TODAY | September 18, 2010
>>> suicide after classmates allegedly harassed her, school bullying was thrown into the spotlight. now a florida dad took matters into his own hands, after his daughter told him other children were bullying her on the school bus . nbc's kerry sanders has the story.
>> everybody sit down.
>> reporter: on a school bus in suburban orlando a father's fury caught on a security camera .
>> my daughter [ bleep ] this damn bus and [ bleep ] and now this is it.
>> reporter: 42-year-old james jones arrested for disorderly conduct admits his temper got the better of him when he unloaded on some children who he claims were bullying his 13-year-old daughter, who suffers from cerebral palsy . in the deputy's report, jones alleges school boys on the bus had placed an open condom on his daughter's head, smacked her on the back of the head, twisted her ear and shouted rude comments at her.
>> my daughter is not going to be hated and -- what they done, okay? i'm very sorry. i apologize. i served -- this is not just me.
>> reporter: in the deputy's report, it said jones had called the school to complain, but nopg was done. the deputy writes, the school has two adults on the bus and attempts to control the children. but they didn't even speak english.
>> this is my daughter, and --
>> reporter: students say it was his threat to kill that was most upsetting.
>> you can't just kill kids.
>> reporter: a quarter of all public school kids report being bullied weekly, if not daily. and the experts say, often, parents don't hear about it until it's a crisis. and as we've seen before, the consequences can sometimes turn deadly. in massachusetts, prosecutors say classmates tormented 15-year-old phoebe prince in school hallways and online for months. she hanged herself at home. the children's movement of florida has been studying the problem of bullying.
>> it's not going away. frankly, it's escalating. every school ought to have a anti-bullying program.
>> reporter: bullying in schools . one in three teenagers say it's happened to them. the difficulty, getting the victims to speak up before it blows up. for "today," kerry sanders , nbc news, miami.
>> and for more insight we're joined by susan lipkin, psychologist and bullying expert. good morning.
>> it's such a sad thing to see because i think as a parent all of us can see ourselves in that man's position, where you're so angry. he contacted the school . nothing was being done to his satisfaction. and so he lost it. and he admitted it. he said he was sorry. but you say not only is it perhaps inappropriate to do that, but you say it's not productive. nothing comes of this type of behavior.
>> yeah, what really happens is it backfires. and it's worse for the child. there was a bus driver , other two people on the bus, the school system and you really have to use those formats in order to get something done.
>> but if you feel like you're not getting any response from the school , what do you do then?
>> well, you really have to protect your child and teach them how not to be a victim. that's the first thing. second thing is probably not even put your child on the bus if it's an unsafe place. and third is to make enough noise that it goes up the chain of command to the superintendent or whoever is in charge to say, hey, my child is being harassed or being hurt or this is violent behavior that cannot exist in a school environment.
>> is it ever appropriate for a parent to approach the bully or perhaps even the bully's parents, if they don't feel like the proper authorities are doing what they should? can you take matters into your own hands, given the right approach?
>> my experience is that it never works. that if you approach the parent of a bully, that they are themselves perhaps bullies, and that the parent as a victim never wins. so it doesn't work basically.
>> it's a bit confusing. because i think a lot of parents, bullying obviously has become a major story, unfortunately because of the phoebe prince case in massachusetts that kerry sanders referenced. where this girl who never told anyone she was being bullied, didn't tell her parents, took matters into her own hands and committed suicide. yet then you have this florida girl who told her dad, he went into this rant that got him arrested. obviously you want to say there's a middle approach here. that might be easy to say, but it's probably really hard to do. what do we need to be talking about with our kids?
>> well, i think we need to teach them that they should not be a victim, that they have the right and the duty to protect their own space and to defend themselves. the second thing is we have to train bystanders to support all this information. we have to give them systems and a follow-up team. like a bully prevention team that would go in and interview and be on top of this. and we have to teach parents and everybody in the community from school aide to the bus driver to anybody to report bullying or to intervene and learn how to do it.
>> we're hearing more about bullying, do you think it's actually becoming a worse problem in our society? or are we just hearing about it, and if so what does that say about how we're raising our children.
>> i call it vulture culture . i think that we have winner, loser mentality. and i think that it is increasing. it's becoming more violent. it's becoming more sexual. it's increasing daily. more and more children don't want to go to school or are having problems with bullying. so i think it is a major problem.
>> all right. parents need to know about and address. susan lipkin, thanks so much.