On Dec. 27, 2011, 15-year-old Staten Islander Amanda Cummings walked in front of a bus on Hylan Blvd, ending her young life. Police say it was deliberate, as they found a suicide note her in pocket. Six days later, she succumbed to her injuries.
Some of her relatives allege that bullying at her New Dorp High School was partially to blame. Her family has recently spoken out against the individuals in her high school who had maliciously picked on her through the media and on Amanda's Facebook page. However, the police have not made any arrests so far. A memorial Facebook page was created in her honor. Shockingly, the bullying does not appear to stop. The site is being filled up with nonsensical pictures and bickering from posters.
This is to all you evil son of b***** that picked on, talked about and threatened my baby, I HOPE YOU DIE and I HOPE YOU SUFFER, her mother allegedly wrote on her page. It appears, however, Amanda's Facebook has been removed.
Bullies are bullies because they themselves are insecure and want to make others feel their pain!!!! I hope this pain eats at them inside for the rest of their lives, wrote an individual on the fan page.
Bullying has become a major issue in schools across the United States after several high profile incidents. The deaths of Phoebe Prince and Tyler Clementi, whose suicides were attributed to bullying, have sparked outrage through the nation's communities. Tough laws have been passed in states such as New Jersey in order to curtail bullying in schools. But what is bullying and what are the warning signs friends and family need to look out for?
Bullying can be defined as repeated and malicious acts, done to make another feel bad about him- or herself. It is extremely difficult to eradicate and can be extremely detrimental to a teenager's mental health, especially for high school kids where status has so much importance, Dr. Carl Shubs told International Business Times' Crimes of New York. Shubs is a trauma-certified psychologist in Beverly Hills, Ca., who helps victims cope with the events they have experienced. Although he never spoke with Amanda, he said, based on the reports it sounds like she felt very alone and isolated at school.
Allegedly, Amanda has posted depressed comments on Facebook and statements of potentially ending her life. Dr. Joel Haber, a bully expert from White Plains, N.Y., says it is important for friends and family to immediately act on these warning signs.
We have to take those things really seriously, says Dr. Haber. If a friend sees someone act like that, reach out.
Dr. Shubs agreed with this assessment.
People may be often tempted to think it is a cry for attention, when it is a cry for help, he says. Any talk of suicide needs to be taken seriously.
Bullying can greatly hinder a teenager's social life and delicate psyche. In extreme cases, it gives a teen a feeling that they are trapped.
They are not able to fight back in a way that helps them to feel safe and secure, says Dr. Shubs.
Dr. Haber says that teens who are bullied want support from other teens. They want to feel like they are not alone. Bullied teens want to feel like they have a safe to place to turn. Dr. Haber explained that other teens may be hesitant to speak up out of fear they will be bullied next. However, teens can provide support in others, even by speaking with the victim afterwards and providing comfort.
The goal always is to create trusted people that kid's feel they can go to, Dr. Haber says.
Social media and the Internet may have exacerbated the problem of bullying. While ten years ago a teenager would only face problems at school, now they log onto their Facebook page or sign-in to their email and see more attacks.
It becomes much more public and much more easily spread, says Dr. Shubs. Dr. Shubs says the there is less control on the Internet. Negative comments on a Facebook could lead to very selective listening and selective responsiveness.
Dr. Haber says the Internet gives teens more opportunities to be mean to one another, however, it also gives a teen hard evidence that bullying is occurring.
Print everything you have and bring it to an adult, he says. It is important not to engage a bully on the Internet, he says.
The whole goal of bullying is make people feel bad. What most bullies want is some sort of reaction to make sure, they are getting to the victim, says Dr. Haber.
Part of the problem, is that, in fact, cyberbullying itself is not a crime--at least not yet. But On Jan. 4, New York state senator Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) introduced a bill that will do just that--criminalize cyberbullying.The state senator told PIX11 News in an interview from the state capitol building in Albany that his introduction of the bill would make it possible for police to act against such perpetrators.
Potentially someone who commits the crime of cyberbullying could do up to a year in jail, he told the station, and mentioned the Cummings' case specifically. His office as also launched a survey for victims to fill out in the hope of getting better state-wide statistics on this problem.