A high school student in Orange County, Southern California , shot himself to death last month. His parents filed a lawsuit against the school district, claiming that school administrators failed to stop the "relentless" bullying leading up to their son's suicide.
It is not the first time that bullying among students was surfaced, but the death of a high school student after being bullied certainly shocked parents and educators in the U.S.
Daniel Mendez, 16, was a sophomore at the San Clemente High School . After he killed himself, his parents filed a 3 million-dollar legal claim against the Capistrono Unified School District, alleging that school administrators failed to stop bullying which lead to their son's death.
Bullying is pretty common but schools and parents are not adept at dealing with it, said Dorothy Espelage, professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Espelage, who has studied bullying for 15 years, said victims of bullying killing themselves is extreme but is happening a lot more across the country today.
More than 32 states in the U.S., including California, have varied legislation on bullying, from definitions to mandating bullying policies for schools, but usually with no money to back it up, Espelage said.
"Schools are either turning away from it (or) not paying attention to the school climate that is fostering that ...Very few schools know how to handle this. The schools are overburdened. They're teaching to the test, but no counseling is going on in our schools," Espelage said.
According to her research, 15 percent of middle and high school students nationwide are the bullies; 17 percent are chronic victims, and more than 80 percent of chronic victims have contemplated suicide.
Another report said that in the U.S., almost 6 million kids, nearly 30 percent of all children, are either bullied or are doing the bullying.
While students like Mendez chose to kill themselves after being bullied, some others decided to fight back, but in many cases, in a wrong way.
In Seattle, 12-year-old girl Alexix Austin allegedly hit her classmate Mark Smith in the head with a backpack. The girl faced criminal charges.
But she claimed that the incident came only after suffering a year's worth of relentless sexual harassment and bullying by boys. She said she had to stand up for herself.
"You walk into the school and it says 'bully free school' and boys are calling us whores and sluts," said Austin.
Friends of Austin said they've been targeted too, and their complaints to teachers often go nowhere. One girl even called the school a "zoo."
"They say that they'll do a rape or molest when they don't even know how serious rape and molest is," she said.
Daniel Warburton, a 13-year-old eighth grader, has recently made a video of his experience of being bullied and put it on the YouTude web site.
He said he has been relentlessly bullied since the fourth grade. At first, it was name-calling. He was called names like faggot, gay and any other very vile words they could use.
The bullying, which started with verbal abuses, finally got physical. Daniel was repeatedly tackled to the point of unconsciousness by seven of his own teammates.
Daniel's mother, Jennifer Warburton told the press: "They just left him there. He was so afraid to say anything, that by the time the coaches got down to the field for practice, he just got up and went through the whole practice."
Dr. Joseph Wright, the lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, said the biggest misconception in the U.S. is that bullying is normative behavior. It is just kids being kids and that it really is no big deal.
But he cited a study to show that in two-thirds
of school shootings, from Columbine to West Paducah, Kentucky, the shooters had been repeatedly bullied.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also held that doctors, parents and teachers shouldn't just focus on the bully and the bullied. They should target the bystanders who witness the bullying.
In New Hampshire, community leaders, parents and teachers gathered early this month to change the state law to help deal with bullying in schools.
"It's not just a school issue. Because school is a public place, it's easy to look at it as a resource, but it's everywhere in our culture," said Carmel Quinn, Director of Advocacy for Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
Addressing bullying will take efforts that go well beyond the schools, Quinn said.
"Public schools are for all kids and that's one of the reasons for focusing there, but we cannot just look at it as school that builds strong, resilient children," she said.
Also, in the cyber age, social network sites on the internet, email and cell phones make it easier for people to be bullies because they can hide, and they can do it from far away.
Researchers estimated that 80 percent of teenagers have sent mean, hurtful or threatening messages via the internet or a cell phone, and about 30 percent admit to receiving a "cyberbully" message.