It can be physical, emotional, social or cyber. It’s always mean and deliberate. 


When Kimaree Long, mother of two, received a call from Lusher Charter School informing her that her 12-year-old son was being targeted with homophobic slurs and aggressive bullying at school, she was shocked


 “He has always marched to the beat of his own drum,” Kimaree says of her son. She has worried about his emotional and physical well-being for some time. Still, she had always hoped that if he ever encountered bullying, she would be the first person he would go to for support.


“My greatest fear is that he won’t share his experiences with me,” Kimaree says. “I am trying to raise a child who is confident in himself and who doesn’t get his ass kicked along the way.”


  The aggressor, another boy in the class, had targeted her son repeatedly over the course of several weeks—actions that eventually led her son to leave class abruptly, walk to the principal’s office, and break down in her presence. It was only then that Kimaree was made aware of the situation.


 When Lusher learned of her son’s experience, they suggested a mediation in which both boys would sit together, along with a mediator, to discuss the comments made. Kimaree was leery of putting the aggressor and her son in the same room.


Social worker and clinical supervisor for Broadmoor Community Care Annamaria Villamarin-Lupin says there has been a shift in focus in how counselors and social workers approach bullying, moving away from the no-tolerance approach in which the bully may be punished without much discussion, to a more dialogue-centered model.


  “If you don’t create any space at all for the discussion, then you’re not really addressing the problem,” Annamaria says. “There isn’t any room to grow and there isn’t any room to empower the people who are being bullied.”


Thankfully, the mediation seemed to work for both Kimaree’s son and the bully. The school stressed to Kimaree that at this age, kids are still young enough to feel the empathy that is sometimes lost when they get older. Kimaree has since seen the two boys speak to each other without anger, fear, or insult.


The incident itself prompted Lusher to add a new feature to their school hallways which could help prevent bullying in the future: now outside each classroom is a “tip” box for third-party witnesses to bullying and negative behavior.



physical, emotional effects

In 2008 the Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center reviewed dozens of international studies of bullying and found that victims of bullying were two to nine times more likely to think about suicide than their non-bullied peers; beyond that extreme, they regularly experienced more physical and emotional trauma.


 Another local mother, Laura*, saw bullying used as a tool of power by an individual to control and manipulate an entire group. Last year, her daughter Taylor* was suddenly “dropped like a hot potato” by a friend at their single sex school.


“That wasn’t a problem,” Laura says. “The issue came after that. This girl seemed to want to take Taylor down a notch or two. It wasn’t enough that they weren’t friends. She wanted my daughter’s friends.”


   Laura soon learned a term used frequently in all-female communities. Her daughter was dealing with a “Queen Bee”—the leader of the pack.


 “She started taking friends that had been my daughter’s friends for years,” says Laura.


Suddenly, Taylor was without any friends of her own.


“My daughter felt like she couldn’t have friends unless this girl allowed it,” Laura says. “It was social isolation.”


 It was the school that first described the bully as a Queen Bee, revealing that Laura’s daughter was not the only target—that this particular bully had a history of tormenting other girls at the school. Administrators eventually separated the girls so that they did not share classes and the counselors incorporated the idea of the Queen Bee mentality into their life skills course.


 Still, Taylor was miserable.


   “It got to the point where my daughter didn’t want to go to school and was suffering extreme anxiety,” Laura says. “My husband and I talked to the principal to say we were at a point where the girl is ruining Taylor’s experience at school and if something didn’t change, we would have to take her out of that school.”


As of this writing [late-July], the bully remains enrolled at Taylor’s school. Laura and her husband have yet to decide whether to pull their daughter out. Taylor meanwhile has developed a nervous tick from the level of anxiety experienced from this bully.



taking action

Annamaria says girls are particularly prone to this type of social-emotional bullying.


“Boys tend to be more aggressive, more immediate in their attacks,” she says of gender differences in bullying. “Girls know where to stab because they know what hurts. It’s more emotional.”


 Kelly* experienced a destructive experience with a Queen Bee in her daughter’s private school. Her daughter Meghan* was transitioning from fifth to sixth grade when one of the girls took control of the group.


“It was one of those situations where one little girl gets elevated to a position of power,” Kelly says.


“I knew something was the matter,” she continues. “My daughter’s grades were falling. She was not able to focus. It was terrible. At first, I tried to handle it on my own, but I soon realized that it had far surpassed simple mean comments and had elevated to almost hazing.”


Her school, however, was not very responsive. Most of the incidents happened outside of school, and as a result, administrators said there was little they could do.


 So, Kelly did the best she could on her own. She went to seminars on bullying, bought various books on the subject and read them with her daughter. In the end, however, she felt she had no choice but to remove Meghan from the school. She says although her daughter was sad leaving her friends, her new school is so much better.


 “They’re aware,” she says. “They have programs in place to combat bullying.” 


Annamaria urges parents to educate themselves on bullying and focus on empowerment, often through reading and open, honest discussion.


 “Be willing to engage in a discussion about how difficult it is,” she said. “Try to understand their experience.”


But more than anything, she says, parents must do their best to inspire and nurture confidence at home.


“If children, and people, start feeling like they have the tools to stand up for themselves at a very basic level, but also assert themselves and feel strong, then in theory the bully runs out of victims,” she says. “Without victims, the bullies don’t function.”



*names changed at their request.

Margaret Sowell, a frequent contributor to nola baby & family, is a freelance writer and instructor of English and Expository Writing at Dillard University.



Some warning signs that your child might be the victim of a bully. Seek the guidance of a counselor:

-Comes home with damaged or missing clothing or other belongings

-Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or feeling sick

-Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams

-Has changes in eating habits

-Hurts themselves

-Is very hungry after school from not eating their lunch

-Loses interest in visiting or talking with friends, or has fewer friends

-Is afraid of going to school or other activities with peers

-Loses interest in school work or begins to do poorly in school

-Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed when they come home

-Talks about suicide (seek immediate help!)

-Feels helpless or that that they are not good enough



Some warning signs your child might be a bully. Seek the guidance of a counselor:

-Becomes violent with others

-Gets into fights or arguments with others

-Gets sent to the principal’s office or detention often

-Has extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained

– Is quick to blame others; won’t accept responsibility for their actions

-Has friends who bully others

-Needs to win or be best at everything




For more information on the subject:

Queen Bees & Wannabees, by Rosalind Wiseman; Mean Jean the Recess Queen, by Alexis O’Neill; How to Fill Your Bucket: A Guide to Daily Happiness for the Young Child, by Carol McCloud, Kathy Martin and David Messin; Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-proof Girls in the Early Grades, by Michelle Anthony, Ph.D., and Reyna Lindert, Ph.D.; and Jungle Bullies, by Steven Kroll.;

Newsletter Signup

Your Weekly guide to New Orleans family fun. NOLA Family has a newsletter for every parent. Sign Up