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Bullying in school

Original post made by Parent At Middle School, Barron Park, on Feb 20, 2008

I am a parent of a middle school student who is experiencing some social difficulties at school and would like some feed back on others in the community whose children may have experienced similiar issues.

group alienation
issues at the bike cage
issues in unstructured time ie passing time, brunch and lunch
Issues that occur in PE, locker rooms etc
verbal abuse
physical abuse
destruction of private property

Any feedback would be appreciated

Comments (125)

Posted by Sneezy
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 20, 2008 at 7:48 pm

My 7th grade son says verbal abuse at his school is the norm, not the exception. Destruction and/or theft of property is also common. These happen throughout, before, and after the school day.

My own observation is that there is extensive bullying at the middle schools but the kids are so desensitized to it that they often don't recognize it for what it is. While girls face challenges, I believe that the largely unsupervised "Lord of the Flies" atmosphere especially empowers boys to become aggressors or causes them to become victims. A decade ago, our schools had many more "caring adults" on campus per student. A decade ago, staff more comprehensively supervised the breaks. A decade ago, adults were on hand to PAY ATTENTION, but that time has passed due to budget cuts and teacher contract provisions.

Besides that many kids seem not to recognize bullying for what it is, most kids are reluctant to take any kind of stand even if they do perceive it happening, usually for fear that they will become the next victim. Teaching kids to recognize bullying and stand up against it has proven very difficult (if, indeed, anyone at the middle school is trying in any sustained way. One assembly and one survey per year, plus a few posters, does not an anti-bullying campaign make).

Another contributor on the boy front is that boys of this age (check out chimps!) are naturally vying for their place on the social hierarchy. Unfortunately, if one's son is not an athlete, there are very few ways to be seen as "cool" by one's peers. Bullying is one way to be seen (or at least to feel) "cool." If you as a boy can prove your superiority over others by putting them down in public, your status increases. I believe that this hierarchical struggle could be diffused if boys were taught to value alternate accomplishments. Playing in CYSA and the Majors are significant accomplishments, but so are academics, music, science, and arts. Helping our children discover ways to feel good about themselves, to find the alternate definitions of success that empower them, is I think a key goal for parents--and a major defense against the constant abuse that goes on.

And all of society is guilty of contributing to this bullying trend. Watch some of the so-called reality TV (or don't, so the networks finally remove that trash from the air) and see how people treat one another on broadcast TV for a chance at $$$, or check out who the media is profiling as a "hero." For boys, it's nearly all professional athletes, and do we really want Barry Bond as a role model for our sons? If we are concerned about the bullying problem, we need, all of us, to focus our children on respect, on appreciation for differences, and on somewhat less of a pursuit of the almighty $$$. What our society models filters down to our schools. Of COURSE we have a bullying problem. We have met the enemy, and they are us.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Bullying, or teasing, is rampant in our schools. The schools are big and getting bigger and there are not enough places for the kids to eat lunch or brunch. There are not enough places for them to play at basketball hoops or to sit out of the rain or the sun to eat their lunch.

Ask your kids where they eat lunch, is it in the library, or on their bikes on the way home? Do they go to a club at lunch time just because they feel safer there? Look at their phones, are their a myriad of missed calls or texts (and pictures) from unknown numbers? Do their clothes come home dirty or torn and they are reluctant to talk about it?

I could go on. If the original poster is asking if this is unusual, it is not. It is not a boy thing or a girl thing, it is happening to both but in different ways.

Listen to your kids is one solution, but more subtle ways of finding out what is going on is necessary. It is often not what the kids say that you should be concerned about, but what they refuse to answer that is the big clue.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2008 at 3:13 am

When you require children to attend school you are obliged to maintain a level of safety at least equal to that required in the work place. The failure, often for PC reasons, to maintain the peace in public schools is one contributor to the growth of gangs. The tendency of administrators to trivialize differences between students or, in another institution, between prisoners, contributes to the growth of a hoc alliances to give individuals the protection the system won't. As soon as bullying extends to force or threat, demand action even against the usual dismissive aministrator. If action is not forthcoming, file a police complaint and engage a lawyer to enforce your child's right to peaceably go about the day's business. Then withdraw and home-school your child.

Posted by Parent At Middle School
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2008 at 9:09 am

Thank you each for your input as we negotiate what is best for our child in a very trying time.

We have each time requested action, the administrators continue to leave us in the dark due to stated privacy right constraints of the individuals inciting these actions against out child. We are left with a continually reoccurring assault on our son's educational day. Each time we have tried within the system to proceed, we are not comfortable with the situation though we are realizing as his advocates we must press forward. Home schooling is not the best choice yet, it remains a possibility. There must be other alternatives that allow interaction with peers amid a safe environment to learn in PAUSD. Civil litigation seems to be forced on us by PAUSD's lack of appropriate response to a crisis situation.

Again thank you for any postings.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2008 at 9:12 am

I'm sorry your son is having a tough time - before you head to litigation or home schooling - head up the food chain in the administration - the BOE and the superintendent for example. You could also ask to have your son transfered to another middle school, they do that for problem kids so why not ones who are being picked on.

Good luck!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 21, 2008 at 9:44 am

I also cannot offer you much of a solution given the atmosphere in the middle school. My son was there a few years back and I can attest to the lack of proper handling in these situations. If your son even attempts, as a victim, to do what in earlier times would have been expected, i.e., fight back, the administration and BOE will punish your child as if he were the perpetrator. I was told that my son, who was attacked at a morning break and who chose to hit back, would have to attend Saturday detention or be suspended for three days at a minimum. The school has a "zero tolerance" policy to violence. I see this as the problem. The kid who had been harassing my son and then decided to hit him during a school break should have been punished to a much higher degree. Defending yourself should not be viewed as being as serious and being the perpetrator of violence. The BOE backed the administration on this one and frankly I did not have the time or enery to pursue the matter. I wish I was not working at the time and could have devoted more time to the issue.

My suggestion is that if you are able you should go forward and make sure the administration and BOE is aware of your intention to fight this matter and to secure funds from the district. Perhaps you will be heard eventually. You will also be doing all of the current and future students a huge favor.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2008 at 9:50 am

Parent at Middle School - make yourself the administrators worst nighmare. I mean, make a stink. Tell every single person you talk to that you're going up a level to get this resolved unless they take more action. Make phone calls, write letters, call board members, go to board meetings. Write letters to the editors - call the Daily and Weekly and ask them if they're interested in a story. Call parents, call PTA president.

I'd contact every teacher and put them on notice too - if they're witnessing bullying and not taking action, they're on the block too.

If I were you I'd let them (all) know you're starting an incident log, taking pictures, and whatever else you can do to gather 'evidence'. In fact, give your kid a camera phone so he can take picutures on the spot. Let them know police reports, letter to the newspapers, contacting officials all the way up the foodchain (ie: county, state, etc) are in their future if they don't wise up and get a solution in play IMMEDIATELY.

If I were you, I'd also make every effort to find out who the kids are that are doing it - and I'd call their parents and put them on notice too.

In my experience, a big loud obnoxious and unrelenting voice that says you're not going away seems to start to change people's minds about how they deal with (or fail to deal with) issues.

Palo Alto Mom - here's a better idea. How about they transfer the BULLIES to another school, instead of punishing the victim. As for home schooling - kick the bullies out of school, and have THEIR parents take on the burden of home schooling - that might get bully parents to wise up pretty quick. Why should the VICTIM and victim's parents have to take that burden?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2008 at 10:12 am

I agree with some of the good ideas put forward above. But, I will tell you from experience some of the negatives of these ideas.

If you can find out who the bullies are, you may not find that their parents are seeing things in the same light as you. Bullies often get their bullying behavior from their upbringing and when you talk to other parents you may find that they see things very differently from you. In other words, they may prefer taking things to the police rather than dealing with them in school or parent to parent. They may manage to make it appear that your child is the one with the problem as their kid cannot be anything but innocent. Believe me, I have experienced this and the police sided with the other family rather than us. This was an incident that happened after school hours, but only just.

Families like these are often the ones who do not get their kids names even listed in school directories, let alone their contact information, so you might find getting in touch with their parents difficult at the outset.

Even if you do manage to get the bullies transferred to another middle school, or indeed your own child to another middle school, they often get back to being in the same high school and when that happens you have to start again with the administration as some of these problems do not get handed from middle to high school well.

I wish you luck on this one. It will take time and effort on your part with possibly class changes and perhaps the need to meet your son at the office every day after school to take him home safely. I hope that it does not necessitate you having to take him out of PAUSD and put him into private school as that sends the message to the bullies that they have won.

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2008 at 10:47 am

I sympathhize and relate to this story. I think it can be difficult to know what is going on other than that bullying is fairly prevalent in the middle schools.

If your son is older and/or more mature he will likely not enjoy the atmosphere in middle school - that's what we often found.

One time my son was being bullied and when I had a chance to get a slight look at the bully, I was appalled, this was a very aggressive person who was highly threatening. School authorities were notified but did little. They can't be everywhere nonetheless I truly believe adult authorities do SET THE TONE and SET THE EXPECTATION for behavior. For instance, everyone can recall some teachers in the past where nobody would dream of misbehaving owing to awe and respect for the teacher. The world is not perfect but there should not be tacit complicity or endorsement of bullying in the environment.

In the high school the bullying seemed to take the form of theft, esp in the boys PE locker room, which was outrageous. One time I will describe the coach required students to leave their backpacks in the main gym while they went out running, upon return my son found wallet, money, and personal ID in wallet stolen. Someone had openly gone through several backpacks. In this instance, I think the administrators/teachers were at fault for not creating a secure atmostphere. Theft was reported to main administration, a big hassle so one of the boys didn't bother to report it, of course perps not caught. I believe this year Paly admin installed security cameras at entrances to locker room which may slightly reduce theft problem. Good kids get targeted and that's a sad fact.

Posted by Danny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2008 at 11:25 am

Sadly, bullying is an all-too-common occurence at schools these days, as are the other issues you mention. Although violence is not the answer, I would suggest you teach your son self defense (i.e. enroll him in a martial-arts class). Martial-arts is not just about being able to defend yourself in the face of bullying or abuse, but it also teaches a great deal of self-confidence.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2008 at 11:31 am

To me zero tolerance means zero judgement and minimum wage job. In the world of employment, management pays out millions in harassment judgements. Why should schools be exempt?

Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2008 at 11:33 am

*sigh*, it makes me sad to read this thread. I think back to my own jr. high school experience in the 1970s, when I was absolutely miserable at times due to racial name-calling (I was Asian in a school that was over 95% white). Now that I'm a parent myself, I've wondered if moving to a school district like Palo Alto's, where parents are very highly-educated, people embrace values of tolerance, and where there is much racial diversity--well, at least for Asians, would spare my own children from the painful things I experienced back then.

But to be perfectly honest, at times back then, I myself was cruel to my weaker classmates. 13-15 is such a raw age, where the idyllic childhood days are falling aside while kids have not yet developed a lot of maturity and sensitivity to other people's feelings. The result can be a malicious free-for-all, where cruelty and mockery are the common currency.

I still remember an incident in 7th grade where an overweight girl walked through a cafeteria in my school. The entire cafeteria started chanting, "Whale on the beach! Whale on the beach!". My friends told me about the incident, and we all thought it was hilarious. But when I think about it today, I can appreciate how utterly cruel and horrible it was. My heart goes out to that poor girl, and I can only imagine the lasting emotional scars that experience gave her.

I guess things haven't changed. Middle school-aged kids have an awful capacity for cruelty.

Posted by Digital Media Is The Great Equalizer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2008 at 11:42 am

In this day of very inexpensive surveillance equipment, it would be helpful for people claiming "bullying" at the schools to document these activities on some sort of media--and get them into the hands of the School Administration.

Then, if there is no mitigating action on the part of the Administration, you can go to a lawyer and head off to court with a clean conscience.

Posted by Katie Christman
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 21, 2008 at 12:59 pm

I am so sorry to hear about your troubles...

I was a very sad seventh grader, bullied and teased beyond belief (literally... the teachers never seemed to believe me!) The answer given was always, 'kids are mean'.

I have to say that our experience at Jordan Middle school (our daughter is now in eighth grade there) seemed to be starting out the same...but it wasn't.

The teachers did NOT seem to think it was 'normal' or ok. The administrator's response was, 'that is unacceptable'. And yes, there is some limit to what can be done by adults, but MAN they tried hard, and as least from my perspective as a parent, it really got better, and fast.

I was also encouraged to go ahead and open a dialogue with the students involved, (very carefully) and with their parents. Believe it or not, the parents were not just knee-jerk "not MY kid" in their responses, they seemed genuinely concerned. Best of all the response was not, 'oh, my god, we have a bad apple, suspend them!' from the staff, but, 'hey a teachable moment, let them know there are better ways to deal with the stresses they are under.'

The children met, and each had a say, and a contract was written for conduct each could agree to. This didn't vilefy or demonize either child, rather, it was a reaffirmation of THE RULES which apply to everyone. And if either child broke the contract, that was addressed by the administration.

I'm not saying it put a complete stop to all bullying etc. for my daughter, but it gave her a sense of due process, of being heard, and a pattern of how to deal with the issue that she still uses, a life lesson in conflict resolution within the rules.

She now knows that name-calling, if she is not offended, can be overlooked, where innapropriate or violent contact of any kind must not be tolerated, whether directed at her or not. And the one time she chose to respond in an innapropriate way by name-calling back,
the other student WAS offended and hurt, and my kid ended up with saturday school. That was a good lesson too.

I am certain there is an approved method at each school for dealing with these issues, but not being afraid to speak out and awareness of how to do so appropriately is the biggest lesson my daughter learned, along with some empathy.

Good luck!

Posted by Why are kids so cruel today?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2008 at 1:31 pm

There seems to be no general understanding of being kind to one's neighbor, its all out for oneself. And you think the bullying with boys is bad, my daughter had it much worse with cliques. Girls starting being catty in first or second grade, by high school they were not speaking to each other. If you were not in the power clique or were unable to spout off that your shoes were 120 dollars, forget it.
I would like to see school administrators make more of an effort towards young people getting along, and not just focus on the state standards. Also, the worst bullies I have observed seem to run unfettered, the school is so afraid to do anything lest someone sue over discipline. What happened to detention?

Posted by No name
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Bullying is nothinig new. Our daughter had a terrible time at Paly in the early 80's and will not set foot on the campus when she comes here to visit. There was the 'wall crowd' and those who were not. Now with My Space and Face Book and the rest, the prolblems are escalating. Our granddaughter in another part of the country has had an especially traumatic time over some viciousness on MySpace. She is a very quiet girl - and was devastated by what was said about her. Her parents tried to trace the remarks and put a stop to it. It did cost them a lot of money in counselors and pyschologists and finally changing schools. Maybe schools should spend more time on class instrucction on bullying, and let envionmental issues take care of themselves.

Posted by Another parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2008 at 1:58 pm

I just got off the phone with my son and the assistant principal at Terman. Apparently there was an altercation between two boys in the bike cage last week. My son went to the aid of his friend and as part of that tampered with the quick release on the other boy's bike. The school has reacted by having my son spend tomorrow in the office on a one day suspension, and his father and I will spend a lot of time talking to him about this issue (including showing him this forum) and perhaps going to the other boy's house to apologize in person.

I just wanted to write to let people know that the school did take this incident seriously and acted on it. We as parents take it very seriously and will also act on it. I hope my son will not be involved in future incidents, but I have to remember that he is a boy and as such will probably make mistakes as he navigates his teen years.

Posted by carol
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Just yesterday I attended a meeting held by reps from Jordan for parents of students who will be entering 6th grade next year. The word repeated many times was independence. We were told there are no opportunities for parent volunteers in the classrooms. Parents can volunteer in the library, but those are coveted spots. The majority of opportunities are with the PTA. Several of us felt that they were actively attempting to discourage us from being on campus. One of the presenters was one of three counselors at the school who said that if your student has a problem with another student that they cannot solve, come see a counselor. I am concerned about how many students each counselor has and how effective this would be.

I can agree that teaching independence is important, however, if the above descriptions of what is going on at our middle schools are accurate, I would say that the middle schools should be encouraging more adult presence in every aspect of the school. I believe that parents are savvy enough to know how to be present without interfering with the independence of the kids. The PTA could offer a training class for incoming parent volunteers to go over some basics for working with this age group if there was concern. As kids are going through the changes they do at that age, it seems to me that they still need more guidance in school.

It also seems to me that the technology available to kids has offered even more sophisticated ways for students to bully one another. This mixed with the less technology based ways kids have been bullying is beyond what the usual way of doing things can handle. Again, if all the above comments are true, it's clear that the current structure is not effective and it's time to change the old attitudes and bring in some fresh ideas.

Posted by Private school parent
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2008 at 5:16 pm

This isn't an option for everyone, but we have our child in a private school where bullying is quickly nipped in the bud, and where middle school children have resources and adults who will help them out if this problem occurs. Schools (whether private or public) need to recognize bullying is serious business, educate themselves, address the issues, and put an end to it! No child should have to endure bullies of any kind, and it's up to the schools to provide a safe environment for our kids.

Posted by sadtohearthis
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 21, 2008 at 5:47 pm

so happy to hear that your child is able to talk with you about what is going on with him/her. if it were me, i would want to take him/her out of school ASAP and homeschool them until i could figure out the best solution (which may be homeschooling). what you've posted is above and beyond what some kids encounter. your child, unfortunately, is probably the child that all of us have had in our lives that is the one that gets the brunt of everything/everybody. in this case i don't think that this type of treatment is going to make him/her stronger; i think it will really harm him/her forever!!!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Fletcher Middle School
on Feb 21, 2008 at 8:45 pm

My experience with this school site has been that they come up with reasons why they cannot deal with behavior issues with the students.

I don't want to learn that the teacher is unable to handle the classroom. I don't want to be told that there is insufficient staff to address social issues. I don't want to learn that in-service days and meetings take priority over safety issues at a school site. I do not want to learn that the teacher's contract prevents this site from having sufficient supervision of students. I do not want to hear that all children are having the same problem. I was sad to learn that many of the students feel unsafe at this site (student survey).

Bullying has become an issue at this site. Many in the community are aware of this and are talking about it.

I am glad that my children have recently left this site behind in their school careers, but I am afraid that they, like many of the Terman Tigers will have long term consequences for the time spent at middle school.

I am sorry that I did not follow up with my children's issues and that it is still not being addressed in a manner to stop it. I think we are negligent in being uncomfortable when our child is targeted in a negative manner and simply hope to resolve it as soon as possible. The social problems at Terman will take a long term solution to change the climate in the school.

Mostly I feel sorry for next years incoming 6th graders, they will inherit years of problems.

Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 8:03 am

My son and daughter both graduated and survived Gunn High School. In many ways it was like boot camp. My son told me stories that would make you quiver. He witnessed a group of seniors upend a little freshman head first into a garbage can. There were many thefts and students gym clothes were burned in lockers. The girls were awfultoo. Groups of girls would push other girls into the mud or "swamp" which is what the campus turned into when it rained. The school is too big and the administration and counselors are overwhelmed. Where are our priorities when parents are pushing their kids to get into Harvard but do not teach civility?

Posted by Janice
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 22, 2008 at 8:04 am

I know that this kind of thing is very subjective, but do people have a feel for the reputations of the three PA middle schools regarding this bullying issue? Jordan and Terman are mentioned here a couple of times. Is JLS known as a school where this is a big problem? Is Terman considered the roughest environment versus the other two?

Posted by julie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 8:08 am

I have had a son and a daughter in the pausd and have seen very little evidence of bullying among boys.

I have seen parents overreact and be overprotective with boys however.

I have also seen a significant anti-boy bias in PC parents and to a much lesser degree among teachers.

The cruelest bullying actually takes place between girls starting in middle school and is ruthless and emotionally devastating for the victims.

We taught our children to stand up for themselves and to defend themselves.

They built character out of adversity and did very well.

I believe it is up to the parents to help there children deal with adversity, that is the real world, and stop expecting the schools to do their job for them.

Pity the poor boys whos parents are PC and want girlymen.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 22, 2008 at 8:24 am

Julie, do you think your kid might actually call another kid "girly man" and think it is ok since they heard it from you? Maybe you don't have a bully problem cause your kids are the bullies. Just speculating.

Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 8:30 am

I've got one at Terman and she reports no bullying to speak of. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen (I'm sure it does) but she doesn't think there anything material. Skelly has a daughter there too, fwiw.

I'm not sure where people went to school, but certainly "enforcing social order" was part of my school experience and I'd assume everywhere. My dad went to a elite prep school - what he told about made my urban high school experience look pretty mild.

Posted by JLS Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 22, 2008 at 8:34 am

There is definitely bullying going on at JLS among the boys (and I have heard stories about the girls too). My older son is now at high school and even though several of the culprits were transferred out of JLS (one into Jordan and one into Terman), they are now all in the same high school and to some extent the problems continue, but being bigger campus, there is less interaction between these boys in a classroom setting and they don't see each other often, but when they do there are still problems. I will point out that some of these problems started when they were all still in elementary school.

My second son at JLS is also a victim of harrassment (I won't go as far as calling it bullying) but he tells me that there are still problems. Once again, these problems started in elementary school and it was across grades. In this case, the main culprit moved out of the area but I know that in his case his parents were in complete denial that there was a problem. The friends of this boy do still give my son a hard time, but since the main problem has left they do not have the incentive to be as bad.

I will also say that some grades are worse than others, for some grades the bigger problem seems to be with girls and others its with the boys. Often, the problems come from sports activities where teams cling together at school to give their opponents a hard time before or after the "big game". Other times there are just histories of victimisation for long forgotten reasons.

My own thoughts are that a lot of this starts in elementary school, I have seen it as low as 3rd grade, and these enmities just carry on as a tradition. I think that the elementary schools should do more to spot what is happening in the playgrounds and if there was more supervision in the playgrounds at lunchtime and recess some of these bad habits would not start.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2008 at 9:03 am

I agree that the problem starts in elementary school. There was a girl in my child's 2nd grade class who was terribly mean, continues to be a bully, but luckily has chosen to attend a private middle school.

In addition to helping your child stand up for him or herself - teach them to stand up for each other. Having a friend to hang with makes it so much easier to ignore the bullies.

I have a child at Jordan, the one HUGE issue is lack of supervision at lunch time. There is often only one teacher out with the kids - a ratio of 1 to 900 or so.

Posted by midtown palo alto parent
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 9:41 am

Just curious does bullying occur in Cupertino schools where there is a significant Asian populations versus palo alto schools?

Posted by YIkes
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2008 at 9:47 am


It sounds like you had complaints about your son. It also sounds like you didn't want to believe your boy was to blame or had a problem. The real problem is parents like you, not your children like yours.

Posted by julie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 10:05 am

ylkes et alia

We never had any complaints about either of our children in pausd.

Our son graduated from Columbia Medical School and is be doing his residency at Stanford.

Both our children learned how to defend themselves at JLS and Gunn, it built courage and character in both of them.
The real world is not fair, the sooner children learn to deal with that reality the better, we did not run to teachers to do our job in raising our children

The anti boy bias is clear in a number of these posts, again girls in middle and high school can be much more cruel.

The term "girly man " is used by the governor of California to describe wishy washy PC males.

If you want to accuse him of bullying go ahead, that will just show how meaningless some peoples definition of the term is.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 22, 2008 at 10:15 am

Good point Julie - I never heard of any bullies who went to COLUMBIA MEDICAL SCHOOL. You must be so proud.

So you apparently did teach your kids that calling weaker kids "girly men" is ok - after all the Guv did it. Ok, cool - we know what kind of standards you have now, and can take your views with an appropriate grain of salt.

I doubt many/any parents think "My kid is a bully - cool." But yet there are bullies. Worth a gut check if you care about these things.

Posted by Parent of 3 boys
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2008 at 10:35 am

As the parent of 3 boys, I would like to say something in Julie's defense here. I have 3 boys who are used to being rough with each other and their father which is something that I was surprised at when it first started at the toddler stage. Boys do seem to give vigorous high fives and slaps on the back as normal greetings and the roughhousing as normal family bonding can seem astonishing to outsiders. I have seen their friends who have no brothers coming to our house and happily joining in. What I have noticed is that when there is only one boy in a family, either because he is an only child or has only sisters, that he has not had this side of him come out before. The parents are amazed that these boys like coming to our house and enjoy the atmosphere and usually realize that it is all done in friendly terms.

What I am saying is that what may be acceptable to some because of the way males bond, may seem unacceptable to others who have not experienced it firsthand in their own homes.

There are many over-protective parents of both boys and girls in Palo Alto, those who butt in much too quickly to protect their children. But there is a difference to being over protective and protecting from bullies.

When best friends or brothers interact in a physical way, it is very different from a "tough guy" taking another's lunch, backpack, or being mean just to make himself look cool to his cronies. It is also very different from the bitchiness of girls who frown on each other's non designer clothes or lack of curves. This sort of behavior is never acceptable and I would not let my boys be party to it.

Julie may or may not have bullies in her family, but at the same time there are some parents who will not let boys be boys.

a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 22, 2008 at 10:38 am



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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 22, 2008 at 10:42 am

I tend to agree with Parents of 3 Boys (and I am a "boy" myself) that boys can be physical and some families are more physical than others. That's fine by me - the issue is respect for others. If you aren't teaching your kids respect, then that leaves the door open for bullying, intended or otherwise.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2008 at 11:19 am

I have two boys and a girl. My boys (Jordan and Paly) say that they don't see any bullying. I know teasing and bullying happen and Jordan and Paly even if they don't see it. When kids or parents say there is bullying at the schools, what exactly are we talking about? Is it one or two situations of inappropriate teasing? or is it daily harassment of the child? So many of our kids (the bully and the victim) have had their parents solving their problems for them and by the time they hit adolescence, they have no social skills or resiliency. As a teacher I find my students who live at a lower socioeconomic level, have better life skills than opposed to the middle class kids I teach, who have helicopter moms (always circling and hovering). We don't help our kids by solving their problems for them and the school cannot possibly cater to the needs of a campus full of kids with no life skills. Unfortunately, the parents who overreact and are hyper-vigilant, ruin it for the kids and parents who have a legitimate complaint.

Read this wonderful article from Psychology Today about Raising a Nation of Wimps:

Web Link

Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 11:44 am

I have 2 boys at JLS and will talk to them about this, but so far no indication of it being a problem for them. One is outgoing and has lots of friends and has a group of nice boys, but when/if I ever hear them say mean things about others I explain why I disagree and for them to think of how the other kid feels . My younger son I do worry about more, small and shy, just a few friends. But he seems to stay under the bullying radar. I know adolescence is a time where many kids don't show the true good person they'll become later, we must help them to make the right decisions and that there are consequences for breaking rules. I wish the boy having such difficulty all the best.

Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2008 at 11:57 am

Clearly, there is enough bullying going on by both sexes to cause concern. Yes, there are ways to deal with it -- i.e. stand up for oneself without resorting to violence -- but maybe some parents don't know enough about the personalities involved to give their children the tools to cope. This is where the schools/teachers enter the equation.

Bullying starts in elementary school and my children have recounted some amazing incidents usually involving the same perpetrators (both girls and boys) time and again. While I'm encouraged that when my children were targeted, they were able to stop subsequent incidents with words that diffused the situation yet showed they were not going to be victims - it was only after some very loooonngg discussions at home on the many options to deal with the perpetrators. That was only possible because we knew the personalities of the kids involved -- and my kids practiced saying these things in their own words so that they were ready.

However, when my son was guilty by association - i.e. he stood and watched while someone else did the bullying - I fully supported the consequences he had to deal with because he didn't stop the bullying. I have been encouraged by the way it's been dealt with by the officials at the elementary school. The same holds true for my daughter's experiences -- so I can't say I'm biased --- both girls and boys bully -- just in different ways.

That said, there are some children who need tighter reigns to make sure school is a healthy place for everyone. It seems to be common knowledge that to really understand what is going on at school, you need to be there during recess and lunch -- when the kids aren't in class and when the perpetrators know the teachers aren't watching. Video cameras are laughable compared to the physical presence of a responsible adult who does not put up with such behavior - an adult who sees and hears what's going on - much like when you drive a carpool and the kids forget that you're present.

In large schools, it's impossible for parents to know all the kids and what makes them tick... it's impossible for parents to give their own kids all the tools to deal with some of these bullies... and unfortunately, when under stress from being actively bullied, some kids (and grown-ups alike) go completely blank and forget all those tools for coping.

Similarly, other kids often are so relieved when they're not targeted that they don't have the courage or thought to stand up for the victim who is.... and so the same perps go along through the school years picking out victims to torment. Unfortunately, the perps. get bigger, stronger, and more clever at concealing their behavior... that's what has me worried.

The schools and teachers are fundamental players in making sure the schools are safe for everyone -- just as fundamental as the parents. We are all on the same team (I think)... let's act like it.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2008 at 12:22 pm

I totally agree that the physical presence of an adult is often enough to deter bullying (or at least reduce it). Again, at Jordan there is often only ONE ADULT watching over all the kids who are not in the library or computer center. No one on the fields, b-ball courts, snack area or near the 6th grade classrooms, just one adult in the main court area.

Posted by julie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 12:49 pm

By the time kids are in middle school parents need to stop being so overprotective or they will raise wimps. see link above

In high school the parents should definitely be off campus during school hours.

The pausd teachers know how to deal with the kids at Gunn and Paly in my experience, the problem is they do not stand up to nervous nelly and disruptive parents.

I believe the whole issue of bullying is grossly exaggerated by helicopter mothers who tie their kids to their apron strings and who think normal roughhouse and mild teasing is something worse.

Kids need to learn to be resilient they do not need pampering in high school

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Yeah, those girly boys with their nervous nelly parents should just suck it up, right Julie? That's what your boys did, and look at them now ;-)

I'm all for resilient children, but seriously, your credibility is kind of low given the tone of your posts.

Posted by another mom
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Julie - you just don't get it. Name-calling (PC Parents) and using the phrase du jour (helicopter parents) don't help add anything to this discussion.
Terman is just an ugly place for some kids. Often, these kids don't say anything to their parents because they are trying to deal with the bullying themselves - they are trying not to be the girly-man or a rat and not tell teachers. They suffer because their darn PC parents haven't taught them to use violence to solve a problem. So they become targeted - not just by one kid, but by a popular gang of kids who roam in packs and pick on kids they don't like that day. And then it goes on and when the victim finally breaks down and reacts - guess who gets suspended? And what is the standard response from the Admin? We don't have enough staff to cover this campus - there are so many places that we can't see.

Unless you've had a kid who's been bullied at a middle school, don't judge those who have. Maybe your son will be the ER doctor when a kid whose bike brakes have been cut in the bike cage ends up in the hospital because he was hit by a car. Kinda hard not to be a "wimp" when you're under car tires.

Posted by julie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:33 pm

another mom

A kid tried to bully my son when he first went to JLS, his father talked to him and told him how to deal with it, he took my husbands advice and that was the end of it. My son dealt with the problem and experienced a boost to his resilience as a result.

There was another incident when he first started Gunn, again he dealt with it himself after talking with us and told the school office how he had dealt with it, end of story.

Now if you are claiming that kids in pausd are attempting murder by cutting brake lines on bikes then you had better be prepared to back this allegation up in a court of law.

If this is untrue then these inflamatory allegations will get you in a lot of trouble.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Julie, you are quite a case. I think you illustrated Another's point pretty well - when she reports her concern, you threaten to punish the victim for complaining about the bully. Nice.

It's funny, I originally thought your "girly man" comment was just a slip of the tongue and you'd be a little chagrined. Now I figure you've raised a family of bullies and might well be one yourself.

Another Mom, I agree, while many kids can deal with it (and most succeed, with or without parent's help) there are certainly instances that require the district to step in. The good principals do manage to do this - the principal at Terman is not one of the strongest from what I hear.

Posted by Gunn Graduate
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:01 pm

I recently graduate from Gunn and am now in college. I remember my years at JLS as being some of the worst in my life, because other students were so cruel and there were constant rumors and gossip going around school. It wasn't just the normal catty behavior you would expect from middle school students, but bullying was persistent, there were horrible cliques, and life was pretty tough. I hated it.

I would encourage any parent who has kids going through this to get their kids involved in things that they love to do, so they can focus on these other things and stay positive. Its important to remind kids to always be good people, no matter what other people do to them. You dont want to be known for being mean or starting rumors, because that will follow you into high school and people don't forget those kinds of things.

Encourage your kids to stay positive and focus on their accomplishments, getting good grades, and doing after school activities. Keep them moderately busy and involved in things that they are really good at so that they can stand out and build confidence. MOST IMPORTANTLY, remind them that it will get better. Its hard for kids to understand this, but it really does get better. People are more accepting in high school, and in college things are really really great (at least for me). This is why I absolutely love college - its must easier to find your niche and people are more accepting and understand overall.

Also, if your kids are really suffering in school, consider switching them to a smaller school or a good private school. I wish my parents had done this with me.

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Mary, "...what exactly are we talking about?" you ask so skeptically. Well, how about totally horrendous name calling and harrassment, I recall the "gay" slur and far worse that my son endured owing to being a rather nonsports type. He runs a fast mile, but has no experience with American sports like baseball and football. For your info, he is is the very top of the US in the arts, which were not appreciated at Jordan. Incidentally, he HAS found these talents and abilities appreciated elsewhere. And by the way, he is not gay. And BTW I was not a helicopter parent during that time at Jordan, but attempted to be supportive from afar. We are go along and get along people. A lot of what the bullies do is unanswerable by a typical kid and really, there is no physical response permitted nowadays. One has to be extemely savvy as a youth to respond effectively, like having a "gang" of friends on hand. I repeat, the adults need to set the tone of the atmosphere at school - a reasonable level of respect for others. Some of us have experience with other places and it isn't always this bad everywhere. Some of us have better manners and better taste. There may be little Johnnies hitting their peers over the head when they are little, but this stuff needs to be corralled by middle school time.

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:08 pm

I attended a seminar a few years back put on by the former principal of JLS, a wonderful man named Joe _____(here I draw a blank, as it wasn't our school) Anyway, this principal took good steps to have the JLS way, a code of conduct for decency in his school and I applaud him for it.

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:08 pm

--the seminar was on school bullying.

Posted by cool off
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:13 pm

After reading through this thread, I understand the message Julie is trying to convey. However, it is being lost in the tone that appears in her writing. If you go back and read your entries Julie, and if you are honest with yourself, you may see the "chip" on your shoulder that is apparent to the other readers; and unfortunately, this masks the true message. It is the parents responsibility to provide their children with the tools to be self-sufficient in the face of adversity.

Posted by midtown parent
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:44 pm

This is a great discussion. As long as parents are aware of these issues and discuss these matters I think Palo Alto district can do great. As long as all parents say No to Bullies. I doubt any parent wants their children to be bullies. Research shows that bullies tend to have difficulties in later life, "serious acts of delinquency and criminal activity. Bullies are also more likely to use drugs and alcohol as adolescents"

I know I don't want my child like this. Hopefully we can teach our children to respect each others differences and be civil in our community. With some boys being aggressive, maybe they can use this in sports etc etc... and redirect them to activities that suits them.

interesting article on parents:
Web Link

Posted by another mom
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 22, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Julie - wow. I'm pretty sure I didn't use the term "attempted murder". Stupid bullying actions do go awry. Although my son didn't end up under the car that cut him off (re-read the post - I was giving you a *hypothetical*), his brakes were tampered with; he couldn't stop so he cut into a curb to avoid hitting the car, totaled his new bike, scraped skin off an arm and because it all happened AFTER school, on his way home, we didn't bother to pursue it with PAUSD because it wasn't on school property. (This was NOT at Terman, it was JLS years ago; I apologize for the confusion).

The kid followed my son home and rode past him, laughing, as my son crashed, clearly pleased with the result of his work. It wasn't hard to recognize him, so we phoned the kid's family and worked out something my son could accept. The mom had no clue that her kid was doing this stuff, but the little brother did (apparently, my son wasn't the first) and backed up my son. I did ask the school to keep a more watchful eye on the bike cages - and yes, I *do* expect that school safety is their job.

"cool off" - nicely put, I like your summation.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I agree most parents don't want their kids to be bullies, but there are exceptions. At the elementary school my daughter attends there is am older girl who is a bully. Her mother thinks her behavior is great because it means she will grow up to be a strong woman. The mom also thinks the teachers complain to her about her daughter because they are jealous that the daughter is popular.

Posted by Crimson Wife
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Julie reminds me of the "entitled" parents in Rosalind Wiseman's excellent book "Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads":

"She won't apologize for her child's behavior. She sees other children as overly sensitive.

•If she or her child does apologize for something, they expect a return apology: 'Well, I'm so sorry that you took it the wrong way.'"

Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2008 at 5:16 pm

I just finished reading the articles in the links above and the subsequent posts. Interesting.

Personally, I try hard to believe even bullies often are grateful (later) that someone is paying enough attention to them to help them stay out of trouble -- that someone actually expects appropriate behavior from them, too.

The challenge is that we live in a hyper-educated community where no one wants to believe their children could possibly take part in such neanderthal-like behavior. (Messing with the bike brakes is far different than short-sheeting someone's bed.) Yes, I'm all for helping kids develop a tough skin to deal with stupidity, but I also think that kids who behave like neanderthals need adults to keep them within the boundaries.

I do not want parents to volunteer at the schools -- I think the schools' staff/faculty should have more presence during the free-for-all periods of the school day. (I remember that all of the schools I attended had some teachers who seemed to have their fingers on the pulse of the students. No one would dare try anything if Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so were around -- and they were usually the cool teachers.)

Most of the bullies my children have encountered are big personalities in small bodies that sometimes burst out at the seams. They need extra help with the reigns.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Cool off,

I can't say that I read Julie's message as benevolently as you do. It's just plain old blaming the victim.

Bullying seems to me to be as much a reaction as anything. The bully tends to react to stress or uncertainty in his or her own life by finding someone else to pick on.

Being bullied is awful, but if you look at the studies it's the bullies who tend to have long-term issues.

I do wonder if it does have something to do with the very high expectations parents tend to have of their kids here. We help create an extremely competitive environment and that's stressful.

Julie, I think your attitude is short-sighted. It's great your kid did well, but kids aren't all alike. What do you recommend for the boys who are "girly-men"--should they accept their victim status since they don't fit your norms?

Do you think there are any bullying victims who don't have helicopter parents or is it always the victim's (and his or her family's) fault?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2008 at 5:30 pm

I just wikipediad (if you can google why not?) the term helicopter parent and the repurcussions into the future are scary as these parents start to manipulate their kids college careers and even into the job market, interfering with salary negotiations. Wow.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2008 at 5:35 pm


Yeah, but I think long-term the whole helicoptering parent thing backfires. You're teaching your kids that they can't take care of themselves. It's a weird phenomena--huge amounts of insecurity if you think about it.

I mean if you're actually teaching your kids how to be adults why would you need to hover over them.

At some point, the kid rebels and then the fun really begins.

Posted by PA Dad
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2008 at 7:51 pm

A few posts back 'Gunn Graduate' takes stock of her experience of JLS middle school, which she (I'm guessing the gender) remembers with horror. "MOST IMPORTANTLY," she advises parents of unhappy middle schoolers, "remind them that it will get better."

Sadly, that seems to represent one strong strain of thinking by people here -- middle school is just inevitably horrible. The best you can do is to know that it will pass.

I'd like to suggest that this is a terrible, defeatist position. Is it really the case that we just have to accept several years of misery for a significant proportion of our children?

Surely, there are alternatives.

If it's the size of the schools that's the problem, make them smaller -- even if it means having two schools on one campus. If it's the school's leadership that can't create a nurturing atmosphere, fire them and bring in better leaders. If it's the teaching style adopted by the school, look at all the research into middle school improvement that been done in the last few years and APPLY it. If it's about not having people around during breaks, get the PTA off its backside and raise money to hire the people required (it's done by some of the elementary schools and makes a HUGE difference to the atmosphere of the school).

"Gunn Graduate' concludes by saying: "Also, if your kids are really suffering in school, consider switching them to a smaller school or a good private school. I wish my parents had done this with me."

That's not okay. If a public school is fostering an environment in which its students are really suffering, it should be the school and not the child that is forced to change.

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Tampering with the quick release on someone else's bike wheel is nothing short of malicious behavior and should be punished. Some things are black and white!

Posted by Katie
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 23, 2008 at 12:11 am

Hello, I do think this is an interesting discussion. I am one of the ones saying that the administration handle bullying well when it happens to my daughter, and I am certainly making sure she learns to take care of herself and take initiative BUT

to Julie and other seemingly doubting parents, when I was in middle school in Palo Alto kids CUT my HAIR, among other things, and one kid actually bit me. I was ostracized because I wore 'k-mart' clothes and shoes and didn't have a fashionable backpack etc."ooh, your family id so poor!" and because I have Aspergers syndrome and didn't fit in. And the teachers didn't EXPRESS CONCERN about it, they said, oh, kids will be kids, learn to defend yourself. But I feel that the single most effective reaction adults have had is, That is terrible, it can't be tolerated, here's what you should do and here's what we will do. There are rules in any school about what behavior is and is not tolerated but if the rules are not inforced that TEACHES bullying.
I'm not talking about an hour long lecture or tattling; I'm talking about setting clear limits and repeating them, and asking for the same standards of conduct from all kids, but in a learning environment with some room for mistakes.

Some of you people seem to have forgotten that we parents have to hang together or we will certainly all hang separately!

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 23, 2008 at 12:49 am

I'd just like to say that being a new mom reading what I may have to face in the future scares me for my child. I graduated in 1997 and thought things of this nature were immature. Yes, I saw lots of bullying and I agree it's not right. It does start at home with the parents. Lack of discipline whether it's intentional or not is the cause. I've read alot of the comments and am extremely disappointed that based on what the parents wrote this is a society that is stubborn and cannot submit to fault. Wrong is wrong and right is right! It seems that many of you LACK Integrity. Re evaluate your family values. Assess yourself and then assess your offspring. I symphatize and emphatize with alot of you.

Posted by JLS student
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 23, 2008 at 12:50 am

Well, I'd just like to say that bullying at JLS isn't really the administration's fault. Most bullying that happens at JLS now usually comes from certain individuals, who are known for bullying. These kids do get punished, but they keep doing it. In my opinion, the administration does a good job of disciplining bullies.

Oh, and to give everyone an idea about the amount of damage that happens at JLS, bikes get stolen from the bike cage almost every week. Being at JLS for a year almost gets you desensitized to stuff like graffiti, name-calling, harrassment, theft, etc.

And the fact that there is 1 adult supervising at lunch-it's true. That's a adult to student ratio of about 1 : 1,000. And it's not even uncommon for bullying to occur right under that supervising adult's nose.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2008 at 5:48 am

Any bullying that would constitute a crime in "the real world" should be reported to the police.

Posted by cool off
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2008 at 9:47 am


It is due to the short-sighted remarks and tone of Julie's messages that stood out from the rest of the messages that compelled me to write. I think if that "chip" (whatever it may be) sitting on her shoulder was masking a very good message: it is the parents' responsibility to provide their children with the tools to be self-sufficient in the face of adversity.

I was not condoning the behavior of the bully nor was I blaming the victim. As a mother of a preteen and teen, I have seen my share of bullying and it has been on the receiving end. In addition, I think many of today's social ills were not created by schools and their administrations, but are the result of permissive or absent parenting. With that said, to improve the situation is more playground/lunch time supervision by staff not parents. Another is for the administration to create an environment where the children know they can come to the staff anonymously with an issue. It sounds as if this has not been created at some of the schools.

Bullying is a manifestation of insecurity created by many factors. As someone pointed out, a bully can be punished and continue with the behavior. Bullying has been around for centuries. Therefore I, and I think Julie was trying to convey, have taught my children tools for this adversity and the ones they will face going forward in life. I hope I have done my job well.

"Some of you people seem to have forgotten that we parents have to hang together or we will certainly all hang separately!" Katie

This also is lacking in society today and contributes to the escalation of a brazen type of bullying. I am sure many of us adults can remember when we would run out of our house to play in a neighborhood where other parents were not afraid to point out to us that our bad behavior was not going to be tolerated. I think many of us are afraid to talk sternly to another parent's child in this fashion.

Posted by mama mia
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 23, 2008 at 11:11 am

I am so glad I found this discussion. I have a son who will be going to Terman next fall and I am so worried for him. I know first hand how cruel kids can be. I went to Fairmeadow, where all the problems started. I also went to JLS back when it was Wilbur. Like Katie posted above, I too was picked on because of the clothes I wore and how I looked. It's hard being a kid and I have already talked to my son about how different middle school is from elementary. I am sad to see that things have not changed since I was in school. I am glad to see the elementary schools adopting the "steps to respect" program..I just wish the kids would take that with them into junior high. I really despise bullies and I hope the schools step up and help protect our children. Unfortunately we can't change the world and can't really change a bullies mentality.

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2008 at 2:33 pm

mama mia, we can't change the world, but as I said before, the adult officials in an academic institution DO set the climate for expected behavior at that institution. There is some variation in the world, all schools are not overrun with bullies. It will fluctuate. I strongly believe that adults must be watchful and adults are in charge, not the inmates of the asylum ;)

Incidentally, I am not aware of harrassment lately owing to clothing differences, there are a few rich fashionista girls out there but neither of my high school kids are clothes horses and I believe they have gotten by OK...rather it is the lack of a dress code at the high school level that may surprise you...some girls wear extremely minimal clothing, extreme miniskirts with high heeled sandals (once they are juniors and don't take P.E. any longer so don't need to have running shoes) which I think is inappropriate in an academic setting where students are supposed to be paying attention to the teacher's lecture.

One are where you will see differences at the high school level is in the CARS that are driven. I have been astonished at times at the luxury vehicles driven at Paly, like a BMW sports convertible driven by a kid who graduated last year. These things inspire a bit of awe. This isn't linked to bullying, I just want to mention that some HS students are overinflated in importance and overly proud owing to material gifts from parents.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2008 at 2:53 pm

Cool Off,

Sorry, not all my ruminations were in response to your comments--just really the first paragraph.

I don't think you can blame bullying on permissive parenting, per se. It's been around a lot longer than that and the best way to get a child who hits is to hit the child. An overly authoritarian upbringing can create a bully--you're teaching a child that force is the way to get and control situations.

(General ruminations)
Is it a parent's job to teach kids how to deal with ugly situations like bullying--yes. But I think one of the ways you deal with bullying is that you confront the situation and work to change it. You don't simply tolerate it.

If we have a middle-school situation where bullying is an issue and isn't held in check--then, damn it, it's also a parent's job to complain and get the situation changed. Bullying may be common, but it's not healthy and it's not inevitable.

One of the mosr useful things I learned about bullying (as an adult) is that bullying needs a certain amount of secrecy--expose it, really expose it, and the bully has a hard time continuing the harassment.
Because, let's face it, bullying makes the bully look worse than the victim when exposed.

Posted by Bought into the Myth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2008 at 4:08 pm

We bought our home here recently thinking that an educated university community would have the best schools for our growing family. It seems we made a mistake and have bought into the myth. I suspect from reading these postings there is a longterm serious issue going on that the school district needs to address. What is the School Board's input on this social problem? How can any child feel safe with a ratio of one adult to an entire school student body at lunch? It seems to me that common sense tells you there are inherent problems with those kind of numbers.

How many families opt for private schools because the public schools are not doing their jobs of keeping children safe to learn?

Bought into the Myth

Posted by Susan
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2008 at 4:23 pm

I raised three children in Palo Alto. They all went to the public schools. My two sons did face bullying, but I told them to fight back. They did. However, my daughter was compeltely stressed with the girl bullies, who used emotional attacks, instead of their fists. She got over it in high school, and she really bloomed there. They are now successful adults, probably stronger for having to face the bullies when they were younger.

I agree that it is a tough time, but I think it is a phase that will be overcome, if the parents do not overreact.

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2008 at 4:27 pm

I have experience with private as well as public schools in CA (just a few, admittedly) as a parent and in my opinion there is much more bullying in public schools.

In my own experience moving out here as a youth, I had not experienced bullying in the midwest in a huge public school but I did a little bit here in Palo Alto. It was immediately noticeable to me that the behavior of my student peers in terms of general rudeness was worse here than back there. There was a lot more respect for teachers back there, we were in huge classes and used to stand up when the teacher entered the room and say "good morning." Few problems, I recall things were orderly. Here, some of the teachers command respect from students, to be sure, and I commend those teachers, however some say "call me Suzie" and they share personal info about their lives which I believe should be kept private. That makes for a different atmosphere in school. BTW, no I am not intending to live permanently in this city in case you were wondering.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2008 at 4:43 pm

A lot of what goes on is because of the differing parenting styles of the parents. When the parent of a child who has been orally tormenting a child for some time who then gets the victim at last standing up for himself and physically fighting in retaliation, then going to the school administration and complaining that their poor innocent child was attacked by another, their child has won. This will happen again and again. When the parent of a bully stands up for the bully by saying that this is what happens in the real world and they are glad that their kid will become the stronger adult as a result, they are sending their kid a message that it is ok to bully.

Time and time again, I have heard, sometimes firsthand, of how the parents of another child have turned a blind eye to the bullying by their child and are the first to complain to the administration of anything done to their own child, shows double standard parenting.

The first mistake any of us can make is to assume that all other parents' standards are the same as our own. Unfortunately, bad parents often produce bad kids and when we can't trust the other parents to be on the same page as us, we can see how difficult it must be for the administration when they call home to carry through on the discipline that they are trying to enforce at school.

Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2008 at 5:17 pm

I know at least a couple parents who thought their more sensitive children would do better in private school. On the hand, I knew at least as many back in Boston who chose private school for that reason and a bunch of others. My sense is that there more economic and ethnic diversity here than in my Boston suburb, as well as more transience, which probably makes it a little rougher here.

Personally we value that. If we wanted uniformity and "safety" we'd have chosen a more homogeneous place or a private school. It's a good school, learning to deal with people not like you. The benefit of diversity outweighs the downsides for us.

On the other hand, when things get rough or systematically bad, the school leadership should be stepping in and maintaining order. We haven't experienced any problems in that regard, but I imagine they happen, and some leaders are better than others.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Spoke to some friends a while back who send their kids to a private school (not PA). They said that as the grade levels got higher they noticed that the newcomers to the school were either those who had been repeatedly bullied at their previous public schools, or were those who constantly got into trouble by mixing with the wrong crowd at their previous public schools and that transferring them to private was the parents final last hope of getting them to change their habits, change their friends, and have a chance of changing their ways before it got too late.
Go figure.

Posted by bullied
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 23, 2008 at 6:09 pm

I had a horrible time in high school with one particular girl..all because she thought I liked her boyfriend. She threatened me every day to leave him alone and I was just friends with him. One day she cornered me in the girls locker room and cut my hair off. I am a very timid person and no one ever taught me to stick up for myself. The whole school laughed and talked about me, but no one offered to help. The girl finally got her satisfaction after that and left me alone. I wish I would have brought it to the schools attention but I was afraid that if I told anyone it would have made her more mad and who knows what she would have done next.

Posted by news
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 23, 2008 at 6:30 pm

Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,

Thank you soooo much for pointing this out:

"A lot of what goes on is because of the differing parenting styles of the parents. When the parent of a child who has been orally tormenting a child for some time who then gets the victim at last standing up for himself and physically fighting in retaliation, then going to the school administration and complaining that their poor innocent child was attacked by another, their child has won. This will happen again and again. When the parent of a bully stands up for the bully by saying that this is what happens in the real world and they are glad that their kid will become the stronger adult as a result, they are sending their kid a message that it is ok to bully.

Time and time again, I have heard, sometimes firsthand, of how the parents of another child have turned a blind eye to the bullying by their child and are the first to complain to the administration of anything done to their own child, shows double standard parenting."

This is exactly what happened to my son at Palo Verde Elementary School. I grew to be so dispirited about things there. He was victimized twice over... first by the original bully who would not leave him alone, then by the bully's parent who went and complained about my "horrible" son when, after having had it, my son "dared" snatch a ball away from her little angel... Then she went and complained to the school teachers/ principal, and my son was brought to tears by the dressing down from the principal.

I found that school to be horrible on that level.

Posted by midtown parent
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2008 at 6:58 pm

I think as parents we have to tell our kids that being a bully is wrong. Parents should educate themselves. A bully is not necessarily a strong child and will not grow up to be a leaders. Research shows that bullies tend to have difficulties in later life, "serious acts of delinquency and criminal activity. Bullies are also more likely to use drugs and alcohol as adolescents"

About bullies article
Web Link

Have the schools any classes to talk about bullies? We have sex-ed why not discussions on "Bullying? why it's wrong and the impact it can have on the victim and the bully". If not maybe the schools should think about this.

Posted by Homeschooler
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2008 at 9:54 pm

As a homeschooling mother I must take issue with homeschooling being described as a "burden." For many homeschooling parents, our lives are truly a joy with nearly complete freedom to educate our children as we choose, with minimal to no bureaucratic hassles, and certainly no bullying.

Don't let your bullied children suffer another day. Pull them out and let the world be your classroom!

Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2008 at 11:49 am

"We bought our home here recently thinking that an educated university community would have the best schools for our growing family. It seems we made a mistake and have bought into the myth. "

Yes, what a sobering thread this has been. But it all begs the question, are all the social problems discussed here any better or worse versus what goes on in other high schools in the area? Is there something about P.A. that makes these bullying problems particularly bad, or would things be even worse in Menlo-Atherton, Carlmont, Aragon, etc.?

Does anyone have any insight into this?

Posted by julie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2008 at 2:16 pm

There is quite a bit of naivety concerning bullying in these posts.

The fact is that a number of leading CEOs who live in Palo Alto and close communities were well know bullies when they were in school and continued this behavior as entrepreneurs.

They are now seen as role models and captains of industry, bullying worked for them.

Leading sports figures are bullies, leading politicians and entertainers are bullies.We see this everyday as do our kids.
Robber barons like Stanford were bullies on they way up, they became philanthropists only when they had enormous wealth.
The reality is that the meek do not inherit this world, maybe the next.

People win by intimidating the opposition and as long as they do not break the law, or get caught, it works. In the long run we will all be dead so they focus on the short run. This is the American way, see the movie "There Will Be Blood".

The way to help our kids is to teach them resilience so they can thrive in an increasingly competitive environment and religious values like compassion for their personal lives.That which does not kill you makes you stronger.
The schools do not teach religion that is for parents and churches.

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Schools CAN set the tone of respect for all in public, they cannot totally legislate behavior in private, but they can lead by example and model correct behavior and set expectations.

Yes, I found differences between PA and elsewhere more PA kids are parent projects so perhaps they focus on themselves more than what you find elsewhere

I dispute that all leaders are strong because they are bullies. Was David Packard a bully?!

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 24, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Ok Julie, you've progressed from maybe a little off to truly wacky now. How were we to know that you actually saw bullying, far from being a problem, as a success strategy? And that "resilience" for you is actually code for being the bully?

Hard to believe you are serious, but if so, good luck to you and your kids.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2008 at 2:36 pm

David Packard was not a bully, he was a doer. Alas, he was replaced by bullies. Aloha, HP way.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2008 at 3:38 pm


I've known a lot of CEOs--and, frankly, while I'd consider a number of them a-holes, they're not bullies per se. Bullying's counterproductive in that it creates enemies where you don't need them. Around here, you need to be able to rally the troops and get them to believe in what you're doing. CEOs tend to be very persuasive as a group (as well as ambitious, driven and competitive.)
but bullies, as a group, underachieve, not over-achieve.

There's also, in Silicon Valley, the whole nerd-CEO group. They tend to be way too interested in computers and such to bother bullying anybody.

I mean, Americans tend to love the idea of the lone gunslinger, but around here, a lot of success is about collaboration and working with others. Bullies, by definition, don't work well with others.

You need to get yourself an up-to-date paradigm.

Posted by Another Terman Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 24, 2008 at 4:30 pm

When we had a problem with bullying at the middle school, we talked with the school counselor and then we had our son talk with her. She also spoke with the child who was giving my son problems. The problem died down and now the two are friends. I don't think it would have worked without the counselor's intervention. In parallel, the vice principal took some extra time to check out the area where my son and the other boy usually ate lunch.

On a larger scale, Terman runs an anti-bullying program called "Let's Get Real" which the children and staff must participate in. Counselors invited parents to a special evening presentation of the program. Unfortunately the parent community showed almost no interest. My sense is that the Terman staff do the very best they can to create a culture which prevents bullying and social cruelty. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect. I believe that most people in the Terman community are sad to hear about the problems Parent at Middle School's child is having.

Parents who feel isolated or afraid for their children have the option to connect with other parents at the Terman Parent Network meetings or on the Terman Yahoo Group online discussion. The next Network meeting is this coming Friday morning. Social cruelty and bullying would be a good discussion topic. Maybe the group could brainstorm ways that families can decide whether or not intervention is appropriate in a given situation.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 25, 2008 at 5:23 pm

As much as being the victim of bullying can have lasting effects on the victims, I worry about the bullies. I don't understand why so many bullies are being allowed to prosper at our schools. Parents of bullies need to recognize that personality and seek counseling immediately for their children if they notice bullying type of behavior. Also, teachers should also contact parents if they recognize bullying behavior during school hours.

As for the victims of bullies, not all of them want to stand up to their aggressors, not because they are afraid, but because they don't see that as an end to their goal-which is often just to be "included" That is what I learned from my child.

Posted by another mom
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 26, 2008 at 2:52 pm

I'm curious (and NOT the original poster) - a few posts back, "Another parent" said that the assistant principal had called her, her son was getting a one-day in-house suspension and the parents were going to talk to their son and maybe apologize to the victim. If you don't mind answering even though it's your own business - did your son apologize? How did the victim react? Did your son learn anything? Maybe we can help our own kids if we get the other perspective. Thanks so much in advance.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Julie, you should probably try to read some books or something. There's one called The Leadership Challenge, by Pozner, who is now the Dean of the business school at Santa Clara University.

What you'll learn is that leadership is about passion, inspiration, motivation, vision, clear communication, persistence. Not bullying.

Look at these two definitions...
a blustering browbeating person; especially : one habitually cruel to others who are weaker

a person who has commanding authority or influence

Both get their way don't they - you are confused about the means to an end. And the difference between long term and short term results. You also may be confused about the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. In any case, you certainly are confused about the difference between a bully and a leader.

You might want to get yourself educated so you can get your kids educated on the difference. Otherwise, they're in for a hard life. Although perhaps you can get them invited to an appearance on the Jerry Springer show.

Posted by Parent of a 7th grader
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2008 at 8:35 pm

This has been an interesting thread. My son experienced bullying at JLS last year but seems to have found his place this year and it has died down. Now I'm afraid he might be participating either actively or by not intervening or just laughing along as others get bullied. He tells me there's a very pesky annoying boy in a class and the kids retaliate by calling him names etc. I've told him not to go along with this but I get the feeling he still might be doing it. I keep bringing it up and problem solving with him. I do not want my son to be a bully. I find it appalling that any parent would be proud of this in their child. Yuck! Julie, sorry. You do sound like one yourself. Maybe some anger management would help.

In elementary school my son was bullied by a boy of a different ethnic background and the school did nothing to help. The principal accused my son of racism because he didn't like being punched! In desperation I finally told him to hit back, which did seem to help. I'd spend so much time telling him to use his words that he refused to defend himself until I gave permission. Being a parent is difficult!

Posted by parent of 7th 9th graders
a resident of another community
on Feb 29, 2008 at 6:08 am

anyone at the school (PTA/administrators) taking proactive action to decrease the bullying? kids can't learn in opppressive environments (duh!)

ck out would the PAUSD middle schools participate in this? could it be a parent driven (PTA) event? it is expensive (3K), but with the population of the school, $2 - 5 per child would be easy to raise...loose change from around the house, car, etc. sounds like there are too many great opportunities in PA and schools to allow them to be undermined so easily and preventively...good luck !

ps. what do the school principals and board say to the bullying problem? sounds like it is going to snowball into a class action by the victims if they don't stand up and do something soon!

Posted by C me around
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 29, 2008 at 11:38 am

The problem is that the PAUSD is ENABLING the teachers to ignore problems that come to light. They have for years scooped up problems and bullied parents into the corners...when parents should have slapped the school district with lawsuits for the lack of action.
Problems are still continuing at Paly High this year. The bullying of parents must cease. Teachers need to respond in a positive, caring manner to those young caring minds who are in need of education that they deserve. TIme for the district to step up to the plate and confront problems with their staff in their teachings.

Posted by Jane
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 29, 2008 at 12:54 pm

This Sunday the New York Times will publish a major article on how the public education system is biased against boys and treats normal boy behavior as pathological. see link Web Link

I see this bias against boys in the PAUSD not so much from teachers but from parents who are helicoptering on their children.
They make no distinction between normal assertive boy behavior and dangerous behavior. They ignore the psychological and social attacks of girls on girls.

In a prior post someone pointed out that a number of local CEOs were known as bullies at school and in business. Anyone who worked at the highest levels in the early days of Intel, Apple, SUN, Oracle or with Venture Capital firms knows this is true.

There is a lot of naive psychobabble about leadership typically espoused by someone who has never met a payroll.

Posted by Parent At Middle School
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 29, 2008 at 3:05 pm

It is our son that who experienced the problem that started this blog. I would like to report that the problem has been corrected but if anything it got worse. We talked to the administration on site, we talked to "Churchill", we decided to take proceed on the "less formal team approach" and proceeded with an onsite meeting for problem solving. Sadly, the principal did not attend said meeting and therefore the paperwork could not be completed at that point.

This all has impacted our sons school day. His schedule has changed. Sad how the schools find it easier to deal with the repercussions to the victim than directly with the students bullying. We changed his class schedule, we made alternate arrangements for his bike, and his safe passage home. What do we do for the kids who do this behaviour? it seems to me the districts emphasis would be better placed responding to the incidents of bullying versus reacting to them in isolated occurances. We were told that bullying is seen as an isolated event at a school by administrators while parents see it as a long continuim of events. In this way, the administration continues the climate of bullying and does not respond to a student in crisis, but merely reacts when parents insist on the issue being dealt with for all of the students. If this is the definiition of a helicopter parent than in that case I am one, as Terman and I suspect having followed these comments that all of the schools in PAUSD need an outside moderator to check on the schools response to bullying and harrasment in the schools. As a question how many times do you let your child navigate an administration's response that consistenly and historically lacks the time, effort and effectiveness to deal with an issue. When would you give up and settle for actions that attempt to solely protect your child versus correct the issue for all of the kids?

I applaud the parent of a child involved that did reach out to us directly. It is what I would have done in the reverse situation.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 29, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Jane, I've met a payroll. I'm not a bully. Have you met a payroll?

And do you know that Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, Scott McNeely, Larry Ellison and John Doerr were all bullies in school? What are your sources for this?

Personally, I think Grove and Ellison are jerks, but I don't think bully is quite the word I'd use. (Though Ellison would get my vote for worst date.) Jobs, of course, was pretty much a drop-out/computer geek.

As Walter Wallis has pointed out neither Hewllet nor Packard were bullies. I'd say there was a certain graciousness to both of them.

So, do you have any first-hand knowledge here (I do.) Or are you just talking off the top of your head?

Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 29, 2008 at 8:25 pm

The schools do not respond to aggressive behaviors- I am shocked at how often bullies are allowed to get away with behaviors- especially when they have parents that bully the principal! We can do better here, but the truth is that PAUSD does not care.

Posted by Jane
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 1, 2008 at 2:36 pm


Yes I do have a lot of experience whereof I speak.

The business experiences made me very wealthy and the network meant I could start, grow, take public and sell my own firm.

I have also had experience in the movie business where a studio chairman explained to me over dinner at Mortons how Hollywood is driven 80% by revenge!

Re HP I knew neither founder, but you are blind and deaf if you think what Carly and the HP board did was, quote, "about passion, inspiration, motivation, vision, clear communication, persistence. Not bullying." close quote.

Business, like nature, is Red in Tooth and Claw.

Ohlone elementary has a great non competitive philosophy which is nice up to age 11 or so, but sooner or later you have to learn to thrive or perish in the real world.

Helecoptering mothers handicap their sons, but I suppose that means there is less competition for the other boys.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 1, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Jane what a delight you are! An inspiration to us all. I've also heard Hollywood called 'high school with money' - now that's aspirational! You'd fit right in ;-)

I hope you, your no doubt lovely family, and all your money find a nice reclusive paradise far away from me!

PS: Dinner at Morton's with the CHAIRMAN - wow, very cool.

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2008 at 5:19 pm

I think Jane's comments deserve a response to bring things back to an equilibrium. The world is not perfect and there are all kinds of people out there and our kids sons AND daughters need to learn to go along and get along, however during the **formative years** (like middle school, under discussion here) it is correct and appropriate that there be a safe educational experience for all, and that includes correct adult oversight to put in place a welcoming, safe atmosphere. Adults run the schools here, not bossy immature boys, and that should be made clear. Jane acts like every place is the same, all ruled by toughs, and I disagree. In some places, there is respect for intelligence, even if quiet-spoken: for examply, some teachers do a great job of including all children in classroom discussions. Through that, some students have gained skills appropriately and learned to be more assertive, as Jane would like. Jane would have it that those who speak out first (yelling, sometimes) should rule the room. Yuck. Being naturally assertive doesn't make you right...

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2008 at 6:11 pm

This helicoptering parents title is one that fits parents of girls as well as boys. And, to some extent this is being made worse by teachers who tell their kids to call home if they forget something and see if your Mom can bring it (your musical instrument, lunch, homework, pe clothes) and also call home and see if your Mom can drive for a field trip tomorrow or other short notice requests.

To some extent we are now almost expected to helicopter parent our kids because those of us who do not, are ending up making our kids feel disadvantaged.

This does not condone a parent who keeps on butting in on sorting out the arguments a child gets caught up in or always complaining to the admin about how dear Johnny or Jane is being treated.

Helicoptering whether good or bad in itself is not the issue. My experience is that bullies are often children of bullies, one or both parents. The parents of bullies can seldom be reasoned with, one or both parents, seems to think that the way their kid is acting is perfectly acceptable. Don't always blame the bullies themselves as they are often getting a bad lesson from home.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2008 at 6:37 pm


And how did Carly do? Oh, yeah, she was fired--in part because she didn't manage people well. Though you know how she behaved in high school because? Does she say something about being a bully in her bio?

Hmmm, it says here she attended five different high schools, including some abroad. Was she a bully at some of these high schools or all of them? Which ones?

Are you excusing your own bullying behavior or your son's, perhaps? Because that's what it sounds like.

But basically, you took the unstable realm of Hollywood and assumed that Silicon Valley works the same way. Sorry, it's less exciting than that.

Let's see--Hollywood import Terry Semel out at Yahoo! which is now up for grabs by Microsoft. On the flip side, Steve Jobs' Pixar and its amazing run of successes.

The dog-eat-dog paradigm of Hollywood doesn't work well here because the nature of the business is very different. You can't afford to have your programming talent walk off en masse. You can't afford to have them be unmotivated and disengaged if you need them to work 24/7 on the next big thing. Thus laundry service at Google. No excuse to leave the "campus."

Just for the fun of it, I Googled bullies and entrepreneurs--couldn't find a thing to back up your claim--though bullies do have a poor long-term prognosis.

But, anyway, in other words, you couldn't back up your claim. You didn't know about the backgrounds of any of the CEOs about the companies about which you made claims (I mean, I think Andy Grove may have been too busy trying to survive being Jewish in Europe during WWII to spend a lot of time bullying in his youth.)

I called you on it--and you lost, embarrassing yourself in the process. I mean, you lost to one of those cooperative Ohlone types. How embarrassing for a red-tooth-and-claw type like yourself.

They just don't make alpha females like they used to, I guess.

Posted by Sheesh
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2008 at 12:27 am

Just reading through this thread with its pastiche of experiences and thoughtful insights, I was brought up short by only two, Jane and Julie. The self-inflated, unintentionally funny and utterly nauseating braggadocio of those two; the off-putting assumptions that their heavy-handed wielding of some rather conventional, undemonstrable and shallow achievements gives their mean-spirited opinions weight...

Why do some people conclude that because their children survived the toxic parenting style inflicted on them and managed to function well, that they actually thrived on it? That these were somehow wise or positive parents? I shudder to think what Julie's physician son will finally disgorge in his middle-aged memoir after a lifetime of trying to overcome..... but then I am a novelist, and my imagination might be creating a fictional outcome. Perhaps he will only end up a numb drone after enduring mothering like that. Or --- horrors --- the kind of doctor we all dread finding ourselves in the hands of...particularly "girly men" told to tough out their broken limbs with Advil, that sort of M.D.

As far as Jane's ersatz-sounding nugget of red-meat-fueled Hollywood "executive wisdom" (sounds like her career peaked then and there) Gee whiz! Nobody's ever heard that before! And that is relevant to what? That tough-minded people short on compassion and empathy actually do better in life? That bullies grow from tormenting their peers in middle school to helming Hollywood studios and global enterprises? That bullying and being bullied is excellent training for changing society through innovation? A fond fiction.

What actually happens in real life to all those bullies who don't make "chairman" is that they grow up to make their families and colleagues that much more miserable on this planet. Sure, Jane and Julie, let your kids bully at will. Reinforce any sadism you see; in fact, defend and rationalize it. Attack and diminish their victims. Mock and sneer at concerned parents with labels like "helicopter". And most of all, shore up the bullies with platitudes about what an unrelenting place the world is. Convince them that bullying is actually a good thing, a positive preparation for success. But you might want to give a thought now and then to their own kids, the kids of the ones you raised so well, waiting through the years to finally say "thank God that old bastard is gone."

Posted by Ideas...
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 2, 2008 at 10:15 am

Bullying exists at the middle school level. Even with your best efforts, there will be some form of bullying. It may be physical; it may be verbal; it may be a popular girl giving out invitations to everyone in their 1st period class except for that one kid in the front row. There was bullying when I attended PA schools. There is bullying when I was a teacher at PA schools. So what do we do about it?

1) Raise awareness. This means "Let's Get Real" and Challenge Days and encouraging our staff to form "girls groups" and "best buddies" clubs. PAUSD has great counselors that can be a part of this process.

2) Zero Tolerance. If you bully another student, there is a consequence. This does not mean there isn't a teachable moment here; there always is. I encourage the student to face their bully and I make it clear that it stops now. I appropriately turn the tables on the bully and suggest situations where they may feel bullied... and how they like it. This works for some students but not all.

3) Parent Involvement. This can either be a huge positive or it can erase any gains we've made thus far with the child. It is my hope that the parent is completely supportive and that they recognize the problem. I wish for them to work along side us as we stamp out bullying one issue at a time. This is not always the case. If so, a different conversation is held with the parent about the seriousness of the bullying and possible future consequences that may arise.

4) Action by the entire Staff. Yes, teachers are overworked. Yes, administrators have too many job duties. Yes, the counselors often fill the parent piece that may be lacking at home. No matter. As a staff, you decide to stand together against bullying. Teachers give up their lunch periods to help supervise. Administrators are out in the halls during passing periods. Counselors continue to reach out to families affected by bullying. This should be the school's goal.

These are just four of the steps needed to lessen bullying. Kids will still be kids to some extent. However, there is a difference between a kid being a kid and a kid being a bully. It really is the team that needs to come together to make it happen.

For parents interesed in working with the school to address this issue, please contact your administrators. Work with the PTA to have workshops and speakers inform the community on how to end bullying. Speak with your child and keep those lines of communication open. Make an appointment to see your child's school counselor. Advocate for your child, but be aware that they may have a part in the situation (per earlier posts).

Things not to do: Ignore the situation; Write comments on a public message board without any follow-up action; Assume that schools aren't working on this issue.

Just some thoughts... I deal with these issues day-in and day-out. It is not just PAUSD having bullying issues. From seminars and presentations I've attended, this is a NATIONWIDE issue. Feedback, as always, is appreciated.

Posted by Another mom
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 2, 2008 at 10:19 am

Sheesh: Good writing; I'd read your novels anytime!

I have gotten to the point of thinking that Jane and Julie were 2 noms de plumes of the same unfortunate soul. They now bore me - they've received the attention they crave by acting like ..oh, let me think...bullies? I feel for their kids.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 2, 2008 at 1:06 pm


Great ideas. Bullying needs to be not acceptable at the same time, kids need to learn effective strategies to cope with things--and that includes the bullies.

I read that the playground is the most common place for bullying--so the lack of adequate adult supervision does make a big difference.

Re: Jane

The funny thing to me about Jane (well besides the Morton's meal) is that she seems to have some of those helicoptering traits she claims to despise. I mean, we know she's the mother of a boy because she's whining about how unfairly boys are treated. She's so invested in her kid's success that she writes as if *she* were competing with her son's classmates--in a zero-sum game at that. Yep, you gotta get those 11-year-olds competing in the "real" world of middle school. You know darn well that she's a parent who has no idea how to accept criticism of her kid--something for which she's damning other parents. Any criticism of her son's behavior is read as bias against boys. (Whine, whine).

Posted by jane
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 2, 2008 at 2:37 pm

The extensive article in todays New York Times supports my view on how boys are disadvantaged by the public school system see link Web Link

As I wrote previously I support the Ohlone philosophy of non competition up to 11 yrs or so, we will see how it survives the MI invasion.

The definition of bullying seems to be whatever the poster thinks it is.
PAUSD teachers know how to deal with serious violation of conduct and they do.
A loose definition of bullying will just create a cottage industry for underemployed psychotherapist pushing snake oil.

If parents are concerned about their kids fragility they should encourage them to join the Boy Scouts or , heaven forbid, bring in the ROTC to our schools.

Some people have a very naive view of Silicon Valley. It runs by the same rules as Wall Street, Hollywood and Detroit. Business is business.

Listen, in any publicly traded company their are around 7 seven people who have legal and fiduciary responsibility for the firm.
These people are very driven to win, they have to be.

They live in a context or exstream fear and greed coming from investors and threats coming from the competition.

People at that level do little collaboration with peers, they cannot,its against the law-- the anti-trust laws--.

Of course they talk the language of collaboration to those down the organization, they want them to be productive, to behave and be motivated.

At the top of the house its all about money and deals.

I am not saying anything new here, it was said before by Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes, Ann Rand ,Milton Friedman Web Link

and many others.

In terms of the past behavior of SV CEOs its well documented in the archives of San Jose Mercury News, Wired etc.

History is written by the victors and they tidy things up.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Jane - I don't think kids are being fragile if it bothers them to be told they are stupid and ugly, are pushed into lockers, are dumped into garbage cans, kicked out of games or off a spot they are eating lunch. Some behavior is inappropriate at school and in the board room. Doesn't mean that is won't happen, just that it shouldn't.

Posted by Peter S
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Interesting article about CEO bullies in silicon valley see link Web Link

with role models like these no wonder our kids behave the way they do

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 2, 2008 at 4:07 pm

Thank God some of us have a broader definition of "winner" than Jane. True, by her account, you can win by being Larry Ellison, having a bunch of women and a bunch of $$$.

(And only a childhood bully can grow up to be a "winner?")

Off the top of my head, I suppose she dismisses those who hold valuable patents, or who have discovered life-saving medicines or whatnot, because after all they are not the top 7 who have a fiduciary duty at some publicly held corporation, so they are not at the supposed very "top." So - only those who get to the top 7 position have any value in our society?

I am not against being driven to accomplish, it is interesting that Jane speaks in terms of being driven to win, as if life always has a win/lose situation. How about the woman (Maya Lin, I believe) who created the great Vietnam war memorial in D.C., she "won" the contest to design it but I have never heard that she bullied her competitors to win the competition, I believe she has impeccable behavior and ethics. In my book, Maya Lin is a winner.

Posted by pa dad
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 2, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Actually, I do think a child is being fragile if it bothers them to be told they are stupid and ugly.

(To forestall off-base interpretations and conclusions, I will categorically state that I think it's a bad thing, and I never have called someone stupid and ugly and will continue to try my best to prevent my kid from every calling someone stupid and ugly.)


Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 2, 2008 at 9:20 pm


I'd agree that there are plenty of SV CEOs who are assholes, but being an asshole doesn't mean you physically or verbally abused weaker kids in your youth. Larry Ellison, for instance, is boastful, self-important and extremely competitive. A jerk, in fact. But a former schoolyard bully? No evidence of it.

Steve Jobs is arrogant (though better behaved than he was), volatile and charismatic. Credit-grabber? Yes. Bully? Again, no clear evidence.

Mike Malone, by the way, is a well-known asshole in journalism circles.


Anti-trust laws have nothing to do with collaboration within a company. Do you even know what anti-trust laws are? It doesn't sound like it.

Detroit is a mature industry that's lost its edge globally. Hollywood is a piece of a bunch of conglomerates.

Silicon Valley differs from both of them in that it has never permanently settled into three mature corporations. There are mature corporations here, but there also continue to be start-ups galore.

Lots of places have tried to replicate what goes on here, but not succeeded. Meanwhile, this area is going on 50 years as a center of technological innovation (and marketing those innovations). Ever thought about why this is? It's not the weather--it's the network. The money and the skilled labor are here.

The not-bullying isn't about being "nice" or "good"--it's simply not that effective when talent is at a premium--and that talent can go somewhere else. And innovation here is the result of teamwork--that may interfere with your gooey-eyed "Ann" Randian vision of the lone gunslinger/architect--but again, the speed of innovation requires that kind of set-up.

Your interpretation of Hobbes, by the way, is dead wrong--Hobbes felt we needed civilization so we wouldn't behave in a brutal manner. He didn't favor it.

It's interesting to me that you didn't cite one person who even had a chance to be knowledgeable about technological innovation and how and why it occurs. Your recommendations of what to read shows a similar lack of depth.

Your interpretation of the NYTimes article goes along with your bias. You read it as an article about how boys are at a disadvantage in public schools. The article's actually about teaching boys and girls separately. It says that there's debate about whether there's any falling off with middle-class and up boys--the area where performance is a big issue is with disadvantaged kids. If you read the article a bit more carefully, you'll realize that some of the claims made are weak--i.e. the assumed difference in hearing between boys and girls is based on one study of grown men and women.

You froth at the idea of psychologists coming in and making money on the issue of bullying, but you're touting an article that's largely about a guy who can be seen as creating an issue where one may not exist. (In other words, girls catching up to boys was turned into boys have a problem. Break it down a little more carefully and you get middle-class girls caught up to boys. Poor girls are doing better than poor boys. Poor boys have a problem in school.)

One of the advantages of the Ohlone Way, by the way, is that working in groups helps kids to think things through when they discuss things with one another and negotiate solutions--better critical thinking skills result. Ideally, you don't get this kind of closed-system thinking--where you interpret things in a way that supports what you need to believe.

Posted by Webber
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2008 at 9:58 pm

So in PA Dad's opinion, a "strong" - i.e. "non-fragile" - child is one that endures verbal abuse unfazed and unperturbed.

You won't find many of those around, or adults, for that matter.

Posted by Midtown mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Great comments, "Sheesh!"

Glad to see there are a few folks with sense around here.

Just to add my 2 cents: Both my boys went through Jordan, & are now @ Paly. They both saw bullying constantly - both physical & verbal - and one of my boys was also a victim when he tried to help another student he witnessed being bullied. When I went to admin @ Jordan with it, their response was a shallow joke. Nothing but meaningless lip service.

Bullying, & the "Boys will be boys," type mentality seen here by misinformed & misguided parents, is a huge issue in PAUSD. Just when teachers & admin will find the courage to step up to the plate is good question.

Posted by Peter S
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 3, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Bob Sutton form Stanford has done extensive research on CEO bullies see linkWeb Link and written a book on the topic.

Most of the posters on this topic seem to be women.

As a father who has put three children through the PAUSD here is my view.

The issue of bullying in PAUSD is exaggerated and a product of
"a cottage industry for underemployed psychotherapist pushing snake oil."
to quote June.
In my experience the transition from elementary to middle school is particularly difficult for mothers, their kids are becoming more independent and this plucks their heartstrings, they can become overprotective and unwittingly meddle with their childs development, this can be a particular problem for boys.

Fathers can be help by supporting their sons independence and teaching them how to thrive in a more competitive environment.If the kids do not learn to handle the rough and tumble of middle school themselves they will come to be seen as sissys and wimps and this label will stay with them through high school.

I have found the PAUSD very competent at dealing with conduct problems at school and very tolerant of parents meddling, often too tolerant.
I have seen parents bully teachers out of concern for their kids fragility.

I do not think June is being very diplomatic, particulary in an ultra liberal community like Palo Alto, but her points about business are quite valid and incisive.

Business is not a democracy.

There is nothing magic about Silicon Valley anymore, India, Singapore and other parts of Asia and Europe are hot on our heals.
The investment dollars will follow the opportunity.
We become complacent at our peril.

Posted by Mother
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Peter S

Thank you for your comments. I am sure that you are a great father and respect what you have said.

I speak on this subject as a Mother who has seen too many boys in our schools the products of workaholic or weekend fathers. I think that if many of our boys had fathers who would rough and tumble with them, spent evenings together doing fun things, and didn't push their sons into sports they weren't interested in, it would help a lot.

There are many single parent families where the fathers role is minimal to non-existant and many mothers are trying to fill both roles, not a good idea. Then there are the fathers who are trying to relive their own youth by making their boys try out and do all the sports that the fathers enjoyed, and then tried to run the teams as well as umpire/ref without actually wearing the right shirt.

There are few places for a mother to learn to mother but we are all trying to do the best we can. There are even less places for men to learn to father, but unfortunately they either try too little or aim to live their sons lives. A little help for men would be ideal.

Peter, you sound the exception.

Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 3, 2008 at 3:39 pm

is Peter S a PR representative for PAUSD?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 3, 2008 at 9:34 pm


Checked the blog--doesn't say anything about the CEOs of the companies named by Jane. Does it say anything about these CEOs having been bullies in school? Remember what Jane's claim was?

Bob Sutton does, however, seem to spend a lot of time pointing out why behaving badly as a boss is a poor management strategy. In other words, he and I agree.

I've never said Silicon Valley wasn't competitive, merely that bullying is not an effective management style when a company's assets have legs.

Like Jane, instead of backing your assertion up (admittedly you've made an attempt, but the blog to which you linked doesn't actually address the issue here--or Jane's claim that SV CEOs were bullies in their youth) you're veering into name-calling.

Oh, and mother-blaming. Well, at least blaming mom is an old, if not venerable tradition.

I expect the schools don't want bullying. It also sounds like, though, that there is little yard supervision at the middle schools. The schools are also overcrowded and competitive. Not surprising that kids act out inappropriately.

Some of what's been described here--damaging a bike's braking mechanism goes beyond all-in-fun hijinks or an overreaction from a protective parent.

I don't understand blaming the victim in this instance as your comments implicitly do. Is it really all right with ultra-conservatives for a kid to damage another kid's bike so that he has an accident?

Posted by wake up people!
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2008 at 7:00 pm

If only HALF the thought and energy of all of the inane posts above went into actually supporting the schools and the students, you would then certainly have students able to take on the future global economy.(of which, if you haven't noticed, we (the U.S.) are no longer a leader of!) While everyone pontificates about their own pet theories of "Lord of the Flies" wins or loses, the world is passing you by people. Wake up! Be responsible adults and teach your children to be decent and fair human beings TO EVERYONE. Practice doing so yourselves. As parents and teachers your primary priority is to love the children of your community, teach them to be honorable people who value their lives and gifts of intelligence and prosperity, to be charitable to the less fortunate, to smile and treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated yourself.... Martin Luther King, Jr, Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, anyone getting this??? stop arguing, come together, help and care for your kids...because ultimately they will be the ones caring for you. Aid and enpower the victims, find out why the bullies are so insecure and scared they need to harm other weaker kids to feel confident. Doesn't sound like any future industry or world leaders coming out of Palo Alto to me, sounds like a bunch of neglected kids suffering from their parents' egos and in dire need of saving...

Posted by leigh.metzler
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 5, 2008 at 4:42 pm

If you are a member of PAMP (Palo Alto Menlo Park Mother's Club) and you are interested on taking on this topic, please contact me at

I am presenting to the board of directors tonight a plan to educate parents about teasing and bullying. A training program for play group coordinators so that we can get kids started with a good base for empathy. A program for kids so that they have skills to address bullying when they experience it.

We are seeing teasing and bullying start in 3 year olds. The sooner we address these issues in the lives of our children, the better.

If you would like to do more than just blog, please contact me.


Posted by Mother of Jordan student
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2008 at 9:54 pm

THANK YOU!!!!! to "wake up people!"

Would you consider moving to our community & running for the school board, or city council?!?!?!? Do we ever need someone like you...........

Posted by Jane
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 6, 2008 at 11:28 am

Before we institute more social engineering programs we should do an objective needs review.

There may in fact be no problem to solve, I think the whole issue is a product of the psychotherapy industry looking for more work and profit.

remember that whole " recovered memory " disaster they invented in the 1990s.

Posted by Mama
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm

We lived in a different state and my son was bullied for months (they would tackle him from the back)and we did not know it until he began waking up at night and couldn't fall back to sleep. I think he didn't want to tell us because he didn't want to worry us. We transferred him to another school, which is unfortunate to have to do.

But I agree with "Mother", that there are too many absent fathers these days. Boys need a father figure and children always care about what their parents think even if they say they don't. That doesn't solve the question about what to do if your child is bullied, unfortunately.

But I agree with another person who said that her son was assaulted at school and then her son, the victim, hit back and got detention. I have heard that this is the policy and think it is absurd. I suppose they don't want it to escalate, but that is hard on a self-esteem to not be able to defend oneself.

My son slammed a boy into the lockers in 3rd grade, after weeks of receiving name-calling. The boy apologized and continued to apologize for days. That's the old-fashioned way of handling things.

Posted by Spitzer was a bully
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Eliiot Spitzer was a known bully. When the facts first immerged about his link to the prostitution ring, the silence was very telling. No one came to his defense. No friends, colleagues, etc. Let him have his just due. The response is in stark contrast to a beloved community leader who falls on the other end of the bully spectrum. A community is ready to rally in support - facts be damned - for such a community leader.

What goes around comes around. To the proud parents of school bullies: I hope your kids are tough enough to suffer the eventual consequences, and I hope those around them - their families and close friends - are tough, too.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Silence? - the article in Yahoo yesterday said that the trading floor of the NYSE broke out in gleeful laughter at the news. Several quotes in that artical from people basically saying that this guys' fall from grace and public humiliation is well deserved and being celebrated. Pretty much people dancing on his grave. Yes, certainly something to aspire to.

Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2008 at 4:42 pm

"Wake up People" - Right on!

Posted by PAUSD teacher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2008 at 12:52 am

"The problem is that the PAUSD is ENABLING the teachers to ignore problems that come to light. They have for years scooped up problems and bullied parents into the corners...when parents should have slapped the school district with lawsuits for the lack of action."

Wow, as a PAUSD teacher, I was floored to see this-- nothing could be further from the truth. Every year at my school all teachers have gone through extensive staff development to help us deal with bullying, harassment, name-calling, all of it-- we are continually being supported and encouraged to see and curtail bullying in all its forms, and to make our schools and classrooms "Safe and Caring" environments for all students. It's not just talk-- the administration at my school backs it all up with campaigns addressed at educating students, providing peer helpers, setting up opportunities for students to feel ok about coming forward, and more...

We also have statistics to back up our claim that all of this seems to be helping. Reports of bullying are less at our school. And since we started, reports of bullying at the high school have lessened, too-- dramatically. That gives us even more motivation to continue the campaign.

The biggest obstacle is getting the students themselves to speak up when something happens, because 98% of the time it happens when teachers/adults don't see it. Most middle schoolers, even those raised by "empowering" parents, cave to peer pressure about not telling on other students-- for fear of looking uncool, for fear of reprisal, for lots of reasons. So we're trying really hard to let kids know that they have options, that there are in fact adults who care and will help them... And, we're trying to give kids tools for helping themselves as well... And trying to create a positive, nurturing culture on campus, where kids will tell other kids that bullying isn't cool.

It's a tall order, but we feel very strongly that we must nurture the whole child-- not just teach content.

So your statement must be about some other place, some other time-- it certainly isn't true of my school, or PAUSD in general for that matter.

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 18, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Jimmy Kramer (Mad Money) went on the Today Show and cried in an embarrassing way as he semi-defended, semi-excoriated his old buddy from Harvard,Eliot Spitzer. It was awful. Spitzer is an unpleasant, egomaniac bully, and he is UGLY!

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