The criminal cases filed against students in the death of Massachusetts high schooler Phoebe Prince “feels like a watershed” for American schools, Elizabeth Englander of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State College. tells USA Today. By bringing criminal charges, “the D.A. really vaulted this into another class.” Along with a rash of anti-bullying laws (41 states have them), “it’s ramping up the idea that adults aren’t going to wink at this any more,” she says. “It’s gotten out of hand.”
Parents might not realize that the stereotypical bully of the past – a swaggering schoolyard lout, low on self-esteem, quick to lash out, easy to identify – has become anachronistic. Educational psychologists describe a new kind of bullying. The perpetrators are attractive, athletic and academically accomplished – and comfortable enough around adults to know what they can and can’t get away with, in school and online. These bullies are so subtle and cunning it’s hard for school staff to know if what looks like bullying really is, and what to do about it. “Some of it is so under the radar that without training, you can’t see what’s in front of you,” says Marlene Snyder, a Clemson University expert on bullying.