THE STORIES ARE HEARTBREAKING. A raft of reports involving children tormented by classmates, too afraid to go to the very schools intended to provide them nurturing and education. Of parents pleading with officials who turn a blind eye to the victimizers and an indifferent one to the victims, sometimes feeling powerless to change systems and cultures beyond their control. And even, unthinkably, of suicide.

As too many recent reports indicate, bullying today is no quaint, "kids will be kids" phenomenon. Following the apparent January 14 suicide of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old girl in the South Hadley, Massachusetts, school system, an investigation revealed that a number of students had severely tormented her over a period of weeks, largely through text messages and Facebook postings. This was the state's second suicide reportedly tied to bullying in the past year. News of Phoebe's suffering, and of that school system's lack of response, resulted in an outcry from concerned students, parents, and teachers. Other reports of bullying surfaced statewide. Officials in several communities pressed criminal charges, legislation was drafted to force school districts to report instances of bullying, and the City of Boston established an anonymous "bullying hotline." There was also pointed acknowledgment that cyberbullying, or the use of online social networking to deride victims, is growing rapidly.

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March 29, 2010

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