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Desperate Times Call For The Anti-Bullying Coach

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBS 2) -- It's one of life's most difficult lessons -- being bullied.

The Department of Education estimates as many as 160,000 children a day stay home from school because of the threat.

Now, a number of families are fighting back with the help of anti-bully coaches.

Remember the video of the father who stormed onto his daughter's school bus to confront the kids who were bullying her? His response may have seemed extreme, but many parents who are fed up with feeling helpless against school bullies say they identify with him.

School should be a place where kids go to learn and make new friends, but one mom told CBS 2's Maurice Dubois it's a place where her son gets teased and bullied.

"They marked him from the beginning on the first day of kindergarten," the mother said.

The bullying is so bad she was afraid to show their faces and names, fearful it'll just make matters worse.

"I spoke with the bus driver. I've spoken with each teacher that he's had," she said.

Nothing has worked. It's a feeling 12-year-old Jacob said he knows all too well.

"Sometimes friends can turn on you. Middle school changes people a lot," he said.

And for some children bullying can have devastating effects and has even lead to suicide.

"It can cause a drop in grades, emotional issues, depression," said Michelle Boykins of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Making matters worse, the harassment often continues outside of school. Now, the mom Dubois introduced you to earlier is turning to somebody outside of her child's school for help -- an anti-bullying coach. It's a new kind of service that is gaining popularity.

"A parent calls me in desperation because their kid has been bullied. They don't know what to do and their kid doesn't want to go back to school," Dr. Joel Haber said.

Haber, a White Plains psychologist, is an anti-bullying coach. He said, with the right training, kids can become "bully proof." But he said his first step is to train the parents.

"Most parents feel that rush of adrenaline, that emotion and they want to take control of it themselves," Dr. Haber said.

Haber said this is one of the biggest mistakes parents make because taking on the child's problem forces the child to become more withdrawn.

"They cut off their kid from talking to them," Dr. Haber said.

Instead, Dr. Haber said parents need to stay calm and find out what's really going on. He said he tells parents to ask pointed questions, something more like the following:

"Show me how you get picked on. And I'll try to show you a way that won't work," Dr. Haber said.

Haber said he also uses role playing as a big component of his coaching. He teaches camp counselors how to identify and stop what he says are the three main types of bullying -- physical, verbal and exclusionary.

All across the country similar training programs are popping up.

Experts said bullying has become so alarmingly common that a number of schools are going so far as to hire these anti-bullying coaches.

"In our research we found that 43 percent of kids report being the victim of bullying," Boykins said.

But coaches like Haber said there are ways to beat the bullies -- and it's not in the form of fists.

"If you hit them back, you're going to get in trouble," Dr. Haber said.

Instead, experts agree the best way to deal with bullying at school is:

* Remind your child that he or she isn't alone. A lot of people get bullied at some point.

* Call on your child's teacher or counselor to intervene.

* If you've tried these methods and still want to speak to the bullying child's parents, do so at the school where an official can mediate.

For the mother and son Dubois spoke with, they said they hoped the coaching will help them put an end to the teasing at school, so the real learning can finally begin.

A handful of states, including New Jersey, have adopted strict anti-bully laws. They require awareness programs for students and for teachers.

RELATED: Westchester DA Hosts Anti-Bullying Conference

For more information on anti-bullying coaches, please click here and here.

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