Thursday, May 7, 2009


Why get a GED?

The GED is not the only way to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma.Christina International High School has designed an adult program called Welcome Back that leads to an actual high school diploma.

All pretests, interactive lessons, study materials, and final exams are online and available to the student 24/7.

Students do not have to navigate the process alone. A mentor is assigned to each student to provide assistance as needed and to ensure a successful outcome.

The program is designed as a five-week seminar but may be completed at the student’s desired pace.

For more information or to consult with a counselor please call our toll free number: 1.877.211.8470.

You may also find more information about our school and the Welcome Back Program on our Web site:

Why Christina International High School?

CIHS is an education solution for a diverse student body with diverse academic needs. CIHS provides standard middle school and advanced high school diplomas, credit recovery and ESL programs as well as advanced placement programs. CIHS graduates are able to be competitive in future studies, whether they are at the university, junior college or technical school levels. Even after receiving diplomas, CIHS is not done with our students! We provide additional learning opportunities including ACT/SAT test preparation, career path counseling, adult continuing education and follow-on training guidance. At CIHS, we provide our students with:
· Leading Edge Web-Based Academics
· Widely Accepted and Accredited Curricula that meets State Academic Standards
· Personalized Education Plans to meet Unique Student Needs
· Responsive Student-Teacher Interaction in a Virtual Environment
· Dedicated and Experienced Staff that are Always Available to Work with You
· Dedicated and Experienced Online Educators
· Secure, Robust, Yet Readily Accessible, Web-Based Interface

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Did you drop out of high school?

There are many reasons that students drop out of high school. But, the bottom line is, we - the establishment, have failed our kids!

Life has become very complicated for our young people. But, the establishment has not changed. Any student who is not able to figure out how to fit in, or make it work, has been blamed for causing their own problems. The system has not examined itself, been held accountable or taken responsibilty to adapt to student needs.

The following has been taken from a bulletin posted September , 2007 by Alliance for Excellent Education: retrieved January 7, 2009.

Over a million of the students who enter ninth grade each fall fail to graduate with their peers four years later. In fact, about seven thousand students drop out every school day. Perhaps this statistic was acceptable fifty years ago, but the era in which a high school dropout could earn a living wage has ended in the United States. Dropouts significantly diminish their chances to secure a good job and a promising future. Moreover, not only do the individuals themselves suffer, but each class of dropouts is responsible for substantial financial and social costs to the communities, states, and country in which they live.

What can be done for these kids?

Ken and I have started a totally online school, Christina International High School. We have responded to the need for an alternative educational system delivery that makes each individual a priority. All you need is access to the Internet and a desire to learn.

CIHS offers full curriculum for Middle School, and High School including AP and Credit recovery.

CIHS also offers a number of Adult Programs with allows adults to finish their high school course work and earn a regular diploma or a high school equivalent diploma (best suited for adults over 25 years of age).

I will work with each student and parent. You will not just be a number or name on a roster. I will design a plan to meet your educational goals and I will work with you to achieve them.

For more information about our programs, accreditation, technology requirements and other stuff, please go to

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Many would like to somehow resolve the problem of being bullied and stay in their current school.

This may be possible and has actually happened for a number of victims. Unfortunately, this is often impossible.

Once a student has become an established target of bullying, the situation is complicated by history, expectations, reputation, unhealed wounds, and resentment on the part of all involved.

Falling or failed grades and any risky behaviors that took place before the resolution of the situation are only part of what needs to be overcome.

Many experts recommend that students get a fresh start by attending a new school. Often the student's reputation-either of being worthy of being bullied or of reporting it, follows him or her to the new school, even when the parents have moved to a new school district.

Online schools have become a lifesaving alternative.

Christina International High School is one of the great alternatives out there. We started it for many reasons. It meets the needs for any student who does not want to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar school.

For students who have struggled with being bullied, CIHS offers a number of benefits. It offers the flexibility of home school with the advantages of licensed instructors, interactive curriculum and professional school counseling support.

Please go to the Web site at: for more information.

Write in here with any questions you may have and I will be happy to respond.

school programs

Many schools have violence prevention policies/programs in place. Juvonen (2002) has identified over 200 institutional programs. However, many programs have not had the desired outcome.

Sprague and Walker (2002) have identified at least 8 school practices that contribute to the problem of youth violence in school. One of the reasons for unhappy outcomes is the long history of schools implementing unproved programs and methods.

There is a lack of good research supporting successful methods, forcing schools to implement "promising" ideas to satisfy the demands of communities and parents to do something about school violence (TIUE, 1998; Sherman, 1998; Cornell, 1999; Whaler, Fetsch, & Silliman, 1997).

Kimberling and Wantland (2002) have identified another reason for program failure as inadequate school staff development. Inadequate staff development fails to allow for adequate implementation and maintenance of any program.

In addition, the tendency to punish those involved in bullying situations, especially the old "zero-tolerance" policies, have acted to distract schools from active prevention efforts (Prothrow-Stith, in Zehr, 2001; Sprague & Walker, 2002).

I would suggest that part of the problem is the lack of accountability. Just because a school has a program "in place" does not mean that there is motivation for its success, accountability for its consistent implementation and follow-up with its results.

Role of Schools

Nansel et al., (2001) believe that the dangers of bullying aren't taken seriously in this country.

It is common for school administrators to deny that they have a problem with bullying. Nansel states that in order to solve this problem, schools must acknowledge the problem.

An example of the reluctance on the part of educators to believe that they are key to solving this problem can be seen with the National Bullying Awareness Campaign (NBAC). The National Education Association (NEA) introduced the NBAC in 2002. The Web site provides basic information about the problem of bullying ( The NEA stresses that solutions for youth violence are the community's responsibility. Although they recognize some of the consequences of this problem, they are reluctant to accept that schools have the ability and the responsibility to turn this around.

Teachers are one of the most important adults in the lives of young people (Bernard, 2003; Elias et al., 1997; Stringfield & Land, 2002). Teachers and other adults need to understand the problem of bullying in order to become a catalyst for a solution.

Despite the information that is available about the issue of youth violence in general and bullying in particular, most adults are unaware of the magnitude of the problem (Galinsky & Salmond, 2002; Beane, 1999; Coloroso, 2003; Rigby, 1997; Simmons, 2002; Smith et al., 1999).

School and Teacher response

Many teachers don't know how to deal with bullying when they recognize it; schools may not have consistent, effective, comprehensive bullying policies. Teachers, if they are aware of it at all, have heard about bullying incidents second hand and consequently, view intervention as opening a can of worms.

Teachers, administrators and other adults are often very defensive when an upset parent approaches them about the problem. Unable to view the situation from an objective perspective, school authorities may require witness testimonies and the names of the children involved.

These same authorities may also have a policy of revealing the name of the child reporting incidents to the accused party. In this situation, retaliation against the reporter is almost guaranteed. Another important point is that school authorities may believe that bullies come from abusive homes. Traditionally they are reluctant to speak to the parents of known bullies for fear that the child will in turn be abused at home (Papazian, 2000).

Outcomes and long-term effects

Outcomes and Long-term Effects


It has been shown that fear-related problems often interfere with a child's normal functioning. Disasters and terror can adversely affect even children who have been functioning on a high level in the areas of control, self-worth, and security (Figley & McChubbin, 1983; Terr, 1981; and Trautman, 1987 as cited in Robinson & Rotter, 1991).

Childhood fears can serve a positive function to protect and motivate children or they can inhibit or debilitate. Morris & Kratochwill (as cited in Robinson & Rotter, 1991) estimate that four percent to 8 percent of all children in the United States will be treated for fear-related disorders. In the United States the numbers of untreated children are often as much as two times those of the treated population (Robinson & Rotter).


A victim-bully cycle has been defined as the natural result of exposure to aggression (NEA, 2002).

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) (2001) reports that when a child's sense of safety has been violated, the child's sense of personal power has been taken away.

Aggression is a natural response by the child to regain control and to alleviate fear, anger or pain. In addition, there are many adults who encourage their children to "fight back" in response to aggression

Risky Behaviors

Adolescents who are effected by the bullying experience are more likely to become involved in risky behaviors including violence, drug and alcohol use, early sexual activity, poor academic achievement, dropping out of school, gang activity and other delinquent behavior. As adults, these same adolescents are more likely to have criminal records, be abusive to their children and spouses, commit acts of violence at work and other places, abuse drugs, and be unable to hold down jobs or sustain marriages (Fried & Fried, 1996; Olweus, 2000; Papazian, 2000).

Suicide and Violence

Suicide is the ultimate result of hopelessness, despair, and feelings of isolation from repeated exposure to violence (Ascher, 1994; Peters, 1985). In addition, any event or situation that causes depression can contribute to an existing sense of frustration, helplessness, and hopelessness.

Teens often feel overwhelmed and try to escape these feelings through the use of drugs, withdrawal and ultimately suicide (Peters, 1985).

The lack of empathy or understanding on the part of the adults in the lives of children contributes to feelings of isolation and helplessness (Gerler, 1991). The more isolated an adolescent becomes the more likely that child is to struggle with depression, hopelessness, and despair.

Peer aggression, by its very nature generates isolation. In fact, social isolation is one of the more subtle yet effective methods of peer aggression (Simmons, 2002). Peers don't want to lose status by becoming identified with the victim of peer aggression nor do they want to become a victim of abuse either, so they will avoid the child who has been selected to be a victim. In addition, the victim may resort to social isolation as the only viable option of protection (Banks, 1997; Crick, 2002; Peters, 1985; and Simmons, 2002).

School Performance

It is easy to see why children how are vicitms of bullying have falling/failing grades, poor attendance and other kinds of issues with school success.

Parents report bullying

Teachers, administrators and other adults are often very defensive when an upset parent approaches them about the problem.

Unable to view the situation from an objective perspective, school authorities may require testimonies by witnesses and the names of the children involved.

These same authorities may also have a policy of revealing the name of the child reporting incidents to the accused party. In this situation, retaliation against the reporter is almost guaranteed.

Another important point is that school authorities may believe that bullies come from abusive homes. Traditionally they are reluctant to speak to the parents of known bullies for fear that the child will in turn be abused at home (Papazian, 2000).

Talkington, and Hill (1993) observed that parents have been generally unsuccessful in attempts to advocate for their children in the bully-victim issue due in large part to the disabling negative psychological effects that accompany this situation.

In addition to grief over what their child has lost, and guilt about not being able to fix it or making the situation worse, parents may suffer from psychological, social and political consequences such as feelings of powerlessness and isolation (Solomon, Pistrang, & Barker, 2001).

Another factor contributing to failure is lack of information. Parents don't know where to turn for help when the school fails them.

Why isn't bullying reported and What happens when it is

Why It Isn’t Reported

In the case of peer aggression, the one causing the harm is a young person. Peer aggression is more difficult to dissect and decipher than adult-to-child abuse. It becomes almost impossible to hold any one person directly responsible unless witnesses come forward. Willing witnesses are rare. Studies show that one of the reasons youth don't report aggression is because they don't know who to go to or how to do it.

Often, young people don't believe that anything can be done and --the greater possibility, is that-- they are afraid of reprisal (see, Bonds, 2000; High, 2002; Minnesota Attorney General's Office, 2000; NEA, 2002; and Stop Bullying: Guidelines For Schools, 2002).

What Happens When It is?

Many young people stop seeking adult support when they have failed to successfully fight back (Simmons, 2001). When parents or students stop reporting the problem, authorities gratefully believe that the problem must have resolved itself! Rarely will they pursue or follow up on the situation.

When parents report that their child is being bullied, they often are placed in a position of defending the seriousness and validity of the situation. They are asked for details about dates, times, names, places, witnesses, what really happened, outcomes, etc. They may need to defend the behavior of their child especially if the school has a policy of zero tolerance.

Even with documented details, parents may find that the situation comes down to the bully's word against yours.

Schools often offer no plan, for future protection or intervention for the child, and no consequences for the bully. This includes the obvious and simple action of paying closer attention to what is happening with the involved parties during school hours.

It may be insinuated that victims have somehow "asked" for it or somehow deserve it because they are different (fat, ugly, loud, socially inept, etc).

Parents may deal with feelings of shame that there is something so horrible about their child that the child has become a vicitm; guilt that they can not fix the problem or give the right advise to "undo" the problem; struggle with depression and hopelessness because it seems that there is no way out of the situation; and frustration because those who are supposed to know how to fix it, can't, won't, or don't believe it.

parents may be the last to know

Harassment has become an accepted part of the youth culture, accepted by youth as one of the major pressures they face in trying to fit into their culture.

Many parents are unaware of this problem because they never talk about it with their children. Children do not bring it up and parents don't think to ask about it because it is a "kind of underground activity that many children will not report" (Goldbloom, 1999, p. 2).

In addition to the previously discussed cultural codes, there are a number of other reasons for this. Conflicting advice from parents discourage children from confiding in them.

Often, one parent will tell a child to ignore bullying and the other tells the child to fight back, or to throw the first punch (Espelage, 1999).

Children are often afraid of retaliation from peers if they seek help from adults (Espelage, Banks, 2000).

Parents often do not recognize the warning signs and therefore are unaware of the severity of the problem.

Bully-Victim Cycle

The line between bullies and victims is often blurred. Bully-victim cycle theory describes a cyclical journey of actions pushing children from one set of behaviors to the other.

Children who experience bullying often bully in return for indirect compensation. When this interpersonal behavior is looked at from a position of power, it can be seen that victims feel powerless. They in turn, bully in order to regain their lost power.

Experts recommend that victims and bullies should not be looked at as two separate groups. This is especially important for the success of school counseling programs (Ma, 2001).

The bully-victim cycle has only harmful effects for bullies, victims and bystanders alike. The experience of observing harassment is as harmful as being the victim. In essence, observers become victims (Olweus, 2000).

Under these conditions, children are unable to learn or succeed in their efforts. This experience impacts children in a powerful way with scars that often last a lifetime (Ross, 2002).

The Bully: The Perpetrator

Olweus (2000) describes the perpetrator of peer harassment as aggressive towards peers, but also adults.

The bully is self-confident contrary to the old belief that a bully feels inferior or suffers from poor self-esteem. Simmons (2002) describes bullies as wielding power at the expense of others.

Coloroso, (2003) states that "bullying is arrogance in action" (p.21). It is a matter of contempt.

Bonds (2000) states that it is not being different that makes a student a target, but rather that child's reaction to being bullied.

For bullies, the whole matter is power.

In the November 7, 2008 bulletin of the University of Chicago it was reported that
Bullies may enjoy seeing others in pain: Brain scans show disruption in natural empathetic response.

But waht about the victim? What can we do for the victim? What should we be doing for the victim?


Most bullying takes place in or around school, and is often reinforced by other students as observers.

Goldbloom (1999) reports the results of a Toronto study. In more than 20 % of bullying incidents, peers enabled and supported the bullying behavior by physically or verbally joining in the aggression. They reinforced the behavior in 54 % of the cases, by watching but not joining in the aggression. Peers supported the victim in a paltry 25 % of the cases. Toronto's Board of Education estimates that in grades 4 to 8, one in five children are victimized periodically and one in 12 are bullied weekly or daily (Goldbloom).

We know that the effect of bullying on those who see it take place and some of those who hear about it suffer some of the same effects of the one who is actually the target. This is called the bystander effect.

Who gets bullied

Many researchers, especially a few years back held that victims of bullying were children who called attention to themselves. this implied that it was somehow their fault for being different.
This theory echoes the cultural attitude that victims of abuse have "asked for it" (Olweus, 2000; Fried & Fried, 1996; Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER), 2003).

It was also believed that boys were more likely to be bullies than girls, although this idea is being revised (Coloroso, 2003; Simmons, 2002).

More researchers today are saying that children become victims only because someone has decided to target them (Coloroso, 2003).

Often, victims are targeted because of some perceived deviance from accepted peer group standards (Galinsky & Salmond, 2002). Anyone can find an excuse if they look hard enough.

Characteristics of bullying behavior

Coloroso (2003) describes bullying behaviors as contempt and power plays.

In 1998, TIUE defined bullying as behaviors falling on a violence continuum.

The NEA (2001) as well as others, describes bullying as a systematic process of inflicting physical or psychological pain.

Simmons (2002) uses real stories from personal interviews with adolescent girls from all socio-economic classes in the United States. Likewise, Garbarino (1999) references case studies from his research. All authors attest that this behavior is covert in nature, destructive, and withheld from adults.

There are three characteristics that will always be present in bullying behavior; an imbalance of power, intent to do harm, and threat of further aggression. When not stopped, the behavior will escalate to include a fourth characteristic, terror (Coloroso, 2003).

Harassment by teens is especially covert and easily takes place in the presence of adults; even adults who are trained to recognize harassment may miss most of the incidents that take place (Banks, 2000; Minnesota State Attorney General's Office, 2001).

What students are saying

The role of bullying and harassing behavior in overall school violence has been ignored, and unexplored (Nansel et al., 2001; Pace, 2001).

"Research shows that parents and teachers greatly underestimate the frequency of bullying compared to student responses" (Coloroso, 2003, p.13).

There is no national data available on the prevalence of bullying (Nansel et al., 2001). However, limited research indicates that bullying may be as common as 75% of students surveyed (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as cited in Papazian, 2000).

According to the U.S, Department of Justice figures, 160,000 students skip school each day because they fear victimization/being bullied; 20 percent of high school students are afraid to go to the restroom because of attacks (Fried & Fried, 1996).

In a study by Youth and Work Institute, youth participants stated that emotional violence often triggers more serious violence and the way to stop it is at the source, i.e. with the young people. In their own words, young people identified emotional violence as behaviors such as "teasing that goes beyond being playful and gets mean; …put-downs and gossip that are cruel; … rejection that feels like very real violence" to young people (p.3).

Young people have identified the need for change within their culture in the 2002 study introduced by Families and Work Institute (FWI) with Ask the Children: Youth and Violence (Galinsky & Salmond, 2002).

How bad is it, really?

Misinformation about the problem of bullying and harassment abounds. Adults believe that bullying is endemic in nature; that it is a normal part of growing up (Rigby (1998). "Boys will be boys" and "sticks and stones, etc." are sound beliefs for many (NEA, 2002). Adults don't see it as a problem because they don't recognize bullying-victim behavior often when it takes place in front of them. Children, especially adolescents, have become skilled in covert bullying behavior as well as covert victim response (Olweus, 2000).

Rigby (1998) describes the "insidious nature of bullying that causes it to flourish within the school system" (as cited in Rayner, 1998). Yet, the issue of bullying is rarely addressed (Nansel et al., 2001).

Recent statistics
· American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims (Dan Olweus, researcher, journal article of the National School Safety Center).

· 76.8 percent of students in a midwestern study say they have been bullied and 14 percent of those students indicated that they experienced severe reactions to the abuse (Study conducted by John H. Hoover, Ronald Oliver and Richard J. Hazler).

· The National School Safety Center estimates that 525,000 "attacks, shakedowns and robberies" occur in an average month in public secondary schools.

· It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day, due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. (National Education Association).

· A survey conducted by the American Association of University Women reported that 85 percent of girls and 76 percent of boys have been sexually harassed in some form. Only 18 percent of those incidents were perpetuated by an adult.

· Young bullies carry a one-in-four chance of having a criminal record by age 30 (study by Leonard Eron and Ronald Huesmann).

· The National Education Association reports that every day, 6,250 teachers are threatened with bodily injury and 260 are physically assaulted.

· One incident of peer harassment takes place every 7 minutes.

· Aggressive behavior and bullying is even more common in elementary school than in junior and senior high. But as children get older their bullying behavior becomes more covert and sophisticated.

· According to Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, the Secret Service found that most of the attackers in columbine and other school shootings had experienced severe and long-standing forms of bullying and harassment.

· Adults intervene in less than 4% of all incidents.
· Peers intervene in less than 11% of all incidents.
· No one intervenes in over 80% of all incidents.

· Over 95% of the incidents of bullying in the schools occur when the teachers and no adults can witness the action. The majority of abuse takes place in the hallways, bathrooms, lunchrooms, and the playground/parking areas.

· Mobile phones and the Internet often provide ways for bullying activity, for example, with insulting messages, and anonymous or threatening emails. Cyber bullying has recently received a lot of attention with the suicide of a teenage girl who tough she was texting a teenage boy. It was discovered after her death that the boy was actually a mother of a girl in the neighborhood.

Bullying and other forms of child abuse

Every year more than three million cases of child abuse are reported across the United States (Ludwig, as cited in Wahler, et al., 1997). Violence against children exists in many forms. The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center (NYVPRC) (1997) reports that violence among young people in the United States is more common than in any other industrialized nation in the world.

Violence perpetuated by children upon themselves is another alarming problem. Peters (1985) believes that 5,000 to 6,000 teens successfully commit suicide each year. With only ten percent of all attempts being successful, this puts the number of suicide attempts around 500,000 per year.

There is a history of abuse denial. As late as 1960, Dr. Kempe and Dr. Helfer coined the term
"the battered child" when they presented a paper at the American Academy of Pediatrics. The ten years following, many states created laws to mandate and collect reports of child abuse. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act wasn't passed until 1973!

Despite the legisaltion, the general publlic was unaware of this issue eventhough reports of abuse and neglect had been filed for over 2,000,000 children - an average of 3 children were being killed every day.

Finally, in 1987, the problem received public attention and the above statistics came to light with the Lisa Steinberg incident. Lisa was killed by her father, a successful attorney. Her mother, a well-known writer of children's books, watched. She waited too long to call for help or get medical attention.

The term "peer abuse" has not even entered common vocabulary and yet bullying is not a new kind of abuse.

We all grew up knowing and believing the message of the nursery rhyme Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. How did that work out for you?

Everyone has heard (may even have used) the saying that boys will be boys. What a lazy response to justify not doing anything about abusive behavior that perpetuates the illusion of entitlement!

Most of us had to study Lord of the Flies, written by Sir William Golding after WWII. It is the story of a group of English school boys stranded on an island and how they deteriorate to a culture of contempt and abuse of each other. It seems that our culture relegated the novel to the realm of fiction.

Perhaps the biggest lie that has been perpetuated by persons who are unwilling to see the devastation bullying causes or to intervene and establish boundaries is the beleif that bullying is a rite of passage. People I know who propagate this today were bullies as children and are still that way today.

Shame, Blame and the Code of Silence

Shame and Blame - The Code of Silence, by Judy Kuczynski

Tina was a pretty, outgoing, friendly high school sophomore. In junior high, she had been in the "popular" group but in high school, she was the target of abuse and humiliation. Everyday she found a different threatening note on her locker. The day I saw it, it said "Die Bitch."

”Friends” would call her up and pretend to want to make amends. The next day they would announce at school how pitiful she was and what she had told them in confidence over the phone. The junior-senior prom that spring ended in disaster when a group of older girls surrounded her in the girls' restroom and spit on her and her silver prom dress. That summer a group of boys put a bomb in the family mailbox. It exploded and narrowly missed blinding her father when he went in to get the mail.

It is difficult to understand or explain the dynamics of the effects this situation had on the rest of us, Tina's family. As parents who tried to advocate for our daughter it was devastating to find no support from the school, from other adults, or from the healthcare establishment. No one had any answers or solutions.

Our attempts made her an even bigger target. Near the end, classmates told her that she would be killed if she didn't move. Tina became deeply depressed and developed physical symptoms including chronic insomnia and TMJ so severe that she could not talk. She frequently asked me why her friends hated her so much and what made her such an object of ridicule. I couldn't explain it to her. I couldn't fix it, nor could I give her what she needed to be able to not care and get on with her life without these old "friends."

At one point we took Tina out of school, intending to home school. Our intention was to give things a chance to cool down, for her classmates to look elsewhere for their drama and excitement or to find some other way to bond themselves together besides their daily crusade against our daughter.

While she was out of school she received a number of phone calls from the classroom. I overheard a number of these calls. I could hear the teacher lecturing while the one making the call was somewhere near the back of the room. In one of those calls she was asked if she was pregnant. Another time they wanted to know if it was true that she had tried to kill herself.

Tina wasn't the only one to develop physical symptoms. I also became clinically depressed. We both were put on antidepressants and we both went into counseling. I worried that she would try to hurt herself in attempt to make the pain stop.

The incident that finally convinced Tina to leave that school was when a female classmate, and a girl Tina did not know, came to the place Tina worked and physically attacked her, accusing her of having said something to some guy Tina did not know. Tina left that school before Christmas of her junior year and went to the local community college instead. She was 16.

A year later, when she would have been a senior in high school, she was killed in a car accident. Many of her old crowd expressed sadness over not being ableto explain to her why they had turned on her as they had. At her funeral, a number of them said that they had not been able to tell her they were sorry. To this day, even the bullies do not fully understand why they treated her with contempt. I certainly would like to understand it.

After Tina's death, I went back to school to earn a master's degree in professional counseling. As a registered nurse, I already knew something about the connection between depression and trauma but I needed to understand, to figure it out.

I found out that in adolescent peer groups there is overwhelming pressure to keep adults out. Peer aggression takes place in the social environment wherever children gather. It has been difficult to spot because these behaviors are covert and for the most part practiced in a kind of secret code. Even when adults ask some adolescents outright about things they have seen, adolescents are reluctant to confide in them. Their peer group has a great deal of power, power to make life miserable and at times impossible.

I found out that unwritten codes of conduct in our culture, such as the old saying about "sticks and stones," influence many American attitudes and behavior. One of the more powerful unwritten codes is a code of silence. The code of silence is a problem in most Westernized countries. According to Dr. Olweus, the renowned expert on peer abuse, the bully, the victim and any witnesses remain silent because there remains a stigma in our society against telling tales. A code of silence is also part of the protective boundaries established and enforced by peer groups, gangs and families. Group members are censored and threatened for violating the secrets of the inner workings of the group.

Isolation is an especially effective and subtle tool used to ensure that group members comply. This works to keep the group social system intact. It keeps outsiders out and it binds members in loyalty to the group.

Parents may be unaware of the extent of the problem in the lives of their children because kids don't always talk and parents often do not ask. Dan Olweus states that parents are often the last to know about this private shame in the lives of their children. The older the child, the less likely that child is to share this misery with parents.

Shame is attached to certain acts and attitudes. Among those postures is appearing to be a victim in any way. This is the same attitude that holds victims responsible in some way for being raped. When victims believe that no one can protect them from retaliation they see no reason to tell or report incidents committed against them. Victims become isolated when they believe that nothing can be done to change their situation. They become isolated, depressed, and filled with despair.

Shame and blame are also part of the code of silence. Tina stopped telling us what was happening. She did not want us to know how deeply she was hated. This shame and blame affect will influence parents as well. We may ask ourselves, what it is that makes our child so repulsive that he or she has become the target of contempt. Why can't he or she"just toughen up" or "ignore it?"

When parents try to advocate and the adults to whom they turn to imply that the child has somehow asked for it or for some reason deserves it, parents often choose to "toughen up" themselves. Parents blame themselves for overreacting and somehow making it difficult for the child to get past it. We struggled with this as well.

In 2001, researcher Tonja Nansel, of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, reported that there is not enough being done to prevent this form of violence in our schools. She believes that instead of being treated as a tragedy, bullying is accepted as a normal rite of passage in American culture.

In her 2003 book, The Bully, The Bullied and the Bystander, Barbara Colorosa, reported another study conducted in 2001 by the Kaiser Foundation, Nickelodeon TV and Children Now, in which three-quarters of preteens interviewed reported that bullying is a "regular occurrence at school and that it becomes even more pervasive as kids start high school." On the next page she said, "Research shows that parents and teachers greatly underestimate the frequency of bullying compared to student responses."

As parents, we are the only ones who will advocate for our children. As we learn more about this problem, we will come to understand that the shame and guilt belong to a society that turns the other way and blames the victim. We must speak out for change in our schools and in our society. We must empower ourselves to stand firm and to hold each other responsible to keep our children safe and to teach them how to respect and support each other. If we don't do it, who will? If we don't do it,what will happen to those we hold most dear? What will happen to our world?

It has now been over eight years since our daughter's death. Although she did not die by "bullycide," it could have easily happened just that way, had we not gotten her out of that abusive environment. My husband Ken, and I, are working hard to help parents understand the connective influences of blame, shame and the code of silence that prevents change in our schools. We never gave up trying to help Tina when she was with us, and now, we will never give up helping others trying to create positive changes in their schools.