents.
Kristin Amend left us a voicemail saying she was picked on because she was small. “I was stuffed into lockers,” she said, “but luckily I was fast and could get away.”
Chad Smith tweeted bullying of his daughter has had severe effects.
— Chad Smith (@chadsmithkc) March 3, 2015
One 55-year-old female who preferred to remain anonymous responded through our source network that one boy in her elementary school picked on her constantly. "Anything could set him off," she said. "Trying to defend myself once resulted in him kicking me repeatedly in my legs until they were bloody and I could hardly walk. I felt so desolate and alone and remember wishing I were dead."
Sue Ellen Fried of Bully USA told Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann suicide is not uncommon among bullying victims. Nor is the feeling of wanting revenge.
Elizabeth called in to Central Standard to say for months she endured one boy's torture — he routinely called her names, would pull her glasses off and shove the stem up her nose, and touch her breasts. Then she snapped.
"I took a pencil and chased him through the halls. If I’d caught him, I would have stabbed him and not stopped,” she said.
Some said they felt regret as adults for their actions as young people.
Calling in to the show, Scott, who preferred to just use his first name, said he had a bad stutter and kids often made fun of him. When his peers ganged up on a girl, glad not to be the target of the bullying himself, he joined in. “I knew how much it was hurting her,” he said. “She soiled her pants,” Scott said. “ I’ve spent many years trying to track her down to apologize.”
Kevin Ellis said in a voicemail he’d picked on boys because they ”acted gay.” He says he wishes he could go back and "find Jimmy from Salt Lake City, Utah, and tell him I’m sorry.’”
Fried also said it’s typical for bullies to act out because of personal challenges. Frequently they’ve experienced divorce, abuse or neglect, or death in the family. Often they bully because of low self-esteem.
Ilsa, as she wanted to be called, told Kaufmann about being an aggressive grade schooler, targeting boys. "I'd chase them and trap them in the city pool," she said. After years of therapy, she realized she was acting out because her brother was dying of a terminal illness, and she was overweight.
Sometimes bullying leads to catastrophic ends, Fried said. Prison interviews with boys who’d been involved in school shootings, she said, revealed over two-thirds of them had been targets of harassment — particularly over gender issues. Many say they’d been called "faggot," "homo," or "gay.”
Fried says 49 percent of the states have anti-bullying statues, but they don’t provide additional resources for schools to implement them.
She says schools and families need resources, education and witnesses and victims need to be empowered to report incidents.
Liberty School Superintendent Jeremy Tucker defended the Liberty schools response to the recent incident, but agreed schools need to be more responsive to bullying incidents.
“Schools are a reflection of society,” he says. “It’s up to us to be attentive, not to rationalize things away, because if it’s a concern for a child and the family, it’s a concern for us.”