But Paul Andrews of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, though he agrees that bullying is a big problem, isn't so enthusiastic about legislative efforts to address it. "Our people are already overly involved in bureaucratic procedures…am I going to spend my day chasing down issues and preparing reports when I need to be out in the corridors," he says.
The one thing just about everybody can agree on is that school bullying is increasing. Lassiter points out that with the popularity of cell phones and the advent of sites like YouTube bullying has become more dangerous. "Bullies get their motivation from attention, because they are able now to post video online or make comments and have them seen by a million people, they get a greater sense of power from their bullying activities," said Lassiter.
In Sandwich, Mass., for example, a video of an autistic boy dancing by himself at a school dance was posted on YouTube. The boy's classmates posted nasty comments and harassed him in class. His mother told the Boston Globe that her son had to switch schools because of the taunting.
Brenda High has closely followed these legislative battles for 11 years now. In 1998, her son Jared High killed himself six days after his 13th birthday. "He was bullied by kids that were older than him," said High. "They spit on him and stole stuff from him. Even I didn't think it was serious at the time."
Her son switched schools, but continued to battle depression brought on by the bullying. One day Jared picked up the phone to call his father. "He said, 'Dad I just called to say goodbye,' and he shot himself right then on the phone," said High. Since that time, High started the Web site BullyPolice.org and has traveled across the country advocating for anti-bullying legislation.
"Sometimes people make these anti-bullying laws into more than they need be. Groups argue about things that don't need to be argued about. Bottom line is they need to get something done," said High.
That's exactly what Sideaner Walker intends to do up at the Massachusetts Statehouse this week where she plans to testify in favor of anti-bullying legislation.
Walker also wants to make sure of one other thing: That her son, Carl, isn't just remembered as the 11-year-old who was bullied at school and then killed himself.
Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was a boy scout. He played basketball and soccer. He was an honor roll student who stuck up for a friend who was also being bullied, according to his mom. And he was looking forward to wearing the new suit his parents bought him for Easter.
"My son was a great kid. He was loving and fun. He loved life," said Walker.