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Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Bullies beware
I must confess I hate bullies. I didn't like them when I was in school and I surely don't like them now. I would guess everyone at some point in their life has encountered a bully. But Olivia Gardner has had to endure bullies like no one I have ever met. She's fourteen years old, a tough time for many adolescents.

It started three years ago when Olivia was a sixth-grader in Novato, California, about a half-hour north of San Francisco. Olivia has epilepsy and had a seizure in front of her classmates. Instead of comforting her, her classmates called her names and started picking on her. She and her mom say it got so bad that she had to switch schools.

But that didn't solve the problem. Despite her mother's calls to the schools and parents involved, word continued to spread that this girl "wasn't normal" and the bullying continued, and in fact, got worse. Kids in her class started an "I hate Olivia club" on MySpace.Com. Even after Olivia transferred to a third middle school, the abuse continued.

A local newspaper reporter doing a story about bullying heard about the teenager's ordeal and did a profile on Olivia. That's where this story takes a positive turn. Two sisters in her Northern California community saw the article and decided to write Olivia a sweet letter basically telling her to "keep her chin up." They encouraged their classmates to write her as well. That was in March.

That small letter writing campaign has become an international phenomenon. More local stories followed, and so did the letters. Dozens became hundreds. Hundreds became thousands. Olivia's story touched a nerve. Most of the letters came from others who had also been bullied. They spoke of the pain it caused them and told Olivia things will get better. They wanted her to know that she's not alone and that people care about her. (Watch girls read letters to Olivia)

According to Olivia and her mother, those letters literally saved her life. She had considered suicide, but the touching sentiments made her think twice.

Oliva's plight has brought attention to the problem of bullying. It has also a powerful reminder how a little compassion can make a huge difference and even spark a profound movement.

--By Dan Simon, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 2:05 PM ET
Hi Dan,
There is absolutely no reason to tease a person because of an illness but to start a hate club is outrageous! Where are the parents and teachers?
Children can be cruel but it is up to the adults to guide them and be in charge. Children should be taught tolerance and love for others not HATRED!
This is totally unacceptable!
Posted By Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX : 2:54 PM ET
Bullying is an age old problem for children however in today's world I believe bullying reaches much farther and wider than it once did. I teach first grade in a rural community of Tennessee and as a teacher I see bullying occurring even in the primary grades. Girls and boys alike are involved in bullying behavior and it reaches into all socioeconomic backgrounds. In our school we are very fortunate to have a wonderful School Resource Officer who stays on top of children who tend to bully others. When this behavior is identified during the primary years if can often be stopped by using various tactics at school and home. Sad to say but many times we as educators find that children who "bully" often times don't realize that's what they are doing. Intervention techniques used in the early years helps prevent the behavior from escalating and getting out of hand. School counselors and SRO's are vital in the war against "Bullying". At Martin Primary School this past year we as teachers were able to learn how to watch for signs of classroom "bullies" by being involved in an "In Service" taught by our SRO. Teachers need to be very careful yet constantly aware of such activity going on in their classrooms. Children who live in homes where parents and older siblings "bully" are naturally going to have those tendencies. It's sad but true that "bullies" become younger and younger each year. Hang in there Olivia. Our world is a diverse place. We all have our own spot on this planet so stand firm on yours. No one is perfect and sooner or later all those classmates who have mistreated you will discover they have their own flaws too.
Posted By Zann Easterwood Martin, Tennessee : 3:38 PM ET
It's said that we should judge a nation by how it treats the most unfortunate of it's citizens.

It seems the lack of care and understanding our politicians exhibit towards the poor and disenfranchised people of this nation is trickling down to the parents of our young children, and worst of all, the children themselves.

What are we becoming in the United States?
Posted By Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 3:53 PM ET
Many years ago, while at early grade school, a friend of mine had a sister with epilepsy. Unfortunately, the poor girl was teased. By me included. However, one day, her mother overheard me and strongly chastised me (correctly so). I have NEVER done anything like that again. It was one of those defining moments that changed my outlook on issues such as this. It was just down to my ignorance and lack of training from my own parents.

Parents need to act on this behavior, let their children know that it is just simply not acceptable.
Posted By Brian Watson, Burlingame, CA : 4:01 PM ET
Mr. Simon,

I have seen the effect bullying can have first hand. When I transferred into an extremely small private high school, I dealt with some of the cruelty that goes on, and I was getting picked on, not because I was different, but just because I was the new girl, some individuals got jealous because others were paying attention to me and making me feel welcome. Some of those individuals harbored those bad feelings towards me for years. Throughout my time there I dealt with more than my fair share of the adolescent cruelty, and it is difficult and emotionally painful, but there were those few people who would step up and say this behavior shown by my classmates is cruel and ridiculous and it can't be tolerated. I applaud those individuals who wrote to Olivia, and realized the immaturity of Olivia's classmates.
Olivia and countless others affected by the cruelty of adolescents, deserve for this issue to be discussed more and to be taken seriously. I've heard people say things like everybody deals with bullying and it's part of growing up and learning how to deal with individuals who don't necessarily think the same way you do, but that isn't true. Yes, everyone deals with bullies at some point and time in there life, and for some of us thankfully it isn't as excessive as it is in Olivia's case, but for Olivia it was excessive and for others it is excessive and this adolescents are contemplating taking their own lives, hurting themselves and in other cases others, we have to taking this issue seriously in our homes and seriously in our schools so that it stops. Children go to school to learn, in a nurturing environment where their differences are viewed not as a negative thing, but as a uniqueness that makes each of us special and talented in different areas and aspects of life; In order for Olivia and others to go to school in that type of environment, we have to treat excessive bullying as a serious offense.
Posted By Jessica, Bourbonnais Illinois : 4:19 PM ET
Bullying is a huge problem, and while schools say they have a 'no tolerance' policy about bullying, they usually take little action. There seems to be an attitude that this is just part of the trials of normal childhood. For the most part, it's the bullied student who has to move to another school. Unfortunately, Olivia's situation is not isolated. Suicidal thoughts and statements, as well as attempts and completed acts, do stem from bullying. So much for "names will never hurt me". It's hard to comment further without knowing the rest of the story, but where were the teachers while this young girl was experiencing a seizure, and what were the consequences for fellow students who were taunting her? Was there any teaching about seizures and what the other children had observed? It seems to me that we need to be teaching much more compassion and understanding for others in youngsters. This is rather a different angle from Anderson's recent series on shootings of school children in Chicago. It's all violence against others, just in different forms. I would echo the sentiment of the school superintendent from Chicago, that we all need to value children more. Glad to hear that Olivia did get some understanding and support from the girls in Northern California. Kudos to them and to their parents, and to the others who offered encouragement!
Posted By Vicky, Ottawa, ON : 4:27 PM ET

Olivia's story brings tears to my eyes. I despair at how cruel we can be to each other and it pains me to say it, but especially how cruel girls can be. And who am I kidding, (right in my office in fact) women as well. When my kids were growing up I observed that the boys attacked each other physically and pushed each other around and then tended to get over it. However, the girls attacked each other with words and turned backs and caused far greater harm.

God bless those sisters who reached out in kindness and love. They provide a model for us all to always take the high road and follow the Golden Rule.
Posted By Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 4:37 PM ET

Olivia's story is heartbreaking and the maturity and compassion of the two sisters who reached out to her are an example of what kind of goodness does and should live in the hearts of kids today.

I'd love to know how I can write to both Olivia and the sisters to express my support and admiration for the courage and humanity each has conveyed.

Thanks for telling this story. In a world that seems so filled with reasons to distance ourselves from our fellow man, this situation reminds us all that looking out for each other is still a cool thing to do!

Posted By Carolyn, Washington, DC : 5:20 PM ET
I had a female friend in high school who started going bald her sophomore year at age 16. Because bandanas and hats were not allowed in school, she had to endure the stares and puzzlement from classmates. She said eye contact with others always slipped up to her missing hair.

Many classmates would tell her to "get a wig" or thought she was sick. Compassion from her classmates was not part of the picture during her high school years.

In addition, perfect strangers would come up to her and ask her what happen to her hair!

To a select few, it wasn't about her hair but about friendship; but to others, she was treated like a freak. At one sporting event at another high school, three boys cornered her and then circled her calling her "ugly" until she cried uncontrollably.

Thirty years ago, the medical treatment for hair loss was not what it is in 2007. Today my daughter donates her beautiful long red hair to "Locks for Love" for other teens or adults who have lost their hair to sickness or genetic dispositions.

By the way, the female friend was me. In a way, my baldness was a great test for finding true friendship and even love. In other words, my wonderful friends and husband looked beyond the missing hair and discovered me.

I am pleased that Olivia's plight turned into thousands of new friends and support. I hope someday Olivia finds that validation does not have to come from others to find worthiness in oneself.
Posted By Liz, Milwaukee, Wisconsin : 5:46 PM ET
I am a middle school teacher and unfortunately bullying is something that I have to deal with in my line of work. Children feel that they have to antagonize those who are different. Some of this behavior is a part of being a pre-adolescent. Some of this behavior comes from not being taught, at home, how to interact with people who are different from themselves. These children in the blog were totally unsupervised and not corrected on thier behavior from adults who are their parents or their teachers. IT IS TOTALLY UNPROFESSIONAL to allow a child to be ostracized by a condition that he or she cannot control, by the other children. I would take this very seriously in my classroom, and I would take the heat from angry parents. In the past I have had parents who have cursed me out for correcting their child's insolent behavior toward other children, but believe me I would never allow it.

It is very important for parents as well as teachers to be aware of what the students are doing in the classroom. As a classroom teacher, I am aware of my student's lives. I will know by the end of the first nine weeks of school, who is friends with whom, who goes with whom, and who hates whom. Sometimes social patterns develop later than this and can change like the weather. This is important because middle school relationships cab become caustic quickly causing fights, bullying and distractions in the classroom. I do my best to keep a running count of these alliances. I don't butt into their relationships with their friends because children have to learn to socialize, and socialization is a personal thing; nevertheless, if I hear of or see negative things happening or something that can be potentially dangerous or explosive, I will speak to the children and parents. Which ever is necessary if not both. I will suggest ways of dealing with situations before they get worse or severely convoluted. If these relationships develop into serious problems that can cause bodily harm or seriously disrupt the school environment, I will refer them to the school counselor and/or administration.

Parents play an even greater role in their children's lives because they live under their roof. Parents of the child who created the negative web page against the young girl are equally responible for the bullying in my view. Parents need to know what their children are doing online. The Internet is a very dangerous place for young children. Parents who are unaware of their childrens actions on the Internet is grave in my view.

Parents need to teach their children that people are different in this world, and help children learn to coexist with people who look differently, act differently, or may have medical conditions that may make them behave out of the norm from time to time.

It pains me to hear this story. I am so glad that others who are bullied, responsible children and adults reached out to save this young girl. I wish the absolute very best for Olivia.

Posted By Sylvie Grace; Atlanta, Georgia : 5:50 PM ET
Parents of these children are equally responsible for bullying that Olivia had to face. It is ashame that parents don't teach their children how to get along with people who are different from themselves.

I am a middle school teacher and in my view it is totally unprofessional to allow a student to be ostracized like Olivia was and nothing be done about it. I would never stand for it in my classroom AND I WOULD TAKE THE HEAT FROM PARENTS WHO GET MAD AT TEACHERS FOR TRYING TO CORRECT THEIR CHILDREN'S INSOLENT BEHAVIOR TOWARD OTHER CHILDREN IN THEIR CLASSROOMS. Some teachers let the children act up so they don't get the backlash from the parents of the children doing wrong, but that is not me. It is a rule that if the child is bad the parents are worse, and some teachers just don't want to deal with it. That is probably what happened in this situation. I hope the best for Olivia.
Posted By Mary Ellen Ross; Atlanta, Georgia : 5:57 PM ET
Dear Dan,

Thank you for your post about Olivia Gardner. Bullies are the ones who are "not normal."

Both Children and adult bullies are usually people who can only feel self worth by harassing others. I am not an expert, but it is obvious that bullies are looking for attention, any attention. I don't think it is a coincidence that they travel in groups because they can only gain confidence with the support of other weak minded individuals. I wish the unfortunate victims of these socially inept people could take comfort from that.

I know that some will try to make an excuse for bullies and insist that "they are people too" and deserve sympathy, but in my opinion, bullying is a choice.

These adult and child bullies should be shunned by decent members of society for their harassing behavior instead of just hoping the behavior changes.

If this type of behavior in children is not checked, it will probably escalate with age. The parents of these child bullies are responsible and they should be held accountable.

I am so glad that the local newspaper took an interest in Olivia and the problem of bullying. The two sisters who wrote Olivia and acted on her behalf have the maturity and self-confidence these bullies lack. These young women should be commended for their actions, it probably saved her life.

I always saw Rush Limbaugh as the poster boy for adult bullies; unfortunately, there are many others who have been able to "bully" their way into positions of power.
Posted By Jo Ann Matese, North Royalton, Ohio : 6:11 PM ET
I think it's cowardly to tease on those who are suffering from an illness. From my experience, I know that one person can make a difference. And I'm glad that someone stepped up and made a difference in Olivia's life.
Posted By Jon Nguyen, Vancouver, BC : 6:45 PM ET
I am glad those two youngs girls started to reach out to Olivia, which started a landslide of letters to her. That's right Olivia, keep your chin up! Don't blame your peers though, blame the ignorant parents who raise them, and those who raised them! The two young ladies broke that cycle and may more be broken!
Stay blessed and keep that chin up!
Carmen Cousins
Tucson, AZ
Posted By Carmen Cousins : 7:39 PM ET
Hi Dan,
As a teacher of special needs students, I have had to deal with my share of bullies. I have found that when bullies are confronted, they will often stop. No one likes to be called a bully. I also know we monitor the kid-friendly web pages, to make sure the "hate clubs" do not start and if they do start, we can nip it in the bud. Parent involvement is crucial as well.
Thanks for bringing this important issue up front!
Posted By Pamina, Pittsford, New York : 7:43 PM ET
It's horrible that this poor girl is tormented over an ILLNESS, but even worse, these kids that are doing the bullying are learning it somewhere....probably from home. I'm sorry, but out of 10 kids, 8 (well,ideally all 10) should have been taught manners and respect for others. SOME sort of inherent feeling that "this is wrong" should have kicked in, and someone stepped up and said "enough." That so many of these kids are involved goes to show that there are some self absorbed parents not spending enough time teaching their kids right from wrong, or spending enough time with them at all. Do these parents not know that their kids created a Myspace page mocking a girl with epilepsy??? I believe you get back what you give, so each of these kids will reap some of what they have sown here.

Shame on their parents, and shame on all those kids.
Posted By Barbara, Columbia MD : 7:49 PM ET
Hey Dan,
I have a 12 years old boy and in school,it seems like a way of life to bully and insult. They have a zero tolerance policy but it is way from being there.
All the children have encountered teasing,my son included.But I have made it my job to teach my son that a bully is a coward or someone with low selfesteem and it is a way for him to deal. But that he should never tolerate it and stand up.
I've made it my business to know all his friends and the others in the school. I've even gone to school and talk to kids in front of a teacher to straighten things out.
This year,in 6th grade,8 boys started picking on a girl,a friend of my son,who never had any problems. In an oral,they had to present an animal and they presented a cow and when asked what it's name was,they said the name of that poor girl!!SHe stormed out crying,my son got up and started telling them off,followed by 5 of his classmates. The parents and I got involved and we didn't give up until they stopped.
There seems to be so much pressure on them,more than when we were kids,and what I find awful is that with the internet,it takes it to another level for all the world to see. And there doesn't seem to be a lot of ressources to stop it.
But,between you and me,if those kids have time to keep a site running,boy,the parents aren't doing a great job of supervising them!! Parental control,ring a bell?!?
I wish Olivia the best and my heart goes out to her and her parents.To be a teen is hard,to be a teen with an illness is a challenge.

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Joanne R.Laval Quebec : 7:53 PM ET
Kids can be very very cruel. However, in every school, workplace or any other social setting, there's always a "victim." This victim always seems to be the target of humiliation, jokes and ridicule. A major contributing factor is how the victim reacts to the humiliation. Kids must be confident or at least pretend to be. A bully reads the reaction of who they're picking on. If they like what they see, they'll continue and bring others in to enjoy the fun. If they don't get the reaction they're wanting, they move on. I've seen it a million times and this works.
Posted By Darin C San Antonio, TX : 8:25 PM ET
Mr. Simon,
Being the parent of a child who has been ridiculed and bullied at one time or another for anything from asking the wrong question in class to being just plain shy, my sympathy goes to Olivia. As a professional working with LD children, I have a hard time with school authorities not doing anything about this ever increasing problem - and I mean not really trying to correct the problem. Most of the time, the bullied him/herself will be treated as the culprit instead of the victim...I love the idea of those kind letters being sent to Olivia. What a refreshing thought!
Posted By Lyne, Laval, Qc CANADA : 12:26 AM ET
What I want to know is how did this get so out of hand? Why didn't the teachers do something about this and really get the parents involved?
It's strange that schools let kids get away with bullying and also don't put pressure on their parents to step up and take responsibility. They're kids, they need guidance.
What message are the teachers and parents sending when they don't take bullying seriously?
Don't they realize that they are paving the way for these kids to grow up to be selfish, unhelpful, intolerant, uncompassionate and cruel adults?
Posted By LaiPeng Foong, Penang, Malaysia : 1:51 AM ET
As someone who was tormented by high school bullies 40 years ago, I can attest that this is not a new phenomenon. Hopefully, Olivia will learn to rise above this torture, just as I tried to do. Parents and teachers must hammer home to the youngsters in their charge that ALL people should be treated with respect and sensitivity. As we saw last week, with the story dealing with young Osama and his unfortunate first name, sometimes the teachers can be crueler than their students. When teachers and administrators ignore bullying, they are actually encouraging it. With no adult in authority to champion them, some of these tormented youngsters will go over the top, as Dylan and Eric did at Columbine and Cho did at VA Tech. One day, when she is an adult, Olivia will bump into those who tormented her now. As adults, they will be remorseful and apologetic for the thoughtless actions of their youth. Olivia will feel vindicated, and that will make her feel very good. I know. I've been there.
Posted By Mary, Beaver, PA : 7:46 AM ET
As an educator for the last 14 years, it saddens me to hear of such an account. Teachers and parents are responsible for teaching and guiding children on how to act. We are their moral compass at times. Part of going to school is learning to get along with others. Our school has a character counts program. Each teacher is required to teach "Character Development" 20 minutes a day. In the last year we have noticed an improvement in behavior and school morale.
Posted By Gretchen Voronin Arlington, Texas : 8:47 AM ET
Where ARE the adults in all of this? Parents, teachers? If they did nothing (particularly about the online activities - it's not like they're exactly secret), then they are as culpable as the children doing the bullying. And huzzah for the girls who wrote that simple letter ane encouraged their friends to do likewise - sometimes all it takes is one simple act of kindness.
Posted By Tricia, Georgetown, Texas : 9:24 AM ET
As negative as this little girl's story began it was so nice to hear of what became of her situation! I am only 24 years old and am still shocked to see the things that go on with young kids these days (especially with the addition of things like MySpace and FaceBook!), but it was awesome to hear of other kids that did something positive for this little girl!
Posted By Jeni, Houston, TX : 9:46 AM ET
Unfortunately this story is not uncommon. My son was also bullied since kindergarden and finally I moved him to a private school. He was bullied simply because I taught him not to fight back-"two wrongs don't make a right". Once bullies learn they can get to you they will not stop. The school administration in my area would do nothing and actually made the situation worse. Bullies must be held accountable for their actions. Every day I fear my son will think suicide is the answer to escape his pain. He is not the child he started out to be as a result of this bullying. Bullying was once thought to be something children had to endure. The ramifications are enormous for each child and their families. It's time the legislatures of each state look at this issue and find some solution. Studies have shown that many bullies will eventually commit crimes. As a country, we need to put a stop to this behavior.
Posted By CB-Marshfield, MA : 9:56 AM ET
It's wonderful how these people have reach out to this young child to instill hope in her future. It's clear she's on the path to success now. Now, while the story is beautiful and needs to be told, how about we shine some light on these bullies i.e. "causes of suicides, school shootings and massacres", and see how they react to the spotlight on their inhumane treatment of others. I have an unbending feeling that they'll cower like the cowards they truly are. I am a father of two ( boy 7, girl 5) and I pride my self on my kids being nice and polite to everyone, except people who aren't nice to them. I therfore also have to equipt my children with thicker skin and the courage to stand up to bullies AT 7 AND 5!!!!!!!! Lord only knows what these kids will be like in 10 to 20 years. WAKE UP PARENTS!!!
Posted By Clinton Nicholas Slidell,La : 9:56 AM ET
Hello Dan,
To think that this kind of behavior would be aloud to go this far! It is time for the parents and children involved to learn the meaning of the words 'tolerance' and 'understanding'. To bully a person because of an illness is just wrong!
Posted By Amy Lynne, Verona, Ohio : 10:49 AM ET
It is totally inexcusable that Olivia was subjected to this kind of abuse at not one, but THREE schools! The teachers, principals and counselors at these schools should be held responsible for allowing this abuse to continue. And it is abuse! Bullying is a word that devalues the harm done. If an adult behaved in a "bullying" manner at work, s/he would be fired. If one treated one's spouse in such a way, it would be called abuse or assault. Bullying is a leading cause of suicide in our young people. How can we allow this abusive behavior to continue in a place that we, as a society, say that every child should feel safe - our schools.
Posted By Larriann Curtis, Austin, TX : 10:49 AM ET
Where were the teachers? How could the teachers just stand by and watch this happen? This is absurd! I wonder how those teachers and the parents of those children can sleep soundly at night knowing their students and children almost drove a child to suicide.

I thought our country had evolved from demonizing those with illnesses, but I guess not. Let me just say though, from experiance, that cases where students go through this hell due to some sort of condition is pretty common. At least Olivia found some solace.
Posted By Bekah Marie, Coral Gables, FL : 10:58 AM ET
Being a mother of a 15 year old boy who has been bullied since elementary school, I am amazed at the lack of attention this issue receives. Schools are so focused on their Standards of Learning they have forgotten other skills that children should be encouraged to learn as well. Patience, kindness, compassion, respect and understanding for and of others are just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic. I understand first hand what this does to a child. Loss of self esteem, poor grades, and suicidal thoughts – the pain these children endure is unimaginable. I encourage all parents to communicate to their children the importance of this issue – and to check with their local schools to see if there is an “Anti-Bullying” policy in place. If they do not have one, ask why?
Posted By Andrea Janish, Sterling, VA : 11:06 AM ET
Yes indeed, children can be cruel and unfeeling. Parents can teach tolerance and understanding but that usually doesn't happen.
My daughter is an epileptic. She's now 37 and has endured treatment similar to Olivia's. She has risen above most of it but it still pains her that anyone would be treated this way, especially out of ignorance.
Posted By A. Roy Olson, Tucson AZ : 11:29 AM ET
I completely agree with Betty Ann. Where are the teachers and parents? Not just after the bullying started, but before. While I know that kids are not always going to be nice to each other, and there will be teasing, but that sort of teasing is way out of control.

In my children's school, there are several kids with disabilities who are mainstreamed with the other kids, just with a "helper teacher". My kids have repeatedly said that it has been an interesting experience being in class with, for instance, a blind child. They realize, and I think the school and other kids do to, that just because someone is different or you don't like them, doesnt mean you have to be mean to them. In the words of my 7 year old son "It is really hard to be nice to someone you don't like, but I try." Isn't that what all parents and teachers should be teaching their kids? Be nice to one another, even if you/they are different or you don't even like each other very much.
Posted By Todd Dover, NH : 12:04 PM ET
Although bullying is a problem in our society, this incident is more about how our moral fiber has changed to something evil. It seems that people have morphed into something from a horror movie where they just care about what they can get for themselves and anyone who might appear weaker than themselves is to be ridiculed. It's a sad statement about how our country is going down the toilet and the hate club and the students laughing at someone having a seizure illustrates just how twisted our youth are being raised by their parents. When I grew up I had a fight with a bully and I ended up giving up because he won but I never had a problem with him after that. And he lost a lot credibility after that, but today I think bullies would feel empowered by someone who beat up someone weaker than themselves. I'm so glad to hear that others made contact with this young girl and helped her through a difficult time and that she didn't end up the way so many bullied children do. In the cemetary. I hope she will read this and know that she is stronger than any bully by persevering and in the end she will be on top. Keep your head high and have your parents get you a "service dog" like a german shepherd. You won't have any more problems with idiot bullys and you will gain another faithful friend.
Posted By Mike from So Cal : 4:57 PM ET
We have sent our children to private international schools around the world where we expected a higher standard of morals and better code of ethics, but unfortunately we have found bullies in all these schools. Worst of all, they were protected by the schools' teachers and counselors because they were the children of the privileged or big donors to the school. The staff at these international schools have found a comfort level for themselves and don't want to rock the boat by having to deal decisively with the bully children of influential parents. CNN should do an expose on the international private school circuit; bullies are not limited to public schools in the US. At least the US has a functioning legal system. Many private schools operate like a private club with their own rules and parents whose children are bullied can't get fair treatment and have no recourse. Blame the victim is the name of the game. And what about the parents of the bullies? They are usually in denial about their childrens' behavior and the worst to deal with, especially when they are on the board or PTA at the school.
Posted By Laurie, Washington DC : 5:55 AM ET
Man, did this story take me mad! Why is bullying still allowed? Doesn't this girl and her mother realize that, under the law, this bullying is discriminating against her right to an education? What if it hadn't been epilepsy but her skin color?

Bullying is not normal. Bullies, therefore, are not normal people.

I wish Olivia well and hope she gets a lawyer who can sue the blazes out of those sick schools, those sicko schoolmates of hers AND their parents, the boards of education in every district that turned a blind eye, and the state and federal governments for promoting this assault and battery on a child who was, after all, simply only trying to get the education REQUIRED of her by law!!

PS. I myself am a survivor of bullying at every school I attended. I had some physical problems but mostly I was tortured because I was earning better grades in school than some of the other kids. These losers and their antics were well-known throughout the school, the school system, the administration and the teachers. Not one person came to my rescue; in fact, one teacher opened his door, saw me trying to fight off a physical assault, and, looking me straight in the eye, shut the door to his classroom. I didn't walk at my own graduation due to the nervous breakdown I suffered as a result of post-tramatic syndrome. I took me literally until I was 21 or 22 to stop shaking with fear at the sight of every person who looked even remotely like they could be one of those bullies. I was an honors student in high school. Instead of using the intellect God gave me, I have suffered homelessness and even suicidal feeling as a result of the depression and powerlessness I was made to endure. Only at age 43 am I now coming into my own, but the TAX base lost as result of my inability to go to college as a result of the post traumatic stress I bet comes to over a a million dollars. (I had wanted to be a doctor. Today, I am barely employed.) In other words, the loss due to bullying goes far beyond the obvious social impact. Perhaps if i had gotten one of these letters, things would have turned out far differently.

Thank God for those two sisters!! They saved not only the life of a 14 year old girl, but the life of the woman she will someday become.
Posted By Lauren Rogers., Wheeling, WV : 8:49 PM ET
Dan - How dare the school officials say that it is "normal behavior"! It is only normal if it is allowed by the parents, teachers, supervisors. The principals, teachers, and counselors in the schools Olivia was forced to leave should be required to attend seminars on bullying and the effects it has on children and how to recognize and shop it.
Posted By Barbara in Las Vegas, NV : 2:52 AM ET
What happened to Olivia was horrible, and it is going to take years to undo, if it can be undone. My parents took the stance that if you didnt do anything, it would go away. It lasted 8 yrs, and 26 yrs later I'm still feeling the reprocussions.

TO CB-Marshfield, MA - please PLEASE take your child to some kind of defensive training (Taekwondo) and teach him that it is OK to DEFEND himself! You are giving this child an inferiority complex by not doing at least that. Let him build some confidence in himself. They will teach not to be aggressive - but not to be FRIGHTENED enough to allow the attacks. Do this BEFORE you are regretting it - after he decides to take his own life.
Posted By RRedus, Mesa AZ : 6:20 AM ET
I just want to let you know that I to was the subject of "Bullying" when I was in elementary school. It started towards me because i was "Over weight"...Then other things followed the bullying to continue, and get worse. The bullying was relentless and continued until I got into middle school, where I was given the chance to become a wrestler on the "VARSITY SQUAD". After the bullies found out that I was wrestling, they gave up, because they figured that if I was bullied anymore, they might get messed up by me...Hang in there, and what ever you do don't "GIVE UP" because, some day some way, those bullies will end up stopping like it happened to me. One of those bullies actually started giving me the respect I was "OVER DUE" to receive, I cried "IN-FRONT" of him, he asked..."What's wrong?...I answered, You don't even know??..He said yes...I told him, that, I'm crying not because you hurt me with all of your bullying; I'm crying because you finally are treating me like a person and not a punching bag of words and guestures. He stopped and thought of what I said to him, and he then started to cry himself.
Posted By John, Vancouver, WA : 1:24 PM ET
The fact that they created a club about it basically shows that they had nothing better to do than this. I believe more than anything else, they were bullying her just to have something to do. It may have been caused by ignorance to the condition too, I say this because I saw on the news where they had called her "retard". Either way, this story really makes me mad. As a medical worker, I know how devastating it is for epileptics as is, but with the added emotional pain from being made fun of...I can't even imagine. You don't know how glad it makes me to hear of Olivia getting saved from this, but something still needs to be done. There are countless other kids out there that are still in the same situation, and sadly, a lot of kids actually go through with killing themself because of simular matters. If she had went through with it, I believe it would have been very much of the school's fault for not doing anything about it.
Posted By John, Washington : 1:49 PM ET
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