The Anti-Bullying Program: Do Anti-Bullying Programs Work for Children With Special Needs?

Programs and approaches that work in schools, communities and homes to disable bullying


Across the nation, entire industries of consultants and businesses have formed with curriculums, workshops and pep talks to combat bullying in schools. Although well-intentioned, a new “war on bullying” will have limited success for the same reason our earlier “wars” have come up short. Such “wars” lack a coordinated strategy. They focus on symptoms instead of causes and short-term interventions instead of the needs and capacities that emerge throughout the long arc of a child’s growth and development.

In fact, a thorough examination by Rachel C. Vreeman and Aaron E. Carroll in the Pediatric Adolescent Medicine Journal demonstrated only four out of 10 most widely-used anti-bullying curriculums decreased bullying (2007). While the evidence shows that much more scientific research needs to be done to develop effective ways to reduce bullying of the child with special needs, there are tools and programs that show promising results. Here are examples of programs or approaches that demonstrate success in reducing the rate of bullying against children with special needs through coordinated efforts. Which leads one to ask, what works?

Social and Emotional Learning Curriculums (SEL)

Social and emotional learning (SEL) assists children to develop fundamental skills to effectively handle school, relationships and personal development. Examples may include managing emotions, caring for others, decision making and handling situations ethically. New research provides dramatic evidence that social and emotional learning can be taught, just like geometry and Spanish.

Child Development published the most scientifically rigorous review of research ever done on social and emotional learning interventions for children aged 5-18. The review, by a team of researchers from Loyola University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), synthesizes the results of more than 200 independent studies on the impact of SEL programs and represented a group of 270,034 students (2010). 

The findings showed great promise. High-quality SEL programs led to significant improvements in students’ social and emotional skills, in attitudes about self and others, and in classroom behavior. Programs were also associated with substantial decreases in conduct problems and emotional distress such as anxiety and depression—all of which are part of the bullying phenomenon. Academic scores also improved significantly—by as much as 11 percentile points. Educators realized that SEL doesn’t interfere with academic learning but helps it.

Your Child’s Social and Emotional Development

Because social and emotional components factor into why children bully other students, the ability to teach them behavioral skills, many of which are part of SEL, can reduce the incidence of bullying – no matter if the victim is a child with special needs or neurotypical student. Vreeman and Carroll (2007) concluded in a report that the most effective anti-bullying programs are those that take a “whole-school approach” such as SEL. Social awareness and relationship skills also aid in the prevention of bullying, either by the better understanding of a student’s differences or intervention by bystanders to support the victim.

The state of Illinois was one of the first to institute SEL in their classrooms (2011). Illinois established three broad goals towards their Social Emotional Learning Standards: develop self-awareness and self-management skills to achieve school and life success; use social-awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships; demonstrate decision-making skills and responsible behaviors in personal, school and community contexts. Team members felt SEL was vital not only towards a child’s behavior but also in preparing them for a 21st Century workforce. Pilot schools’ results demonstrated students were “calmer about things” with significant drops in behavior referrals.

School and staff support is critical towards the success of SEL programs. For Illinois, 75 percent of school principals supported SEL; more than 90% in the late stages of implementation. CASEL’s findings also concluded it was not only the execution of SEL programs, but well-executed programs that demonstrated the best results. These strong findings and case studies have led other states to follow Illinois’ lead – Washington, Kansas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma – despite budget shortfalls and programs cuts.

Please help AbilityPath continue to bring national awareness, quality information, and a voice to the issues of families with children of special needs by donating today.

Inclusive Community Programs and Organizations

Bullying expert Jodee Blanco, author of the New York Times best-selling book “Please Stop Laughing at Me,” first took steps to ‘walk in the shoes’ of children with special needs as a 17-year-old high school student.

“It began in high school,” Blanco said. “At that time, children with special needs were taught in separate classes and I volunteered to tutor many of them. The majority were young teenagers with Down syndrome and I discovered, in conversation, that they wanted to attend the high school prom. Naturally, I believed that certainly the school would let them attend. I was wrong. The principal said that the students could not attend and so I decided to help them have their own prom. As a result, the local press covered the prom that we created, much more so, than the regular high school prom. Much to my surprise, I was ostracized by my classmates for helping to create it. Several days later, in my high school, I witnessed one of the students with Down syndrome being tormented. Two students were kicking dirt into his face. I intervened and, later that day after school, a group of students ambushed me and I was beaten for defending the child with Down syndrome.”

Bianco says that what she experienced in high school has led to her lifelong efforts to reduce the bullying in lives of children with special needs. She advises parents and advocates to:

  • Form a coalition of concerned parents by reaching out to all others who are parenting children with special needs. Meet monthly to discuss concerns and bring the concerns as one voice to the PTA, school board and community.
  • Understand the 504. (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). This important piece of federal legislation outlines rights to a safe learning environment for a child.
  • Demand that anti-bullying policies be in place in the school district and that the issue of children with special needs be addressed in all outreach.
  • Make sure that the parent aggressively seeks out all forms of social outlets in the community and schools for their child to participate in. These events help foster a child’s social skills and offer opportunities for him/her to foster friendships. Such things can help a child become less of a target for bullying.

Beyond individual actions such as Bianco’s, a majority of cities offer existing programs that are a great resource for families with children with special needs to engage in their communities. Two great examples are Special Olympics and Best Buddies.

Special Olympics provide the “dignity, acceptance, and chance to reach one’s potential.” By empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities in more than 180 countries to participate in sports, they not only provide opportunities for the athletes, but engagement with the community to see the humanity and joy of these individuals. Their programs break down myths and fears that are associated with disabilities.

For children, the playing field can sometimes serve as a unifying place when it doesn’t occur on the playground. Neurotypical children can connect to the same love of sports that they may see when watching children with special needs participate at a Special Olympics event. Encouraging children of all abilities to attend and support these events, in person or on television, brings awareness to students. Through their school outreach program, Special Olympians visit thousands of students each year to educate them on what “different abilities” they offer. Special Olympic events also provide volunteers, both youth and adults, to work side-by-side with individuals with disabilities and better understand their needs and behaviors.

Learn More About the Athletes Behind Special Olympics

Name calling, such as the use of “retard” which is all too often used as a descriptor of children with special needs on the playground and in schools is both hurtful and dehumanizing and reinforces existing stereotypes. Most recently, Special Olympics launched the “Spread the Word to End the Word” Campaign to change the conversation and eliminate the demeaning use of the word “retard(ed).” In lightning speed, this awareness campaign spread like wildfire. As a result, both children and adults now think twice before uttering this hurtful word.

“It’s not so much that the word is such an important thing, but it’s finally a chance to talk about humiliation,” stated Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver in an interview with the Washington Post. “This ‘thing’ has gotten more attention for the underlying issues than anything. A Rosa Parks moment or a March on Washington moment — this population hasn’t had that anywhere.”

Research shows that when children with special needs are included as friends in their social environments, bullying can be reduced. Programs such as Best Buddies can break down the barriers in building such friendships. Best Buddies is a global nonprofit that creates one-to-one friendships, employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This internal organization positively impacts 700,000 people worldwide each year. Their programs may be found on middle school, high school and college campuses. Perhaps the program with the most potential to grow is e-Buddies, an e-mail pen pal program for children with disabilities ages 10-year-old and older. These children are paired with peer mentors through a secure online setting that helps foster social, literacy and computer skills.

Successful Tools at Home

The best practices for preventing bullying towards a child with special needs may start at home. Parents such as Kim Stagliano, recommend including children in as many activities as possible in the community and neighborhood.

“I’m a big fan of inclusion,” said Stagliano. “I believe that the more a part of the community and classroom we are as a family, the less my children will be vulnerable to bullies. The teachers know me. The school administrators know me. The kids know me.”

“I know firsthand that being the mom to a child with special needs makes it doubly difficult to ‘get out,’ but you have to. Go to church and involve your children in the church. Be a full participant in your community and get your children involved, too. Hillary Clinton was right when she said it takes a village to raise a child. I count on that village every single day to help protect my children when they are out in the world.”

Communicating with a child is an important tool in detecting and preventing bullying. Some children with special needs may not recognize they are being bullied, while others may be afraid to tell a parent. Asking the right questions and recognizing changes in behavior may present the first signs that a problem exists. Experts recommend asking questions including “Do your friends have nicknames for you?” or “Who do you spend time with at school?” which may lead you to the discovery of bigger issues.

PACER Center is one of the leading experts and resources regarding bullying and children with special needs. Their website,, provides coloring books, contests and videos for parents to share with their child. Through a series of cartoon characters and interactive games including “Pip’s Clever Clue Clarifier,” a child can learn what it means to be bullied. The child guesses different “clues” that in the end adds up to a score and provides advice if the child is a victim.

The games and contests are interactive with parent participation to encourage communication and dialogue between parent and child. The website isn’t just for children with special needs, but for any child, including youth that may become bullies. The website’s ability to help children recognize signs as well as learn about their difference, provides an effective tool for parents, all within the confines of their home.

Please help AbilityPath continue to bring national awareness, quality information, and a voice to the issues of families with children of special needs by donating today.


The Signs: What every parent should know about bullying

Parents must be the primary managers and advocates of their child with special needs.


Parents should familiarize themselves with the different forms of bullying that a child with special needs may experience:

Manipulative bullying: This form of bullying occurs when a child with special needs is actually being coerced and controlled by another student.

Conditional friendship: This form of bullying occurs when a child thinks that someone is being their friend, but the times of “friendship” are alternated with times of bullying.

Exploitative bullying: This form of bullying occurs when the features of the child’s condition are used to bully them either by other classmates or via technology and social media networks.

The Matrix Parents Network, a nonprofit in Marin County, Calif., serves as a resource to parents in the education and prevention of bullying. It was founded in 1983 when three mothers gathered around a kitchen table to share the challenges, heartbreak and frustrations of raising children with special needs. At that time, no organizations existed for a family in crisis to turn to for compassion, encouragement, support or information. Forming a network of parents, they decided to educate, support and encourage families who were facing the same challenges that they had faced alone.

Stephanie Steiner, the director of The Matrix Parents Network stated that “without timely and appropriate intervention, students with disabilities who experience bullying will have increased problems that will likely make it more difficult to meet their special needs. Parents must always intervene.”

Matrix was founded upon the belief that parents can and must be the primary managers and advocates of their child with special needs. It is one of 100 Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) nationwide, which provide training and information to parents of infants, toddlers, children and youth with all types of disabilities – physical, cognitive, emotional and learning.

The following are best practices for parents recommended by The Matrix Parents Network:

  • Be aware that students often feel that adult intervention is infrequent and unhelpful and, as such, fear that telling adults will only bring more harassment from bullies.
  • Be observant of a child’s behavior, appearance and moods, particularly if one thinks that a child is ‘at risk’ for being bullied. If a child is reluctant to attend school, investigate why and consider a negative social experience as one reason.
  • If a parent suspects something is wrong, talk with the child. Children can be reluctant to speak up for fear of retaliation or because they don’t want to “tattletale.” Whether it’s a parent or the child who initiates the conversation, speak openly and honestly – and listen! Keep the conversation at a level a child can understand. Remember that every child is different, what may not bother one child, might be extremely detrimental to another.
  • Don’t blame the child. Be supportive, loving and patient. Take his/her story seriously. Let him/her know that it’s not his/her fault and that appropriate action will be taken.
  • Get details from the child about the incident(s). Try not to direct his/her responses, but ask pertinent questions about what happened and how he/she felt/feels. Let the child know that appropriate confidentiality will be kept, but that keeping bullying a secret is not good for anyone. Tell the child that he/she has the right to be safe.
  • Stay focused on the child and the issue. Though a parent will likely be upset and/or angry for the child, over reacting (or under reacting) can make things more stressful for a child. Allowing emotions to ‘take over’ can also make an objective assessment of the situation more difficult. Keeping an emotional response in check will help one better support and advocate for the child.
  • If appropriate, problem solve or brainstorm intervention strategies with the child. Giving him/her relevant information, such as the definition of bullying, at a level he/she can understand, can be helpful as well.

Intervention Strategies

  • Bullying should never be ignored. Intervene immediately. Children are easily emotionally wounded and often have few skills to cope. Follow up with the school as soon as possible. If needed, seek help from outside sources.
  • Talk with all pertinent school staff. Find out what they know and what actions, if any, they’ve taken. Make sure that they understand the child’s disability and the possible impact his/her disability might have on the social dynamics which set-up the bullying. The staff may not be aware of a problem, but, once they are, work collaboratively on how best to help the child. On-going communication and the continued monitoring of resolved bullying issues is often necessary.
  • Make sure that the staff speaks with the bully and victim separately. Depending on the age and needs of the child, a parent may want to be a part of the initial discussion that the staff has with the child.
  • If needed, ask for a general or an IEP meeting to discuss the situation and solutions. Document the incidents in writing. Include the conversations with the child, staff, etc.
  • Record dates, who was involved, what was said, names of possible witnesses, the adverse effects on the child and the school’s responses and interventions. Stick to the facts.
  • A written complaint to the district may be appropriate if the problem proves to be severe.
  • Seek the help of outside professionals, such as a pediatrician or mental health provider. Depending upon the degree of the problem and your child’s vulnerability, utilizing professional assistance sooner rather than later may be important.
  • Consult with outside organizations. Violence prevention agencies can provide information on how to protect the child. Organizations familiar with the child’s disability and its unique characteristics may have some specific intervention ideas.
  • If physical signs of the bullying exist (torn clothes, cuts, bruises, etc.), take a photo; police involvement may be needed.
  • For the younger child, volunteering in his/her classroom might help one better understand the social dynamics and the underlying problems.
  • Discuss the issue of bullying with other parents, individually or in a support group. Talking with the parents of the bully, or the bully him/herself, is not recommended.
  • Continue to assess and monitor the child. Is he/she physically and emotionally safe? If not, what further steps need to be taken? Provide on-going opportunities for continued open discussions, checking in with the child regularly. If the child becomes more withdrawn, depressed or reluctant to go to school, and/or you see a decline in his/her academic performance, then take the issue back to the school. If the school does not use appropriate actions, then one may need to go higher up in the administration or take other actions, such as making a formal complaint.

Please help AbilityPath continue to bring national awareness, quality information, and a voice to the issues of families with children of special needs by donating today.


The IEP: Addressing Bullying with a Child’s IEP

Individualized Education Programs offer opportunities to combat bullying


Although they may be targets, children who are bullied do not have to remain victims. With the appropriate tools and support systems in place, a child can be a part of changing the situation. One critical tool available to parents is the Individualized Education Program or IEP.

A child’s team – parents, educators, therapists and/or psychologists and school officials – should work together to make the IEP reflect the child’s unique needs in school. A school psychologist may be involved in writing social-emotional goals that are measurable and relevant. Including the child in the IEP decision-making process, if appropriate, can also lead to better outcomes.

Goals for the IEP team to consider include:

  • Social skills work, both individual and group
  • Speech and language skills
  • Self-advocacy skills
  • Self-awareness and strength building skills

The following are examples of IEP goals and interventions that can directly or indirectly help address bullying issues:

  • Improve social understanding by having goals focused around sharing, taking turns or thinking before acting (PACER Center, 2003). Use concrete “real world” situations. The focus of this goal should not be to teach the child to be less “teaseable,” but should be interpersonal skill building.
  • Participate in a social skills group. By being given the opportunity to practice social situations, role playing, social stories and other techniques, with school peers, under adult supervision, the child may better identify and understand difficult situations when they occur. Groups such as this one can also facilitate friendships and a sense of not being alone.
  • Increase self-advocacy skills so that the child can say “stop that” or walk away.
  • Help the child develop and learn a brief/non-confrontational verbal response to the bully. Practice both direct and indirect ways to react to, handle or avoid bullying behavior.
  • Speech and language goals should be set with the help of a speech and language specialist. These goals should focus on articulation, speech intelligibility and language pragmatics.
  • Increase the child’s self-awareness about their disability. Learning their strengths and feeling proud of who they are and their accomplishments, while also understanding how their disability may impact them, particularly in social situations, is often important.
  • Help the child identify bullying as well as how and to whom to report it. Keep in mind that some children may have a difficult time determining that they are a target of bullying behavior.
  • Goals that help educate the child on the difference between reporting an incident and ratting/tattling as well as identifying the difference between playful teasing and hurtful teasing/bullying may be needed.
  • Teach the child a signal system to use when in need of friend or adult intervention.
  • Identify and facilitate a relationship with a school staff person who can help the child make reports of incidents and who will provide the child with additional intervention and support.

If social situations are impeding the child’s ability to access their education, then it must be appropriately remedied. Being the target of bullying can bring some children’s social needs into sharper focus. In addition to new goals, a new assessment may be appropriate.

What if you don’t agree with your child’s IEP?

Other supports, accommodations and strategies for the IEP team to consider are as follows:

  • Monitor and supervise unstructured time. Increase hallway, bathroom, lunchroom and playground monitoring by staff. Adult monitored “safe zones” or having an adult ‘shadow’ the child during these times is sometimes necessary.
  • Educate the staff and other students about the child’s assistive technology, 1:1 aide, interpreter and other items that are ‘different.’ Create a better understanding of the child’s disability and the necessary support that go with it with staff.
  • Avoid certain situations or locations that can be ‘loaded’ for a student.
  • Keep the child away from the bully, or the bully away from the child, until things are resolved.
  • Consider seating the student away from students who might tend to bully. Remember, that being proactive can prevent incidents from occurring in the first place.
  • Allow the child to leave class early to avoid hallway incidents.
  • Take recess or lunch in a different setting, but still with some peers.
  • Be aware of your child’s classroom environment. 
  • Consider keeping the child from highly charged competitive situations.
  • Designate a peer buddy or have the classroom teacher foster a friendship between the child and a ‘safe’ child. A classroom with cooperative learning activities is one mechanism to facilitate positive social interactions.
  • Set-up regular appointments with the school’s psychologist, or another “safe” person on the campus, with whom your child can ‘check-in’ as an outlet, allow for classroom breaks (either in or out of the classroom).

Please help AbilityPath continue to bring national awareness, quality information, and a voice to the issues of families with children of special needs by donating today.


The Testimonials: A first hand perspective on bullying from parents and children

Stories ripped from the headlines from parents on their child’s experience with bullying:


“My daughter is a wonderful, adorable, sweet child with Down syndrome. The bullying she encountered started in elementary school and has followed her to middle school. Everyone makes a big deal about their children being bullied at school and it is a big deal. However, it is always the ‘normal’ children that you hear about. Who stands up for the children who are like my daughter? What about those children who have to deal with bullying and count on teachers and bus drivers to stand up for them because they can’t speak up for themselves?” – Mother of an 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome

During the course of this report, AbilityPath researched several high profile media reports involving bullying and a child with special needs. The emotional and physical toll these parents and their children face serve as only a small representation of a much larger population. It is estimated that nearly 85% of children with special needs experience bullying. We encourage you to read their stories and more importantly share your own. Only through strength in numbers can we “Step Up to Bullying.”

Kevin Kaneta: Bullied since the third grade

Kevin Kaneta was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination. During an interview with a Denver, Colo. television station, he shared his experience as a bullying target since the third grade, and each year, it gets worse.

“They go after me because they see me as a vulnerable target,” said Kevin. Kevin walks slower than most children and drags his feet because of his disability. His mother, Tyleen Wilson, fears for his safety each day at school. “I worry if he’ll come home today,” said Wilson. “What if they really hurt him?”

Wilson stated she’s notified school administrators, as well as the Colorado media, that her son’s classmates have tripped and pinned him down and force fed dog food into his mouth. In late December 2010, Wilson noticed a Facebook picture that enraged her. It was of Kevin with his hooded sweatshirt tied tightly around his face.

“I thought it was a joke,” she said. “I prodded Kevin to tell me about the picture.” Kevin’s classmates had tied his sweatshirt tightly around his face and forced him to walk around the playground, barely able to see through the small opening. After taunting and teasing, the kids ripped the sweatshirt off, cutting his eyelids.

Another picture showed Kevin against the playground fence trying to break free. Both arms of the sweatshirt were tied to the fence post. “They just watched me struggle to get out,” said Kevin. “They put it on Facebook and now everyone knows it.”

Harrison Warren: Target of a cyberbully


Harrison Warren, age 13, is a young boy with special needs. He came home from school and was very excited, telling his parents, Jeannie and James Wilson, that his friends at school created a Facebook fan page. Already, 50 school children joined as his “friend” and followed the activities on the Web page. To be a part of this online community meant a tremendous amount to Harrison.

The Cyberbully: Bullying in the age of Facebook and YouTube

Jeannie Wilson wanted to share in Harrison’s excitement and asked her son to share the Web page. What she discovered was not a compilation of “friends on Facebook,” but a digital portrayal that branded Harrison as a “retard.” The photos publicly ridiculed the middle school student who only desired to fit in and make friends at school. The students’ derogatory comments were easily shared online to their profile pages and social networks. One comment particularly frightened Harrison’s father.

“One child’s posting (read) ‘this page is, in fact, a hate group on Harrison because he is this way,’” said James Wilson.

Austin Avery: A mother’s worst nightmare

“My child almost died.” – Sharlene Avery

Austin Avery’s premature birth resulted in the diagnosis of a developmental disability His differences with his peers and desire to make friends made him an easy target for bullies. His mother, Sharlene Avery, said the bullying of her child had gone unnoticed by adults for too long. In April 2010, Avery received a call from Austin’s school and realized immediately something terribly wrong had happened.

“We had a call from the school to come pick him up cause he was hallucinating,” said Avery. She placed him in the car and drove to the emergency room, where doctors told her something that she never imagined. Her son was intoxicated. “I just don’t understand how your child goes to school and comes home in a drunken stooper,” she said. “The doctor said that his blood alcohol level was way over the legal limit. Now, can you imagine a 14-year-old child and what kind of damage that can do to his brain?”

The Signs: What every parent should know about bullying

The hospital then notified authorities. Avery immediately tried to take action at the school, where she believes bullies had spiked her son’s drink.”One of the little kids had told us, ‘Ma’am, they have been poisoning him ever since January.’ And we were like, ‘Are you serious?’ All I can do is just ask ‘why, why?’” said Avery.

While waiting to hear from officials, Avery says that she’s afraid of what could happen next. “What everybody doesn’t understand is that it’s my child today, but it could be their child tomorrow. And if this stuff is not stopped, somebody’s gonna die because my child almost died.”

Chatari Jones: Bully on the bus


“I’m thinking, I’m going to talk to the bus driver; that was my initial intent.[But] I’m seeing the bus coming 20 minutes late, people just yelling and arguing and hanging out of the windows. It was chaos — no control. And I was like, ‘How am I supposed to put my daughter, standing here crying, on this bus?’ “ – James Jones

The video of a father charging onto a school bus to defend his middle school daughter with cerebral palsy against bullies became national news in fall 2010. Appearing on NBC’s “Today Show,” Chatari Jones and her father James Jones, told co-host Matt Lauer that she started to worry about the bullying a week prior to her father’s confrontation on the bus. She eventually told her parents in fear the situation would just get worse.

Chatari had begun to emotionally shut down just days after starting sixth grade. Her dad realized it wasn’t until he waited for the school bus with his daughter, that it was the students on the bus that were making her life “a living hell.”

The Law: Parents’ rights in the combating bullying

“As the involved parent of a child who suffers from cerebral palsy, it broke my heart,” said Jones in a statement released by the Associated Press. “When I walked my daughter to the bus that morning, she broke down in tears and finally told me about the bullies who had tormented her on the school bus. She was afraid. I did not intend to ‘go ballistic’ on the alleged bullies, but when the bus pulled up to the curb, I witnessed ‘a bus gone wild.’”

Though she started the “Today Show” interview with a smile, Chatari broke down in tears when sharing what she had to endure on the bus. “They would poke me with pens, call me all kinds of names, spit in my hair and throw condoms at me on the bus,” Chatari said sobbing.

Tyler Long: A life is lost to bullying

“I met with multiple teachers and principals several times each year to complain about the bullying.” – Tina Long

Tyler Long’s diagnosis with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) caused unique personality traits that made him unpopular in school. His mother, Tina Long, says being different made him a target of bullying. Classmates took his things, spit in his food and called Tyler names.

“Tyler was very fixated on rules,” she said. “If someone talked in class, I know that he would say ‘you’re not supposed to be talking. That’s the rule.’ I’m sure this innocent fixation led to some of the bullying.”

The Teachable Moment: Opportunities in the classroom to educate

On October 17, 2009, 17-year-old Tyler’s battle with the bullies led to a tragic end. Depressed, he hanged himself before school and committed suicide. It devastated his family and engulfed a community to seek answers.

Shaniya Boyd: Kicked off her crutches

“She is only 8…she just wanted to get away from the bullying.” – Geneva Biggus

Geneva Biggus says that her 8-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy, Shaniya Boyd, tried to jump out of a window at school. Shaniya told her that “she just wanted to get away” after she was teased, kicked in the forehead by a boy and knocked off of the crutches she needs to walk.

“Three people were fighting me; two girls and one boy. The boy kicked me in my forehead for no reason, and then they hit me,” Shaniya said. The abuse had been going on for some time and Geneva stated that “the school did little to stop it.”

“They tried to separate them and put them in different classes, but it still happened in the hallway or cafeteria or outside when they had play time – stuff like that,” said Geneva. “They still managed to get their hands on my child.”