And words can hurt forever

Ellen deLara, James Garbarino

When I was writing that comparative analysis of the four books about the “Columbine” attack, I got sucked into something of a black hole. I wrote a lot that I eventually had to throw away, simply because of the wild tangents the topic contains. Quite a large number were a form of active misdirection: a powerful political lobby, threatened by the possibility of resurgent student activism, trying to muddy the waters in protection of — or furtherance of — their political and commercial interests. The actions of the “gun lobby” are a famous example of this within the United States, but they’re not alone. Psychotropic drugs like “SSRIs” were hotly debated after Columbine despite their very-tenuous connections to the school and event, but performance-enhancing drugs like steroids were not debated in any capacity, no matter the student survivors frequently warning about the effects of those drugs on their situation. From my readings, I would discover the existence of this double-standard had its root in PR-efforts sourced from the Church of Scientology, who agitated against SSRIs in the wake of Columbine due to anti-psychiatry being a doctrinal stance within the cult.

Many of these tangents and misdirections are quite serious, having far-flung effects in the modern day. The school violence epidemic has lasted a minimum of three decades by now, so even describing how these distraction tactics changed between “Columbine” in 01999 and “Parkland” in 02018 illustrates quite a bit about how they worked, revealing some few incriminating things. “Violent video games” were blamed as a causal factor at the time, repeatedly and without evidence, yet the true origin story for this hides a darkly comedic detail. In Julie Webber’s book, she would reference a “Lieutenant Colonel, David Allen Grossman” as a progenitor-proponent of this scapegoat. Predating the Columbine massacre itself, Grossman made the unsubstantiated claim that video games — and certainly not easy access to firearms so trivial even small children could get their hands on them — were at fault for the 01998 “Westside” shooting. This spurious line of reasoning would be repeated as a “talking point” every time a school shooting would occur since, including at Columbine, as a thought-terminating cliché to prevent public tragedies from being utilized towards firearms regulation. While the content of this time-wasting argument is commonly known by now, more important is its harder-to-notice source. In case that particular name might sound unfamiliar, Grossman’s “police training” courses were some of the most popular professional development programmes for American law enforcement in the post-Columbine world. As the director of the “Killology Research Group,” his fearful pedagogy was a motivating factor for the decade-later spate of institutionally-rooted extrajudicial killings which caused mass unrest throughout the United States, soon prompting the Black Lives Matter movement into existence. (Funny how that works out.)

I wasted a lot of ink writing about — and then shelving — these tangents, all for fear that any supposed silence on my part would be wrongly interpreted as acquiescence. It must’ve been about 60,000 words before realizing how unsustainable it was, ultimately trimming things down to just a fifth of the size. ... and this was only for the “serious” tangents! There were others that were just plain silly. Did you know the guy who wrote the authoritative textbook on the mechanics of suicide clusters, is far better known for his work as a cryptozoologist? Writing at length about the Sasquatch and colonies of merpeople living in a random lake in Indiana? Shit’s wild.

There was, however, one specific tangent within this mess that bothered me more than most. If I had to pinpoint it somehow, maybe it could be found in this book here: And words can hurt forever, by Ellen deLara and James Garbarino. ... though, I can’t really explain what I find so “off” about this book without first explaining why I’m in position to notice it.

It has to do with something that happened to me in high school. Because of irregularities in how the education system is set up within the province of Ontario, my pre-university schooling took place at both public schools and religious schools, simultaneously. This meant that the religious system had full access to the public system’s resources, while still able to pursue its own ideological goals. Aside from the largely talismanic allowance of prayer in schools, we had one less choice in elective courses, just to make room for the mandated “religion” class. At the time, Ontario high school was organized into “streams,” where classes needed to be split across the students who were college-bound against those who were university-bound. How the religious half of the system adapted this was to have the university-stream of the 12ᵗʰ Grade religion course become an “ethics” class. It was their last-ditch attempt at imposing social conservatism onto students, just as those students were getting wise to all the tricks that kept them in line as kids.

The ideology the system wished to impose was not great; not only in how it was disagreeable, but also in how it just didn’t really work that well. Due to the political mores from the then-concurrent George W. Bush administration in the United States, a lot of students already learned about these manufactured controversies from the media, far in advance of when they were to be taught in class. Earlier on in 9ᵗʰ Grade, our science teacher started off in an awkward mood one day, telling the class that her boss mandated her to teach “intelligent design” instead of standard biology. This was confusing, as biology wasn’t even taught at the Canadian 9ᵗʰ Grade level in the first place, but the command was given all the same. Some jokester in the back of class blurted out, “Let’s not and say we did.” To our surprise, the teacher agreed, and we never spoke of it again. We spent the rest of the day learning about electricity and playing with magnets – a far more productive use of our time.

I think the peculiarities of the mixed public-religious system meant the teachers involved were only that: teachers. They taught curriculum, but were not themselves proponents of their subjects, like a university professor might be. Sometimes they were, but most could manage without. The science teacher held no true allegiance to religion or science, and was only caught in an awkward spot because the new imposition was an impediment to doing the rest of her job. They were more mercenaries than teachers, at least given the number who worked for the religious system without having much religious inclinations of their own.

So it was in the “ethics” class. The teacher taught in a way that was demanded of his job, but also aware that these pre-university students were unlikely to be moved by the usual methods. This was most evident in their focus on the “abortion issue,” where an attempt was made at a generic “pro-life” argument, which swayed no one. All of the female students were quick to point out the flaws. The conservatism which animated this ideology was influenced by Catholicism and its “abstinence” approach to sexual education, but also the “anti-communism” of the Cold War. Even at the time, it was apparent to the teenage students that one could not be both “pro-life” and “pro-capitalist” in the same breath, because it was capitalist pressure (the need for a well-paying job in order to support having a family at all) which forced women into “pro-choice” situations in the first place. While they didn’t quite put it in such openly marxist terms, it still boiled down to: “when the rubber hits the road, it’s one or the other, yet the pro-life argument demands both.” This is why the given impression wasn’t of revulsion or moral abject, but of confusion and simple impracticality. The sum total of the imposed ideology was a melange of things all in active conflict: being pro-life yet also anti-sex; being anti-choice but also career-oriented; being anti-science while still pressuring us into the STEM fields to the exclusion of aught else. (Little did we realize these double-standards were not a result of the system malfunctioning, but of it working exactly as intended.)

Though, what I found strange at the time, was that the responding arguments were incredibly obvious – so obvious, in fact, teenagers could make them with very little external support. The teacher must have known this, and indeed must’ve seen this happen year-after-year, yet made no attempt at counter-argument. It was his job to teach what he was told to teach, but it was not his job to argue in their favour. Were our criticisms of social conservatism right? Were they wrong? He gave no indication, and the next day came with the next lesson.

Anyway, here’s the plot twist: it was within this environment that I failed the “social justice” component of the religious ethics class.

... that probably sounds like a ridiculous statement, so I should back it up a bit. This would’ve been sometime in 02007, or thereabouts. While today’s many strains of political conservatism are quite vocal in their seething hatred of social justice, at the time it wasn’t really on their radar. Their opposition first spread through online social networks, the majority of which were not yet available. This would eventually take form as snarling at “social justice warriors,” refashioning their old grievances about “political correctness” from the previous decade. ... but that wouldn’t really happen for another five years or so. I’m sure, come time, they must’ve been aghast at how it was already being taught in their very own special class.

For that one moment, it was a very different era, and my hyper-conservative school system felt that social justice was a perfectly cromulent topic of absolutely no controversial quality. Other components of the Catholic Church already had a vested interest in social justice development, and if that was the case, then there was probably nothing odious about it. (... from their perspective, at least.) If anything, social justice was utterly inane, at least when compared to the flashier stuff that southern politicians were making hay of. It was so unremarkable, I doubt any of my fellow classmates remember it being there; the only reason I do is because I was apparently quite bad at it.

It started off the usual way. After introductory lessons, we were given an assignment to submit a three-page paper illustrating how one specific topic or another was an example of social justice or injustice. I decided my example paper was going to be about bullying as an issue of social injustice. Not only was I informed by my own very-unfortunate experience with it, but also the Columbine media complex, which gave rise to the Bullying Hypothesis as a structural issue in many countries around the world. I felt rather confident in my position, and enthusiastic to boot, as it was rare when high school lined up with a topic I considered important. Alas, it blew up in my face.

My teacher, who up until this point had never issued corrections for anything, informed me that my supposition was factually wrong. I was taking the theory of social justice and misapplying it. Childhood bullying, he asserted, was not an issue of social injustice, but instead of commutative injustice. Since the curriculum had its basis in Catholicism, the exact terminology was borrowed from modern interpretations of St. Thomas Aquinas: social justice being a superstructure constructed along a continuum between commutative, distributive, and procedural components. Understanding the difference between each was important to the lesson.

Commutative justice concerns issues of conflict between individual persons, while social justice is concerned with structural issues which take place at-scale over entire populations. The two may contain components of one another, but not every commutative issue necessarily rises to the societal level. A common example is racism. It is possible for an individual racist to create a commutative injustice by being uniquely spiteful to a racialized minority on a singular basis. Yet if that happens often enough across a wide scale, the issue becomes a social injustice when latent systems take root, which may allow individual racists to indulge those behaviours more often or at a profit. Those latent systems may be pervasive enough that individuals might still be forced into promoting unjust outcomes, even inadvertently or when actively trying to avoid it. (Within my library, the Fields sisters offer an excellent brief for how this “sleight of hand” most commonly occurs.)

... and yet, the same standards did not apply to childhood bullying, or so I was told. Bullying, my teacher claimed, was in the former category. It exists only at the interpersonal level, with no elevation towards any larger system, purely being an issue of conflict between two specific parties: an abuser and their target. This is where-and-how bullying happens, so it can only exist at that level.

I pushed back, saying that is definitely a consideration, but there was more to it. While it may exist at the interpersonal level, it could still lead to issues of social injustice in the aggregate. ... however, this argument of mine was less persuasive than I thought. I was an unlearned neophyte who could not contend with an experienced educator, who had the simple claim of knowing better. Despite my enthusiasm, we were at an impasse, but the burden of proof remained on me. In the end, I damaged a perfectly good grade for the trouble. ... after all that work, it may have been more efficient to just hand in a blank page.

It was in reading this book, And words can hurt forever, my mind wandered back to this innocuous encounter. I failed the assignment, but the teacher likewise failed to convince me of his apparently-proper correctness. I remained thinking I was in the right, and since it related to something I cared about, I resented the outcome. ... but remember, the teacher involved hadn’t issued corrections for literally anything else, even though it was an environment where he was incentivized to do so. He usually didn’t, except for this. I recall it happening simply because it was so odd for the situation. Was I simply that wrong? I shuddered to think, but maybe I really was the only one who thought this way.

Was there anything I could have done differently? The religious component of our schooling lacked the academic rigor of other subjects. It encouraged us to look within for answers, rather than the arcane task of building a “works cited” page like everything else. If I went the other route, this book could’ve been the only place where I’d have ended up. As I was still in high school, my selection would’ve been limited to the few things available at mainstream book retailers, with this as the newest and glossiest item on the shelf. What would it have told me?

Is childhood bullying a social justice issue? The answer, it turns out, is:

“Yes.” *

See that giant pulsating asterisk. Gaze upon the ominous qualifier lurking behind it. The question comes with a single-word answer, immediately followed by one helluva footnote.

This book exists at a specific time and place, with the book’s joint-authorship a key signifier. Its first author is James Garbarino, who was already well-known for his books about psychology and childhood development. While I never had the chance to read his past work for myself, his was a name I encountered multiple times, even back in high school. Of particular interest was his 01997 book Lost Boys, supposedly about toxic masculinity, whose title and purported contents I kept stumbling upon even then. Having now been reminded of it, I slightly fear eventually tracking it down, as I am unequipped to know if it holds up with age. Garbarino did not take this research interest far into the future, where he slowly transitioned towards more tangential topics. Most recently was a semi-autobiographical book called Talking to Killers, about his work as an expert witness for the US court system. In the moments of that book concerning his own history, he mentions he got into the field of studying childhood development by following in the footsteps of his mentor, but in turn had some difficulty treading a path of his own.

By contrast, And words can... was one of Ellen deLara’s earlier publications. Before this, she was a family counselor for over 25 years, informing what followed. While this is one of her earlier writings, she has remained in this topic ever since, with a dedicated research specialty on the mechanics and effects of bullying. Her most recent general-audience book is Bullying Scars, which is the result of a multi-decade longitudinal study. From it comes her grand hypothetical contribution of “Adult Post-Bullying Syndrome” (ABPS) which describes a suite of common maladies suffered by grown adults who were bullied when young. It presents itself as a more-specialized version of Judith Herman’s “Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (CPTSD) and is co-determinant in most respects. That later book is built on the shoulders of this earlier book, with And words can... carrying a large number of same-writer citations. Early hypotheses found here reappear in Scars as continuations of research. This is also mirrored by Garbarino, with items in this book forming building blocks for some of his future writing in other areas. A specific throughline I noticed was a four-sided structural analysis of emotional violence experienced by children: Terrorizing, Isolating, Neglecting, and Corrupting. Garbarino coined this setup in his earliest book on the subject, The Psychologically Battered Child, published in 01986.

I had a lot of respect for Ralph Larkin’s Comprehending Columbine. Whether or not one agrees with the Bullying Hypothesis of school violence, Larkin’s book was-and-remains its best written representation. Yet for any theory to be reliable, it must have a strong theoretical basis, lending itself towards standardized measurement. Larkin’s understanding of “bullying” must therefore come from another source; such as this book, and in this case, almost exclusively. This turns And words can... into a load-bearing citation, where if it gives way, a whole lot more comes tumbling down. Larkin describes the book in this fashion:

The normative view is that [youth live] outside history. Their behavior is not perceived as being influenced by national events. The factors that [supposedly] impress upon their lives pretty much end at the boundaries of the local community; although city, county, and state budgets may influence the educational, recreational, and social services they receive.

James Garbarino is probably the leading researcher in the field of youth violence and victimization. With Ellen deLara, he wrote the definitive book on the emotional costs of bullying. Central to his theme is that school bullying is institutional violence for which the institution must, but seldom does, take responsibility. He applies a systems approach to the analysis of school violence; according to Garbarino, “In a system, all people in all parts of the system are interconnected.” Although he mentions national trends in this analysis, he focuses on the institutional level.

Talcott Parsons has suggested that the same integrative forces operate at the societal level of social organization as at the institutional level and that institutional processes are influenced by what occurs at the societal level of organization. Therefore, school violence is part of a larger issue of societal violence.

Ralph Larkin, in Comprehending Columbine

And words... considers the puzzle of childhood bullying from a systems-oriented perspective. “The system is greater than the sum of its parts,” “all people and all parts in a system are interconnected,” and “interactions between people are circular, not simply a series of cause and effect” are the straightforward items of their thesis. More contentious ideas concern homeostasis, where “the system will discourage change” and “the system will always work towards maintaining itself, for better or worse.” Not only does this concern the punishment of difference and reward of conformity, systems are perfectly willing to sacrifice individuals and whole groups to achieve this much-desired homeostasis. Systems that are not working well, or are unhealthy in some meaningful way, may produce scapegoats to blame for general problems.

Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our situations, then our situations shape us.” We make decisions about schools — who will be in them, how big they will be, what the policies on aggression will be, how to punish misbehavior, how teachers and administrators will spend their time. But once these decisions are made, once we have created the systems, then these systems have a life of their own. To do something about the problems of bullying demands that we see the systems around the individuals involved.

The systemic orientation does a lot to uproot the so-called common wisdom about bullying. Ineffective suggestions such as “why don’t they just tell an adult about it?” must contend with the fact of power differentials. For most children in these situations, informing authorities to the behavior of one’s peers is an incredibly risky thing to do, especially if there is no guarantee it will result in any proper resolution. Adults have the capacity to feel safe in their endeavors because they may have legal redress for countering undue harassment, but children and teenagers often lack these methods of recourse, making “a rough day at the office” that much more consequential. This power vacuum leads to many dark patterns where the problem compounds, often leading to a corruptive sense of learned helplessness. (Or, instilled.)

With this analysis linking “bullying” to “the social system,” in such specific terminology, I would’ve had an easier time making my perhaps-awkward point back in the day. Had I been equipped with this citation, the social justice link would’ve been marginally possible, but only if given the hard task of boiling its 200-page argument down to just one.

... but with all that in mind, what’s the problem here? In reading this relatively-harmless book from this now-future vantage two decades later, I was filled with an incredible sense of disquiet. Remember: this was the one reference book within all those wild tangents that I found the most worrisome, for what it once represented, and for what it now contends. So, what’s “wrong” here? Why, despite everything, am I bothered by this?

The best way to illustrate the larger problem is to consider this book’s intended audience. Even though its authors are academics and their findings are supported by research, this is a general-audience book through-and-through. Its theoretical basis is very strong, but only offers a tantalizingly small amount of it, all for fear of boring a readership in better need of brass-tack practicalities. The target audience is geared for the parents of bullied children, with the assumption the bullying is taking place primarily at school and nowhere else. Every chapter ends with a section titled “What can you do?” — whereupon chapter-relevant advice is doled out, almost all involving a greater amount of parental involvement (or meddling) in the school’s affairs.

Even here, we see the curious slippage that my old teacher once engaged in. Though the book acknowledges the grander scale of its systemic orientation, it turns heel when pressed, and can only offer solutions on the commutative level. The readers of this book arrive with a problem in need of solving, but if we take the book’s core thesis at face value, then this problem is not so easily solved – and, perhaps, should not be. Like what happened to my science teacher, what chaos would ensue if these massive and distributed systems were indeed so open to sudden suggestion? It constructs a sad Catch-22 in this way, because if you were truly capable of enacting such systemic change at all, then you probably weren’t getting bullied in the first place.

The book gives an argument in the rough shape of what should be a social justice issue, only to grow reticent at the prospect, and scurry back to what it thinks is “safer” ground. It attempts to not rock the boat any more than it needs to, but in trying to be helpful around that limitation, it just sours the issue even further. Only systemic change will free you from these provably unjust burdens, yet the power to do so shall forever elude you, for it is those very same burdens which shackle you. So, uh, here’s a bunch of coping mechanisms, I guess?

I may have been predisposed towards accepting the general argument put forward in this book, bearing many “scars” of my own for this sordid business. I spent a decade of my life at an elementary school with an unforgivably toxic social environment, and being as young as I was, I fell into all the same anti-patterns a “psychologically battered child” then would. For a time, I thought it because God wished to punish me for some past misdeed, though such an explanation couldn’t last forever. Soon came a few cracks in this porcelain visage, where I noticed that my situation was not so divinely ordained, but instead a result of all-too-human error.

Fourth Grade was especially bad. We had this crone-like lady of a teacher who carried a very performative style of strictness. So orderly was her classroom that all students were arranged in alphabetical order, desks joined together like church pews, and we her congregation. As a result of this holy-writ lexical ordering, I was forcibly seated between two churlish brutes for the entire year, with the each of us shoved into eachother’s personal space at all times of day. I was constantly on edge. It was a truly miserable situation that lasted for months. ... but eventually Fifth Grade rolled around. Same school, with the same class of students, even in the same physical classroom as before; but a new teacher who arranged things differently. She allowed students to change seating locations every few weeks, and our desks were not packed-in like sardines as before, but were instead spaced sensibly further apart. It was still terrible all-around — the school had long proven itself to be an utterly miserable place — but it was noteworthy how just these few changes made things much more manageable, especially when the constituent parts remained the same from the previous year. Even the smallest amount of intent at the source can have large effect on the downstream.

The move to high school saw the amount of bullying I experienced lowered in overall frequency. I wouldn’t necessarily say high school was better or worse than grade school, but because it was arranged differently, the sources and methods of bullying were likewise different. In all of university I could count the number of instances of bullying which I bore witness to on only one hand, where the reasons and mechanisms leading to it were that much easier to identify, all because it wasn’t so endemic to the environment.

It was through these ebbs and flows that I understood this “systemic” interpretation long before I had the words to express it. Even in that one high school class, it was something I was fumbling to find. In my own trauma, I searched for any resolution to the issue I could get, or some lesson to take from this whole ordeal. It seemed so rational, given this evidence, that the medium was the message – as it ever is. Every school contains the seed of education, but so too does it contain the seed of bullying; the types of it, the how of it, and in some cases even the who of it. All aspects are subject to the institutional biases of the situation at hand, and some of these systems are ripe for exploitation. Every light casts a shadow, and the shape of that shadow determines what will hide within.

“Harassment exists in the shadow of function.” This phrase has haunted me for some time – an aphorism towards a cyber-security approach to the design of online social spaces. For every new user affordance granted, it may bring new connections between people, but the software designer must be aware of how it might also be weaponized to cause harm. In the summer of 02021, the Twitch livestreaming platform was besieged with “hate raids” and other forms of coordinated harassment, all targeting minorities and other vulnerable groups. These raids were made possible through security flaws in the design of the website software, wherein the creation of thousands of throwaway accounts could be controlled via automation, conjuring phantom armies to cause large-scale vandalism and form virtual lynch mobs. (Subsequent legal proceedings suggests all the chaos was the fault of only two individual persons.) Bigotry may be a social issue in the general sense, but this case of it was enabled through technological neglect, meaning this social problem – for once – had a technological solution: patch that shit out! This happened in the context of Web 2.0’s drive towards a “simplified onboarding” process, meant to increase userbase valuation with less burdensome account registration methods, yet it also provided the malicious actors with the attack vector needed to cause this very trouble. Only after updating the software to introduce the necessary safety features was Twitch able to bring the hate raids to a relative close, and even other platforms like Discord followed through with their own improved safety features within the same period.

My opinion of this later issue – I realized – was informed by this earlier issue, and I wondered to what degree there was interchange. Are educational systems vulnerable to the same mechanics? Was the preponderance of bullying at my school, or of any school, a result of these supposed attack vectors? There was some reason to think so. One of the more common examples of bullying throughout this time was a style of weaponized heteronormativity. The reason it was so common, and also so difficult for local authorities to properly manage, was because of its political groundings in the adult world from the earlier decade. Malicious actors were quick to identify this structural weakness, and as is always the case with exploits, stretched a hole in it wide enough to drive a truck through. The existence of this attack vector, and the authorities’ slow movements towards patching it, allowed its wild growth. Nearly all of the school violence incidents at the time of the Columbine attack, as studied by Katherine Newman, contained this “challenged masculinity” aspect in her profiles of the perpetrators. One can argue if these conclusions were ultimately mistaken or not, but it still followed from the available evidence, leading early investigators to wonder what effect it had on the sudden uptick of violence. Viewing the problem through this lens might seem depressing, but carries the possibility of being useful, because it implies these problems necessarily have solutions. They, too, can patch this shit out. ... in theory, at least. The practice, I’ve since discovered, is a lot more complicated.

Once extant systems are no longer identified as mere acts of nature, but instead as intentional expressions of its own maintainers and leadership, suddenly those responsible for the character of these systems are open to new charges of liability. If all systems work to pursue homeostasis, then of all the possible kinds, why one over the other? Who does the system benefit? Who does it disadvantage? When disadvantaged, is there intent behind it? All are easy questions for me to ask, as one person who has never been in charge of anything, but these same questions can become quite dangerous to someone else with the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. They would much rather anything left in their shadow retain its old status as an innocent accident, rather than the result of deliberate choice; especially some choice they never consciously made. So it was when the Mental Illness Hypothesis developed a decade later. In the nature-versus-nurture debate on the genesis of school violence, the scales were tipped away from nurture, back in the favour of nature.

The twin hypotheses extend beyond this issue. I may have wished to carry that past lesson with me into my own work building online social systems, but it seems not all are of the same mind. Early theories about cyberbullying stemming from environmental and technological influences have fallen out of favour, and new psychological research posits internet trolling is merely a correlate with the dark tetrad. The sheer mass of replicated scientific findings are hard to argue against, but I wonder if it isn’t a practical dead end. It’s a concept made of sand; perfectly reasonable in theory, but try to grasp it for yourself and it will only slip through your fingers. For all of its explanatory prowess, it’s a tool only usable by professional psychiatrists, and even then only under specific circumstances. This line of thinking that does not led itself towards seeking fair and preventative solutions in the general purpose. ... and yet, as institutions ossify and constrict, this deflectionary impulse remains.

It’s a bit sad, in a way. The moment the new hypothesis came into being, all the weight behind the older hypothesis vanished into thin air. It was a great relief to read Larkin’s analysis on the nature of bullying from that point in history, especially seeing how it increased rapidly from earlier points in time, but it also begged the question of where that trend has gone since. Has it improved? Has it worsened? Through all my search, I couldn’t find much answer to that question. People were willing to build upon Larkin’s research for similar points, but few were willing to continue the question into the future. The whole topic of the bullying epidemic never really had much sway without the dark force of the school shooting epidemic backing it up. And words can... relies on the then-recent reporting about the Columbine attack to underscore its points. In 02013, Jessie Klein published The Bully Society, which was largely a restatement of the Bullying Hypothesis of eld. However, that book attracted many critics who questioned the factual underpinnings linking bullying to school shootings, which was also “a trope” Klein relied on to bolster her arguments. If it wasn’t for the underlying threat of school shootings, people were perfectly willing to re-normalize the problem of childhood bullying overall, for no reason other than sheer expedience. Once the new hypothesis effectively decoupled the two issues, the old status quo reasserted itself, and this messy topic was swept back under the rug.

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  • ISBN of And words can hurt forever: 978-0-7432-2899-2
  • ISBN of Bullying Scars: 978-0190233679

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