Back-to-school: What you need to know about bullying

Did you know that 66 percent of school-aged children are teased?

Bullying has become a real problem – not just in schools, but in communities too. Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of, sat down with Dr. Lori Evans, a psychologist from New York University Medical Center, and Lis Wiehl, a Fox News analyst and attorney, to discuss the issues involved with bullying.

Evans said bullying can start at very young ages – even kids in kindergarten are bullying.

“It’s a club – but you can’t be a part of it,” she said, as way of an example.

“If I tease you, and you tease me back, then we’re equal – and that’s not bullying. But if someone has status, power or clout – then you’ve reached the realm of bullying.”

Wiehl said bullying resembles the legal definition of harassment, where there has to be a difference in equality and power.

She explained how several years ago, her son came home from school and was not acting like himself.

When prompted, Wiehl’s son explained he had been bullied.  Wiehl asked him to write down exactly what happened in his own words, and they took it to the principal the next day.

It turned out the school did not have an anti-bullying policy at the time, Wiehl said, but it does now – as do most other schools.

Evans said parents should be on the lookout for any changes in a child’s behavior and ask them what is going on.

“Ask any teacher if so-and-so is going to have a good day or a bad day, and they say they can tell as soon as they get off the bus,” she said.

Sometimes the child will be reluctant to talk about it, but Evans said to coax it out of them. If you can’t do it, try the other parent or a sibling or one of their friends. Even casual joking, like asking, “What’s going on with you?” might work, she said.

Wiehl said it’s OK for parents to snoop online, because cyber-bullying has become a “whole new thing,” she said.

“There’s been a few high-profile cases where two girls killed themselves,” after enduring cyber-bullying, she said. “It’s another form of harassment.”

Wiehl said, legally, if the bullying does not happen on school grounds, the school has little, if any, jurisdiction over the matter. However, if the bullying happens on a school-issued computer, the school may be able to do something about it.

“There are different types of bullies,” Evans added. “We think of them as insecure, but there are also bullies who feel great about themselves. Some CEOs are bullies. We know the outcome for the bullies, and the outcome for the victims – but the real issue is the bystanders. We know the negative effects for the bystanders are there.”