Warding Off Child Bullies

Fourteen-year-old high school freshman Andrew Rudy of Illinois committed suicide.

Some believe he was bullied so severely that he felt there was no way out. Andrew has left behind a father with a lot of questions.

CBS News Correspondent Hattie Kauffman confers with a former victim of bullying, Michael Whelan, and his mother Vicki Whelan from Marshall, Texas, as well as Denver's Paul Von Essen, a social worker who has counseled students who have been bullied.


Vicki Whelan has started an organization called Justice Against Bullies (or JAB) and spoke with Earl Rudy Thursday to offer condolences about his son Andrew, advice and support.

He's devastated," says Vicki Whelan about Earl Rudy. "This is a tragedy. He's doing terrible. As well as can be expected. But it's horrible."

"He was never in trouble; he'd never shown any signs of any problems," says Earl Rudy.

Some students at Freeburg High School claim Andrew was held up against a wall and forced to make derogatory comments about himself in front of others.

"He obviously was tormented so much at school to the point of humiliation that he could not come to us with it," adds Earl Rudy. "And that's all I can figure."

School officials and police are investigating the situation to find out what happened.

When Michael Whelan was in high school, he was a bully victim to the point where he had thoughts of suicide.

"There is this one incident in football, a few guys pushed me on the ground," recalls Michael Whelan.

"Another guy elbow smashed me and knocked the wind out of me for 10 minutes. I couldn't catch my breath or anything. It went unpunished," he says, adding that this type of situation went on for months off and on.

Michael Whelan spoke about the problem with his mother and actions were taken.

"We started with counseling, medication, and part-time schooling because he was almost finished," says Vicki Whalen. "Now he is off the medication, doing well and having a good experience in college," she adds.


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School social worker
Paul Von Essen: encourage witnesses to speak out
Getting kids to speak up about stuff like this is very difficult, says social worker Von Essen. Kids don't want to appear a snitch or a tattletale. Yet it is probably the most crucial part of the process, he says.

He advises kids who are not involved to speak up because the victims are usually frozen.

And parents can also look for changes in their kids' baseline behavior and address them, says Von Essen.

"Too often the parent sits back antries to figure it out without talking to the child," he says.

"They need to ask. They need to say, 'I've noticed a change. Is anything bothering you?'" Von Essen advises.

Once signs are recognized, parents must respect and validate their children's feelings and then find a solution to the problem, he says.

Schools in general are responding well on a physical level, he notes. They're beefing up security and putting cameras everywhere. But on an emotional level, he says, help is still lacking.

"It really starts when kids aren't including each other in activities and making [others] feel welcome," he suggests. "You have to make sure kids treat each other well, and when they don't, make them feel comfortable about speaking up about it."

To discipline bullies, teachers should make them see that there are consequences to their actions, without forcing them to change, Von Essen says.

"Most people try to do something so that the bully will change. But this just makes the situation a power struggle. And they will love a power struggle," he adds.


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