STICKS AND STONES by Emily Bazelon


Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy
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A nuanced approach to the epidemic of bullying in American schools.

In 2009, Slate senior editor Bazelon began writing articles about cyberbullying. She shared in the growing concern about how social media can amplify the effects of bullying. After writing the first few articles, her focus shifted.  While cyberbullying is “changing the nature of teenage bullying,” it is still “a new incarnation of an old phenomenon.” Probing further, the author realized that bullying is more complex than she originally thought. She explores the part normally played by aggression (when teens jockey for social position) and contrasts this to occasions when a disparity in power exists (and could signify bullying). Failure by both parents and schools to intervene in order to protect victims on the one hand, and overreaction on the other, can lead to bullying. In extreme situations, complex legal issues involving the responsibility of school authorities may arise (including potential criminal charges when violence occurs). Bazelon also considers the way that the prejudices of school personnel or the broader community against people who defy conventional gender roles can tacitly encourage victimization. The author uses three major case studies to exemplify issues. The first illustrates how overreaction by a mother when her daughter was mocked led to an escalating situation. In the second, school authorities tacitly countenanced the abuse of gay teens, who successfully sued for violation of their constitutional rights. Lastly, a tragic suicide involved a girl whose detractors were charged with murder, even though they had no direct involvement in her death. In the concluding section, Bazelon surveys promising new approaches to dealing with bullying, and the appendix includes fact sheets and a resource guide.

A convincing case against media hype and a premature rush to judgment.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-8129-9280-9
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2013


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