In the wake of the enactment of a New Jersey law last week requiring schools to appoint anti-bullying experts and report bullying regularly, Tracy Smith of CBS' Sunday Morning profiled a school in Nebraska already working to counter classroom bullying.
7th graders Stephanie and Jacob used to be friends, but that all changed one recent Friday afternoon during 6th period English, when Stephanie began taunting Jacob.
"She's like, 'Are you gay?'" Jacob recalled. "And I'm like, 'No.'"
"The second time I asked him he said, 'I'm not gay,'" Stephanie said. "And then I said, 'Are you sure you're not gay?'"
"And then she kept on responding, 'Well, you're gay, you're gay, you're gay!' said Jacob. "And I'm like, 'I'm not!'"
"And he yelled it really loud!" she said.
"And so she kept repeating that, repeating that, and then finally Ms. Baker looked over my way and I'm like, 'Well, she won't stop calling me gay.'"
...Hugh McDermott, the principal at Stephanie and Jacob's school, Irving Middle School in Lincoln, Neb., feels it's important to talk about bullying and its consequences.
Compared to high-profile cases of bullying, much of the talk between students may seem like small potatoes. But McDermott says, "When it starts to affect how they feel, when it starts to affect how they are learning or not learning, then that's kind of important.
"After a time, that can really wear on a kid," he said.
It is so important that McDermott invited us to see what Irving is doing about it.
"The extreme cases that happen nationally, we don't want any kids to get even close to those points of terrible acts," he told Smith.
...So McDermott allowed researchers from the University of Nebraska to study Irving Middle School students as part of their bully intervention program - an intensive, one-on-one, three-hour analysis using questionnaires, talk therapy and videos.
The idea is to catch kids early, before behaviors and reputations take hold.
..."We've kind of honed in on middle school," she said, "because the research shows that bullying peaks during the middle school years. Kids are going from their nice, you know, safe, smaller elementary schools into middle school, where they're changing classes. They have lockers, they're more independent; puberty issues are hitting. Middle school seems to be a particularly vulnerable time for kids."
Is there a bully profile? No, says Swearer. "We can't say, 'Well, they're impulsive and they're, you know, not that smart.' You know, there is no profile. So why some people bully and some people don't is very complicated."