Entertainers Bill Cosby and Cassidy McMillan shed light on the bullying crises
Daood Obaid | 11/7/2011, 7:15 a.m.
October is International Bullying Month, and there seems to be a case about bullying on major and local television networks every week.
According to Francisco Negro, who is the general counsel for the National School Board Association, "Bullying lawsuits are on the rise nationwide."
Whether it's the high-profile case of the Australian Casey Heynes caught on video body-slamming his bully to the concrete or 13-year-old Jon Carmichael committing suicide as a consequence of being bullied, parents, teachers, and the community-at-large must take notice.
These cases and others propelled writer Daood Obaid to contact actor, educator, and humanitarian Bill Cosby, Ed.D., and Cassidy McMillan, who has created an award-winning documentary "Rats & Bullies," about the death of 14 year old Dawn-Marie Wesley. The teen committed suicide after being bullied and threatened. My dialogue with Dr. Bill Cosby and Cassidy McMillan was one involving insight, accounts of pain and misery, but ultimately providing solutions.
Daood: With the suicide of Phoebe Prince and Dawn-Marie Wesley, as well as footage of the young boy from Australia on YouTube being bullied and other reported incidents, finally this phenomenon is being recognized as a crisis, an international crisis. Speaking with Larry King, Dr. Bill Cosby you stated, "Teachers should be able to recognize it (bullying) when they see it ..." In the case of your own daughter, Erika, did she initially bring it to the teacher's attention or you and Mrs. Cosby?
Cosby: She brought it home. I have to palm up to Ms. McMillan because she is the author of the documentary if you don't mind; what I would like to point to, if we both agree. Bullying can be that which a person or a group of people get together and begin to berate or make another person feel threatened or feel powerless in a negative way. Is that correct?
McMillan: Yes that's correct.
Cosby: Okay. There is the typical case like with Erica where she was called a name. I want also to bring in the incident in Compton where these boys raped a girl; that to me that is a form of bullying; and something where you get a terrible taste in your mouth; a group of males descending upon another human being; an act of violence, physical trauma, sexual abuse, molestation, is at a level; and I don't want to berate animals, because animals are not taught better. Then there is the case in Cleveland, Texas, where more than handful of males did the same kind of thing to an 11-year-old girl.
Daood: Yes a horrific gang rape by 18 men of an 11-year-old girl sparked a racial issue.
Cosby: She's Mexican and these fellows were Black. The bullying to me, this act is with a group that agrees and Ms. McMillan; please correct me, if on your professional end of it, what I'm saying is incorrect. They (the men) all agreed that it was all right that this for them is an acceptable behavior.
McMillan: Right. It's like that.
Cosby: So, where is it that we are missing getting information to people that this is not all right? See freedom of speech is one thing; but, there is no freedom here with this rape. What I'm getting at is, that with this kind of behavior, is that these people are enjoying it; because that's what we are talking about; people who enjoy doing this and pushing it and pushing it; am I correct Ms. McMillan?
McMillan: Yes exactly. You know it's like, where they learned that this is acceptable; and that they can treat another human being this way.
Cosby: A bully does not have to be a huge a person. A bully does not have to be a person who looks like he can take you down physically. Instead a bully can be someone mentally who is aggressive and can start things; they can have the personality to take over a group of people and start an attack. A bully can hide behind words on the Internet. But, the rape thing is annoying, it is sickening, as well as the act that which drives a person to suicide; and then what is nauseating is the excuse given by those people with authority who are suppose to look into situations like this seriously.
So with that, Erica brought her story home and then Mrs. Cosby went to the school and made it important. Now, there are parents who've gone to schools, and have heard from the person at school that (what was happening to their child) wasn't important or that it was going to be looked into but (wasn't).
People have to take it seriously. What happened with Erica, the school went into it right away. The parents of the child bullying Erica were there right away. The parents didn't say we don't know what you're talking about because this is my child. It was you're going to straighten this out and the kid's parents wanted their child to stay in the school and so there was a certain amount where the parents had to go through certain sensitive talks and it never happened again.
Daood: Is there is a possibility of a trust factor that needs to be established between teachers and students, counselor and students, etc.
Cosby: Well I think Ms. McMillan can answer that question.
McMillan: Yes, with the Dawn Marie Wesley incident she was 14 years old and was bullied and threatened by three girls at her high school, who she named in her suicide note as being the toughest girls at her school. One of the girl's father was a police officer. Dawn Marie said she had gone to her counselors at the school.
But one of things that I found out that was wrong at Dawn Marie's school was they segregated Native American students from Caucasians students. Dawn Marie Wesley was half-Native American on her father's side and half Caucasian on her mother's side. So the school mandated therefore you are Native American Dawn Marie Wesley and you have to speak with a Native American counselor. You can't talk to the Caucasian counselor first.
So, right there that was really disturbing. Dawn Marie Wesley went to her counselor several times to say that she was being bullied, and it was played off. It got to the point where the bullies started saying that they were going to kill her. But, six months prior to Dawn Marie Wesley being bullied, teenagers--both girls and boys--at her school had beaten a girl to death and drowned her in the river in a nearby providence in Canada. So, Dawn Marie Wesley's bullies said that 'we are going to kill you like that other girl was killed.'