When high school student Fabianna Pergolizzi became aware of the Child
Abuse Prevention Services program and its survey on bullying, she realized
that perhaps she was not alone in having to endure the taunts and harassment
of her classmates.
To find out more about the prevalence of bullying, she rallied a group of
friends from around the United States and, with permission from the Child
Abuse Prevention Services program, enlisted them to distribute the survey to
the middle schools in Miami, Durham, N.C., Baltimore, and Palo Alto, Calif.,
during the 2005-06 school year. Pergolizzi, 16, distributed the survey to
students at the middle school she previously attended in Naples, Fla.
The other students involved in the project were Darren R ichmond, 16, who
attends Miami Beach Senior High School; Samantha Macario, 14, who attends Gunn
High School in Palo Alto; Zoe Gan, 14, who attends East Chapel Hill High
School in Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Paul Auster, 18, who attends Yeshiva Lev
Hatorah, a college in Israel (he was in high school in Baltimore at the time
the survey took place). Together, the five students joined forces to establish
Of the 586 seventh and eighth graders surveyed, their responses revealed
that almost half of them (45.1 percent) had been bullied. The most common
response was to ignore the bully (34 percent), but reactions differed by
gender—40.2 percent of girls reported ignoring the bully, while only
25.7 percent of boys did.
Boys were more likely to retaliate, with 38.8 percent of them saying they
reacted by hitting or pushing the bully; 17.7 percent of girls acknowledged
Of the students surveyed, 40 percent reported having bullied other
Among 466 students who witnessed bullying, about 55 percent said they did
nothing, and only 7 percent told an adult.
"This is a big problem," Pergolizzi told Psychiatric
News. "Some kids were afraid [to report the bully], and others said
they didn't think the bullying was their
At APA's annual meeting last May in San Diego, Darren Richmond and
Fabianna Pergolizzi became the youngest annual meeting presenters in APA
history. The high school students presented information on the prevalence
rates of bullying.
Credit: David Hathcox
In Pergolizzi's case, she had a close relationship with her parents, so did
not hesitate to tell them that she'd been bullied at school. But she is
worried, however, that many of her peers feel they have nowhere to turn.
Said Richmond, the co-principal investigator, "We recommend that kids
tell an adult when they are being bullied so that the bullying will
Other findings showed that about a quarter of those surveyed reported being
cyberbullied at least some of the time. Cyberbullying was defined in the
survey as using the Internet, cell phones, or other forms of technology to
harass, threaten, or embarrass someone.
The researchers also found that a higher proportion of girls reported
feeling safe in school (82 percent) than did boys (67 percent).
With the mentorship of Charlotte Richmond, Ph.D., Darren's mother, and
Joseph Pergolizzi Jr., M.D., Fabianna's father, the younger Richmond and
Pergolizzi compiled their findings into an abstract and poster format and
submitted them to APA for presentation at the 2007 annual meeting in San
Diego. At the meeting, they became the youngest presenters in APA annual
Duolao Wang, Ph.D., a statistician from the University of London, performed
the data analysis for the project, and Everly Macario, Sc.D., facilitated
teleconferences between the students and assisted them with editing the poster
abstract and writing a manuscript for journal submission.
The students dedicated their poster to Jeffrey Johnston, a Florida
middle-school student who was a victim of cyberbullying. Johnston committed
suicide in June 2005.
During the process of creating the poster, HB 575, the Jeffrey Johnston
Stand Up for All Students Act, also known as the "Anti-Bullying
Bill" passed in the Florida House in April of this year. The bill
prohibits bullying and harassment of any student or employee at a public
school and requires school districts to adopt policies prohibiting bullying
Pergolizzi said she plans to participate in the effort to pass the bill by
submitting data from Project Anti-Bully to legislators.
In order to raise awareness in schools, Pergolizzi and Richmond also
presented the findings to their teachers and classmates. After Richmond
presented the survey results to those in his middle school, the school
established "peace ambassadors"—student volunteers who
welcome new students and assist classmates who are bullying victims.
The school also staged assemblies with dramatic performances in which
bullying was a theme, and in their classes students were encouraged to write
and create art about bullying.
At the middle school surveyed in Chapel Hill, anti-bullying posters appear
in classrooms, and teachers now discuss bullying with students in health
Pergolizzi noted that she and her colleagues conducted the survey again
during the 2006-07 school year and are analyzing the results.
"We hope that with this project, we have taken the first step toward
putting an end to bullying," Pergolizzi said. With Project Anti-Bully,"
we hope to encourage teachers and parents to talk to students about
bullying and let them know they are not alone."
More information about Project Anti-Bully is posted at<www.projectbully.com>.▪