Speaker says bullying should be seen as assault

Bullying, especially the kind that goes on at school, gets a lot of media attention.

Paul Coughlin, who has written books on the subject and speaks on the subject globally, laid out the impact it can have in a community for years during Monday's Chamber Forum at Rogue Valley Country Club.

Admittedly, Coughlin said in an earlier interview, the term bullying doesn't accurately portray the act.

"We need to get rid of the word," said Coughlin, a Medford resident and high school soccer coach. "We should call it assault when the superior use of power is used with intention to harm another person over a period of time, and for no good reason. It is victimization without provocation."

He told his Chamber of Medford/Jackson County audience it's not a matter of a youngster needing to manage his or her anger, but a much deeper problem.

"They pick on smaller, weaker targets," said Coughlin, who founded The Protectors, an organization that fights bullying. "It's not just an accident, the people they pick. They are profilers, they are opportunists, they are tomorrow's penal population, statistically."

Research shows bullies are five to six times more likely to commit a felony by their middle 20s. Low self-esteem is not the issue, he said. Instead, playground bullies think of themselves as superior to others and hold their victims in contempt.

"Bullies love themselves, probably too much, and the rest of us pay the price."

A UCLA study of middle school students earlier this year revealed bullies have enormous sway over their peers.

"They asked middle schoolers who are the most popular and then they asked them who are the bullies and the lists were almost identical," Coughlin said. "That is a cultural problem, not a school problem."

When bullying takes place, few peers step up to help a target. About 13 percent of students will back a victim, while 40 to 60 percent join the bully in one form or another.

"It's pathetic and it's never going to change until our children step up to do the right thing," he said.

He said in parts of England, the business community has united to avoid hiring known bullies. In Korea, some universities are not admitting known bullies.

"Why would you bring in such liabilities?" Coughlin said. "Why would you bring in the presence of someone who is known to statistically drop the academic performance of an entire class?"

He said bullying targets, not the bullies, are the ones who wind up with anger-management problems and trouble with personal relationships, resentment, and emotional issues leading to drug and alcohol abuse and addictions.

"They're the walking wounded," he said.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

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