Does Realty TV Lead to Bullying and Bad Behavior?

By Paul Langhorst  April 25, 2012

Does reality TV lead to increased incidents of bullying, verbal and physical abuse and other bad behavior in school?

Some experts think so.  I recently attended the National Bullying Conference put on by the School Safety Advocacy Council and attended a workshop given by Shelba Waldron, training manager for the St. Petersberg/Tampa Juvenile Welfare Board.  She confirmed what I have been telling my daughters…reality TV that depicts verbal and physical aggression can influence the way teenagers think and behave.  Shelba had facts, stats and samples to back up her claims, whereas I typically yell out “turn that junk off it will hurt your brain!”

Shelba’s session was riveting, especially the portion where she demonstrated how seemingly harmless video footage can be edited to fit or create any storyline.  She shared that a typical reality show may film 200 hours of video for a 1-hour episode allowing editors to create a show that is highly produced and a far cry from “reality.”

I wrote a full article on Shelba’s session which can be read under the News section of the CyberBully Hotline website here.

Shelba offered research by the Girl Scouts of America and the Media Research Foundation to back up her assertions and said the influence on girls/women was especially concerning. Shelba commented, “much what is classified as “cyberbullying” is done by teen girls and the language and issues at the center of these incidents is reflective of the aggressive behavior and language seen on violent reality TV shows.”



The Secret to Motivating Students – Supersoakers and Mini Balls?

By Paul Langhorst, April 20, 2012

Loud hip-hop music pounds off the gym walls. 7th graders are filing in from both sides of the gym. A fit, young-looking, man wearing a softball jersey and bright orange tennis shoes is running back and forth saying “wassss up” and hand-slapping and fist-bumping kids as they walk past.

Bombs away! Suddenly, the man starts tossing orange mini balls and squeeze bottles into the pulsating bleachers. Kids reach for the items and their screams fill the air. The man grabs kids and teachers to form a cha-cha line to the beat of the music. The room is still filling. The atmosphere is electric. Just when you thought it could not get any higher – the man pulls out a Supersoaker and starts hosing down the kids.

Its wild, 350 kids now pack the bleachers, and the kids are loving it.

Welcome to an Aric Bostick “You are Awesome” youth rally.

Today’s location is Miller Intermediate Middle School, part of the Pasadena, TX school district. Principal Kimberly Kelly engaged Aric to speak to the students to motivate them to do their best prior to the important STAR test the following week. After the 7th graders are sufficiently wound up and hear Aric’s message, the whole process starts again with the 8th grade class, followed by a 1-hour staff session and 1-hour parent session that began at 6:30 PM. (The parents were spared the Supersoaker treatment.) What a day!

Aric is a contributor to the CyberBully Hotline. He as spoken to over half a million students in his 12-year motivational speaking career. Starting out as a teacher, Aric quickly learned that he needed to be different to reach his class. Incorporating music, fist-bumps, hand slaps and other antics into his teaching style made kids want to be in his room and the learning naturally followed. Building on this, Aric started an after-hours goal setting class for students which grew and grew in popularity. An invite by one of the student’s parents to speak at their small Baptist church put Aric on the path to his new motivational speaking career. I call him the “Tony Robbins of K-12.”

It didn’t happen over night and Aric had to change to get there. And that’s Aric’s message – to do great things:

  • you can’t let your past define you
  • you need to let go and not confine yourself with preconceptions
  • you need to write down your goals; and
  • you need to work hard to achieve goals.

Simple ideas, but unfortunately many of the kids in the audience don’t hear this type of encouragement from their parents, families, guardians, or teachers.

Coming from a low-income, broken home, (and of small stature) Aric had to overcome a lot to get where he is today. He didn’t even have a name when he was born. His parents, thinking they were having a girl, left naming Aric up to his 10-year old brother, asking the brother to pick a name out of name book. As Aric says, “my brother evidently did not get out of the A’s in the book.”

Aric learned that he had to change himself because he could not change others and he could not change the world around him. But by changing himself, others around him and his world began to change.

Aric consults with the CyberBully Hotline and is a content contributor to our Resource Center. We can’t begin to tell you how excited we are to have Aric on our team. If you ever have the opportunity, have Aric come to your school. It will be a school-life changing event. Oh, and bring a towel!

Learn more about Aric, by visiting



CyberBully Hotline Hosts Free Screeing of “Bully”

The CyberBully Hotline and its parent company, SchoolReach, hosted a free screening of the movie “Bully” for our St. Louis area customers.

The event was attended by over 100 school administrators and their guests. A customer reception was held between the two screening times allowing SchoolReach customers to network with peers from around the St. Louis region.

Hear coverage of the event on EduTalk Radio here.

The attendees had a noticeable change upon leaving the movie. Many were quiet, a few tears were seen, and many were engaged in deep discussion in small groups, which is exactly what we were hoping to occur. We created this event as a means to stimulate discussion on the problem and solutions of bullying. Chris Gunither, a Teacher at Francis Howell School District and president of the Missouri National Education Association summed it up best, “Bullying is not a childhood right of passage. Bullying is making children not want to go to school, not want to live and to not feel like a part of society or their schools.”

Tylor Lester, a student in attendance from a St. Louis public school, had a message for bullying bystanders upon exiting the movie…”Help out!  Don’t just stand by and watch. Go tell someone that can stop the madness.”

Fox2News covered the event and aired a comprehensive story on their 6 PM, 10 PM and morning news shows. Watch the Fox2News story here: Students Get Private Screening Of “Bully” Documentary

Thank you to all for attending and for those employees of SchoolReach who helped organize the event, watch the screening and were on hand to help.





“Bully” Movie Review – Wow!

By Paul Langhorst  April 12, 2012

SchoolReach was extended a special invitation to attend the press screening of “Bully,” which opens here in St. Louis on Friday at Plaza Frontenac, Ronnies and select AMC theaters.  We were able to expand the invitation and eventually ended up bringing about 30 customers, partners and special guests to a reception and the screening.

It was a very moving and emotional night. The fun and excitement of mingling with our customers and friends before the movie was offset by the stark reality and pain presented by Bully.

The movie follows the lives of 5 teens and their families who are victims of bullying. Including the families as “victims” was not a typo. It is clear in these cases that the families are also victims of bullying; their lives are completely consumed by the consequences of bullying whether in the tragic aftermath of two suicides or the daily ritual of dealing with a child who comes home tormented, torn and disrupted from being bullied, harassed or intimidated.

It was hard for me to believe that any school administrator would allow filming to take place on their campus and buses, especially when that school was doing such a horrible job of preventing or responding to bullying reports. In an interview on KMOX, a top AM station here in St. Louis, director Lee Hirsch said they sent letters to hundreds of schools seeking volunteers to allow such a movie to be filmed. While I am surprised it was allowed, I am glad that such access was granted, because Bully would not have been the same without it.

The on-campus and on-bus settings made the movie life-like and exposed the environment in which bullying takes place. I imagine that many parents never really see the inside of a school when its in session and Bully gives the viewer a sense of what its like to be “in the trenches” with the bully, the bullied and the bystanders as these situations take place.

One of our guests, Paul Fennewald, who is the director of the Missouri Center for Education Safety, had this to say:

“‘Bully’ is a powerful movie that lays bare the effects of bullying on victims, families and communities. Anyone that is in K-12 education, administration or involved with counseling and safety efforts at schools, would benefit greatly from seeing this movie.”

-Paul Fennewald, Director

Missouri Center for Education Safety

Alex, one on the bully victims and the one most documented, is tormented daily because of his awkward looks, which stem from a premature birth at 26 weeks. Alex is a survivor. To survive birth at 26 weeks and to be healthy and high functioning is a testament to the love and care he received from his family. Yet, while his family brought him into this world and nursed him from a 1-pound baby to adolescence, they seem helpless against the bullying that Alex endures on a daily basis with their pleas for help to the school officials seeming to go unheeded. Ultimately, the school begins to take action, but apparently not because of Alex’s parent requests, but due to the evidence compiled by the filmmakers. Alex is probably somewhat of a celebrity now and I hope is more-than-15-minutes of fame prevents further bullying and that he continues to survive and grow into successful and productive adulthood.

The other amazing point, was the portrayal of the transformation in the lives of the parents of children who committed suicide. These parents did not shrink and collapse from the pain and suffering from the loss of a child, they became stout and resolute to make a difference. I’m not sure I could do the same, but hope and pray that I am never put to such a test. Starting organizations to bring awareness to bullying they became marketers, organizers, public speakers, and lobbyists so that their children did not die in vain and that their memory would live on. As the father of one child said, he was doing this because his son “will be forever 11 years old.”

I encourage anyone who is involved in education to go see Bully. Take your class to it as a field trip if at all possible. Its message to bystanders that they have the power to stop bullying should not be lost.




CyberBully Hotline Featured on EduTalk Radio

Learn how bystanders can be a key resource to reducing bullying by providing additional means, such as an anonymous reporting process, to help encourage them to come forward and report on bullying and harassment.

Listen to Larry Jacobs of EduTalk Radio interview Paul Langhorst about bullying and the CyberBully Hotline.



Cell Phone Bans in School – Pros and Cons

By Paul Langhorst     April 2, 2012

Student use of mobile phones during school hours is getting a fresh look and the results are surprising.

According to an article by Kevin Thomas, published in T.H.E Journal, 24% of K-12 schools ban cell phones completely, while 62% allow them on school grounds, but with use restrictions.

The data in this article comes from a April 2010 Pew Research study on students and mobile phone use, so these numbers are probably in need of update, but the underlying theme is the same – like it or not, cell phones are present on campus and are taken to school by students with parent approval.

As a parent, I encourage my high school junior to take her phone to school, but not to use it during classes. She drives to and from school daily, so having the phone handy is a big comfort. In one memorable instance I was taking her to school on a late start day due to snow and ice and was stuck in a horrible traffic jam. My daughter learned via a classmate’s “tweets” that the start was pushed back even further due to the massive traffic jams due to ice that day.

The pros of a student having a phone at school, can often be outweighed by the cons. Some pros include:

  • Immediate access to parents in an emergency
  • Independent class-room level access from the outside world during power failure, loss of phone system, emergencies, or lock down conditions.
  • Access to information (via smartphone and internet)
  • Additional security during before, after school hours
  • Students can help spread necessary information to each other and parents/guardians
  • Growing body of content and curriculum designed to integrate phone use

The cons include:

  • Distractions of social media access
  • Distractions from texting – some kids are addicted!
  • Unwanted or premature dispersal of information to parents, i.e. texting parents about being on lockdown before all facts are known.
  • Continuation of cyberbullying episodes during school hours

Cell phones are the soda shops of the 21st century. Just like kids in the 50’s hung out at soda shops after school, today they hang out on their phones – accessing social media sites, following each others tweets and staying connected with texting. Trying to take them away now, would be like turning back the social clock. Cell phones, smart phones and an increasing array of mobile devices are here to stay. Their use by kids will only grow, reaching down to younger and younger ages.  One of our St. Louis area clients recently shared that “half of their third graders now carry cell phones,” which means 8-9 year old students!

Like it or not, cell phones are here to stay in school. The better solution is try to figure out how to control and integrate their use as opposed to banning them outright.