Bullied to Death in America's Schools


Surprisingly, rather than take action the school refused even to have such much as a moment of silence in Tyler's honor, his parents said.

Perhaps even more shocking was the revelation that Tyler's death was openly mocked in school by the bullies and other classmates, according to Lee Hirsch, a documentary filmmaker who has spent the last year examining bullying in America.

"Other students, including some of the bullies, wore nooses around their necks after they learned of his death, to school, and got away with it," said Hirsch.

ABC News asked school authorities for an interview but they declined.

"We prefer to do our talking in court," an attorney for the Murray County School District, who would not give his name, told a producer from 20/20 when approached outside a hearing on the case.

Victims of bullying like the Longs who find no relief on a local level have few options at the federal level either, said Kevin Jennings, the U.S. Department of Education's Safe School Czar.

"When it's harassment based on sex or race or ability, we can intervene. But on other issues, there actually is no national policy or no national law," said Jennings.

Rampant as bullying is in American schools, at least one school is specifically designed to give safe haven to victims of bullying and to outlaw the cycle of aggression. It's the Alliance School, a public charter school for about 180 middle and high school students in Milwaukee's inner city.

School Requirement: Respect for Differences Among Classmates

At Alliance, respect for individual differences is part of the culture and required behavior. Teachers are trained to intervene immediately in conflicts. What is accepted at other schools, such as "kids being kids," is not tolerated at Alliance.

"I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere," said Emiliano Luno, 14, who came to Alliance after he was bullied so intensely at his previous school for being gay that he was on the verge of dropping out of school.

"Teachers had no understanding whatsoever. All they would do is yell at you and I dreaded every single day," Emiliano said.

Now, at Alliance, when he walks into a classroom with pink hair, fellow students say, "Wow, you look great."

Alliance boasts high attendance, few drop-outs and less of the drama associated with adolescence.

"It doesn't matter who you are, or how you look, or what you believe," said Tina Owen, the Alliance School's lead teacher and founder. "It's about getting a great education and learning to work with all sorts of people who are very different from yourself."

However simply separating bullied students from the bullies may not be the solution, according to Jennings.He says equipping teachers in all schools with the tools to combat and stop bullying in it's tracks before it gets too out of control is badly needed.

"Most of them don't know what to do and a lot of them get paralyzed. They don't know what to say. They're afraid if they do intervene, there's gonna be angry parents at the school and that the principal's not gonna support them," Jennings said about teachers.

For the Long family October 16th will mark the last time they saw Tyler alive. Although it may be too late for their son they hope by sharing his story, and their pain, it may inspire others to bring about real change in our nation's schools that may save another child.

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