The Protectors

Bullying: The forgotten lesson in 13 Reasons Why

By Paul Coughlin | Originally published on

During the final episode of Season One of the fictional and controversial Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, the main character, high school junior Hannah Baker, requests a meeting with school counselor, Mr. Porter. She tells him she’s “lost,” and “doesn’t care about anything” anymore, and that she “needs everything to stop.” She’s a young woman sliding into the abyss of hopelessness, and the thoughts of suicide that follow.

Clever, funny, and beautiful Hannah is beleaguered by a series of personal and public calamities, most revolving around bullying and a horrific rape. The difference between the two isn’t as vast as many think. Both dehumanize their target, and include the lust for, and pleasure gained from, power, domination, and control.

Hannah Baker is confused, and at times despondent, before Porter. The fire behind her glamorous and hazel-blue eyes fades to embers. She’s still breathing, but she’s dying inside.

Before deciding to take her life, she records how, after leaving Porter’s office, she waited to see if he would throw open his dark, walnut-colored office door to pursue and rescue her. But his phone rings. Again. Concerned about Hannah, but over-worked, he takes the call instead.

“No one is coming forward to stop me” from killing herself, she says. The music at this point is ominous, but in a positive way, as if to celebrate and even glorify her ensuing suicide. The soundtrack makes her decision sound and feel heroic.

As someone who works with thousands of youth each year to diminish bullying, and tired of speaking with mothers destroyed by their child’s decision to kill themselves due at least in part to bullying, I wish that scene never appeared, because otherwise deft Hannah Baker handed agency of her life to another, a lethal mistake that some youth won’t notice.

Others aren’t responsible for our mental health. Yet at the same time, others do influence it, especially bullies, which is an important and lost message this series offers us, a series even elementary school-aged children are watching.

In addition to our current campaign to reverse the thoughts of glorifying suicide, we should also use this Netflix series as an opportunity to battle adolescent bullying, the leading cause of child abuse in our nation.

We should explain how serial targets are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide. We should reveal to children and adults how being cruel, mean and even wicked helps children gain and maintain social status, especially during the middle-school years. In an attempt to grow needed empathy, we should explain how a female serial target like Hannah is 25 times more likely to develop agoraphobia than her non-bullied peers, ruining adult lives.

In order to return the needed stigma to bullying, and get the attention of serial bullies, we should explain how they are far more likely to go to prison after graduation and abuse their future spouse and children.

But most importantly, we should use 13 Reasons Why to show how standing up to bullying represents the best in human nature by promoting the virtue of kindness, but not just any form of kindness. We must promote courageous kindness, because as the late Maya Angelou explained, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

We must tell true stories of heroic kindness bolstered by courage, the kind a young mother named Lisa told me about recently. Before graduating from high school three years ago, she noticed how a boy she didn’t really know was being bullied at lunchtime by five girls. Lisa became angry and indignant, which helped fuel her courage to invite the young man to sit with her and her friends during lunch for the remainder of the school year.

What Lisa didn’t know, until three years later after meeting the boy’s mother, was that he was planning to kill himself. He created a suicide box, which contained a cord to hang himself, a suicide note, and keepsakes that he wanted his mother to cherish. She found it in his room and tearfully confronted her son when he returned from school. He told his mother that he wasn’t going through with it. He told her about kind and courageous Lisa.

“We are the inheritors of a coarsened society…A coarse place is by definition anti-child because it is anti-innocence,” writes Peggy Noonan. I believe bullying will get worse across the nation due to our coarsening society. But it will get better in pockets of resistance. Let’s use 13 Reasons Why to grow our resistance, by creating more students like Lisa, who stand up to bullying and in the process save the lives of real-life Hannah Bakers.

Paul Coughlin is an expert witness regarding bullying and the law, a former newspaper editor and is the author of numerous books, including Raising Bully-Proof Kids. He is the Founder of The Protectors: Freedom From Bullying-Courage, Character & Leadership for Life, which provides a comprehensive and community-wide solution to adolescent bullying in schools, summer camps, faith-based organizations, and other places where bullying can be prevalent.

Worried About Your School Culture? How to Start a Bullying Prevention Program

Interested in starting a bullying prevention program at your school? Here’s who to include and what to consider.

With research suggesting as many as one in three U.S. students are bullied at school,many educators are eager to find ways to make their buildings safe. Bullying affects not only the person being bullied but also the bully and bystanders, creating an environment in which it’s difficult to learn and succeed.

When setting up a bullying prevention program, experts says it’s important to have strong leadership from the top along with grassroots buy-in. Programs don’t have to cost a lot of money. It can take time and personnel to set up policies and reporting mechanisms, but a committed team can make progress and the effort is worth it.

Here are eight things to consider when embarking on a bullying prevention program:

1. Be comprehensive.

Bullying is a complex issue that emerges in homes, schools and communities as kids model adult behavior. Efforts to address it should be developmentally appropriate and include all invested parties. Jessica Toste, assistant professor in the college of education at the University of Texas in Austin, suggests asking for input from teachers from different grade levels and content areas, administrators, mental health professionals, students, other school staff members and perhaps a parent or community member. It may start with a big assembly, but the conversation needs to continue in the classroom with teachers, among student groups, and at home with families to build trusting relationships at all levels.

2. Accentuate the positive.

Rather than anti-bullying, frame the effort as one that promotes a positive school culture and acceptance. “The majority of teachers and administrators want their schools to be environments that are safe and positive and affirming for their students,” says Toste. In addition to academic skills, schools are increasingly seeing the value of promoting social-emotional learning – teaching kids how to regulate their emotions, demonstrate compassion, and accept people from different backgrounds and cultures. With that climate as the foundation, bullying can become less of an issue.

3. Commit to the long term.

Research shows that for bullying prevention efforts to work, schools should commit to programs for the long-term. “It’s something that needs to be in place regularly because these aren’t issue that we clean up and then everything is better. They are issues with humans interacting and kids learning,” says Toste. One example of an ongoing effort is the Reaching Out with Character and Kindness—or ROCK—program at Keller Independent School District in northern Texas, now entering its fourth year. ROCK is both proactive, with staff and student training, as well as reactive, with a process to report and investigate bullying incidents, says Laura Lockhart, coordinator of student services at Keller. The steering committee is a standing committee that recognizes the importance of committing to the long-term culture. “Bullying is not going away after doing one exciting assembly. It’s something that is deeper than that,” says Lockhart. “Reaching out with character and kindness is just part of who we want to be.”

4. Customize to fit your needs.

The committee at Keller worked together to come up with a mission and vision for ROCK. Students helped come up with the acronym and logo. “Whenever you get something out of a box, it doesn’t meet all of the unique needs of your community,” says Lockhart. “It was very important that it was designed with Keller ISD in mind … getting as many voices involved was crucial.”

5. Get buy-in from the cool kids.

Bullying is often linked to social status and is perpetrated by some of the most popular kids in school. Paul Coughlin, who speaks about bullying in schools and is the founder of Medford, Oregon-based nonprofit The Protectors, says any efforts to stem bullying need to include kids who are in positions of power and hold up a mirror to show the reality of what they are doing. “Many of these kids are aware they are being cruel, but many are not aware of the extent of their cruelty,” says Coughlin. “Unfortunately, they don’t have the necessary empathy and sympathy for the child that they are bullying.” Sometimes showing bullies a video of another bullying incident and explaining that what they are doing is similar can resonate, suggests Coughlin.

6. Make a splash.

Messages that promote a positive school culture need to be visible in classes, hallways and in the community. At Keller ISD, a special merchandise committee sells fun items, such as bracelets and T-shirts, with the ROCK logo to promote the brand and program, says Lockhart. The communications committee makes sure ROCK is talked about on Twitter and through newsletters. Experts add that free materials are available to distribute from websites such as

7. Get a handle on the problem.

Consider surveys of students to truly evaluate the school climate and effectiveness of programs, suggests Toste of the University of Texas. Ask how students feel about safety and if they have someone in the building they feel they can go to if they are in need. Compare results before and after initiatives have been launched to fine-tune the work.

8. Set up a good reporting system.

Setting up a process to report and track bullying can be a powerful tool, experts suggest. To make sure the response to bullying is appropriate, Keller ISD set up an investigation process aimed at getting the entire story so the solution can be informed and keep everyone safe, says Lockhart. Schools also may want to consider an anonymous reporting system, suggest Coughlin. Some apps, such as Stopit, can make reporting easier and cut down on bullying.

As for the future, Coughlin predicts the bullying landscape will get worse with the lack of civility in broader society and with negative politics this campaign season. Still, it will get better in pockets of resistance and with support from concerned parents, he says. Schools that get it right and become known for taking the issue seriously can find it’s an opportunity to attract students, adds Coughlin.

“You can’t educate well with the presence of bullying,” says Coughlin. “Having the presence of bullying in the classroom and trying to teach is like having a gas leak. There are going to be a few kids who can do it, but they are going to be surviving, not thriving. They are just trying to make it through the day.”

10 Things Every Teacher Should Know About Classroom Microagressions

Microagressions aren’t as outright as physical bullying. But there’s still no place for them in school. Here’s how to prevent classroom microagressions.

Boy Being Teased – Preventing Classroom Microagressions

When a student is pushed in the lunchroom or otherwise physically bullied, it’s a clear case for intervention. But it can be trickier to know how to handle more subtle hostile behavior—or microaggressions. While not always targeting an individual, these verbal barbs or actions often disparage a particular group and can contribute to an unhealthy school climate.

Here’s what teachers should know about microaggressions so they can effectively address this toxic behavior at different ages before it turns into bullying:

1. Microagressions are often linked to language.

Behavior that might not look like bullying, but communicates hostile or derogatory attitudes toward a particular group—by race, sexual orientation or disability—can be microaggressions. They may be spoken words that obviously victimize, such using the word “retard” or referring to something as “gay.” But linguistic microagressions take subtler turns, too. Continually mispronouncing a student’s name can be considered a microagression, for example. So can making assumptions about a student’s background. You’re Hispanic! What do you mean you don’t speak Spanish? Here’s a list of other common microagressions that happen in schools.

You can make a difference by being aware of the words you use, what your students are saying, and by providing corrective feedback about what is and isn’t appropriate, says Jessica Toste, assistant professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Texas in Austin. It’s about being conscious of how our language has an impact on everyone in the classroom.

2. Exclusive actions can also be harmful.

Microaggressions can also be actions that exclude or tear down certain people—sometimes without the intent to harm, although that’s the result. For instance, for someone in a wheelchair it can be a microaggression for the class to arrange a field trip to a location that is not accessible. Having gendered bathrooms or activities can have a negative impact on transgendered students. “It’s not targeting [those students] in any way or trying to make them feel bad, but it’s something that can have a huge impact on them as they have to maneuver that situation,” says Toste.

3. Teachers can set the tone.

It’s important for teachers to set up a classroom community where diversity and differences are not only accepted, but celebrated, say Toste. Stigmas and negative perceptions can be diminished when teachers talk with students. “Be open that people need different things to learn and to be successful. We all come from different experiences and have different strengths,” says Toste. “Sometimes we try to just make everything feel exactly equal without recognizing the fact that we all need different things.”

4. Inclusive curriculum can create acceptance.

Include literature and have conversations around various kinds of family structures, identities, and backgrounds, suggests Toste. “Never representing a family structure that is similar to one lived in by a kid in the class can be difficult for them,” she says. Check out educator resources for the classroom from the Oleweus Bullying Program.

5. Be aware of gender identity and sexuality issues.

Microaggressions are often linked to gender or sexuality. Rather than assuming all students want to date someone of the opposite sex—or date at all—a supportive school environment is sensitive to hosting activities such as a “Sadie Hawkins” dance, for example, and responsive to the needs of all students, says Toste.

6. Kids are looking for a response.

Bullying is like a ladder that kids climb, testing out their skills along the way. And the first rung is microaggressions, says Jan Urbanski, director of Safe and Humane Schools at Clemson University. “Whether intentional or not, microaggressions can cause and perpetuate a power imbalance based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or other identity status,” she says. “When these aggressive behaviors are not systematically addressed, patterns of bullying may emerge. If unchecked, they can also create a climate that allows bullying to happen.”

7. Relationships can be used as weapons.

Relational microaggressions happen when someone intentionally embarrasses another person—often with some form of gossip—designed to isolate or humiliate them, say Paul Coughlin, founder and president of The Protectors, a nonprofit anti-bullying organization based in Medford, Oregon. A bully can appear friendly to the victim, but the friendship is actually highly conditional and if the victim is dropped the hurt can be profound. Teachers should be aware of this, particularly in middle school, and be available to support students who are victimized.

8. Include parents in the issue.

“Bullying is a cultural problem, not a school problem,” says Coughlin. “Schools are unfairly saddled with solving it. They do not have all the tools necessary for this topic. Parents are the frontline defense.” Host special evening programs to talk about bullying and microaggressions with parents and encourage them to continue the dialogue at home to convey positive parental expectations to do the right thing.

9. Make it cool to be courageous.

Teachers are limited in what they can do when kids say cruel things, admits Coughlin, but they can help promote the idea that it’s “cool to be courageous” and empower others to speak up when they hear hostile behavior. The ones with power and who bully are often the popular kids. “Cruelty, meanness and unkindness are currency. You get ahead socially by being awful,” says Coughlin. “We have to make civil courage a currency in school settings.”

10. Empowering bystanders is key.

Bystanders need scripts to follow—non-violent words—that can denounce the behavior. Teachers and parents can encourage kids to intervene, report what they heard, and comfort the victim afterwards. Helping someone in need can actually help children develop a strong character and capacity for leadership. “There is no neutrality when it comes to bullying. We are affected when we witness it,” says Coughlin. “If we can get our kids to stand up against bullying, we are going to that make our schools better and grow greater civility in the American population.”

Bullies go shopping in September. They shop for targets. Here are 5 ways to protect kids

Originally posted on

School is finally in. And unfortunately, so is bullying.

Bullies go shopping in September, and it’s not just for school clothes or supplies. They shop for targets.

By the end of October, most bullies will have found their prey. These bullies aren’t looking for someone to fight. They profile kids they can overwhelm, who wither when criticized and mocked. Here’s how you can help defend your child against this intentional and repeated form of abuse from those with superior physical, verbal or social power.

The main quality most bullies look for is non-assertive and weak body language, which can include fearful or anxious facial expressions, rocking side-to-side when standing, slumped shoulders, little if any eye contact, short strides, and kids who don’t smile.

The main quality most bullies look for is non-assertive and weak body language, which can include fearful or anxious facial expressions, rocking side-to-side when standing, slumped shoulders, little if any eye contact, short strides, and kids who don’t smile.

1. Help them “fake it till they make it.” Coach your child to appear more confident and relaxed on the outside, even when they don’t feel that way on the inside. Remind them to stand taller, breathe deeply, hold their chin level, make more eye contact, lengthen their stride, and put a slight smile on their face.

A slight smile not only gives your child an air of confidence, it may also beneficially alter your child’s body chemistry as well. Harvard University’s Amy Cuddy has explored this dynamic through what she calls “power posing.” Students were told to stand in front of a mirror and strike an assertive pose, such as the famous Wonder Woman pose: hands on hips, legs slightly apart, shoulders back, and with a confident and slight smile on their face. The chemicals in their body associated with self-confidence increased after just a few minutes.

2. Forge friendships. Maintaining and growing friendships are essential for children, since bullies seek isolated prey. Help your child forge at least one meaningful friendship, but ideally three to five. Many targets are shy, and shy kids often need help with friendships. Remind your child to ask other children questions about their lives, to share their toys, and remember other kids’ birthdays. Have your child’s classmates into your home, and try not to contaminate their play by intervening too much. For some kids, especially boys, helping them forge more friendships will mean less video game time, so be prepared for this battle ahead of time.

3. Avoid the edges. Bullies want a public display of pain or anguish from targets, but they don’t want to get caught by authority. So they roam the edges of rooms and groups. Encourage your child to stay toward the front and middle of groups. Encourage them to ride toward the front of the school bus, where it’s easier for the driver to see them.

4. Memorize verbal comebacks. The vast majority of bullying is verbal, not physical. When your child cowers and says nothing in response, this can encourage bullies to keep going, and even escalate their attack. Help your child to practice resistance without war. This resistance can be offered through just one word: “Whatever.” It’s a great comeback because it’s dismissive, but it’s not a fighting word, which could get your child sent to the principal’s office.

Such a comeback involves more than just what your child says. It’s also how your child says it. Coach him or her to speak with confidence and then walk away. Too many targets try to reason with their bully through long, drawn out conversations. This is almost always a waste of time.

5. Be good at something. Kids who get bullied are often on the bottom rung of the social ladder, where kids are known as “nobodies.” Assess your child’s interests, then help your child explore those interests. Since many targets are shy, you will probably have to push them in this direction, but without shoving them. For example, being good at an instrument can help your child be a “somebody,” especially if they choose a popular one, such as the guitar.

With all that said, no child is bully-proof, and most targets don’t talk.

This week, promise your child that you will not run to the school and make things worse if he tells you about bullying, which is one of a target’s greatest fears.

Tell your child that you will come up with a game plan together, one that includes documentation.

Above all, tell your child that what is happening is wrong, that there is nothing wrong with him or her, and you will always be by their side.

Paul Coughlin is an expert witness regarding bullying and the law, a former newspaper editor and is the author of numerous books, including Raising Bully-Proof Kids. He is the Founder of The Protectors: Freedom From Bullying-Courage, Character & Leadership for Life, which provides a comprehensive and community-wide solution to adolescent bullying in schools, summer camps, faith-based organizations, and other places where bullying can be prevalent.

Our Work in Chattanooga

The Protectors visited Chattanooga in February 2016 to speak with local educators about bullying. Paul Coughlin addressed several misconceptions, passing on the idea that cultural change is the key to diminish bullying. But reducing it in schools requires more than removing derelict administrators. Courage is ultimately needed to stand up to bullying, but parents must expect their kids to do the right thing: change from bystanders, to alongside-standers.

“Your child is far more likely to join the bully than to help the target,” Coughlin said. “We’re here to help you change that.”

Silverdale Baptist Academy hosted the Courageous Community Conference, in an effort to unite a community struggling with bullying.

CLICK HERE to read an article written by David Cobb for the Times Free Press in Chattanooga, and learn more about our efforts there.



Terrorists aren’t the only ones who terrorize

Originally posted on

June 16, 2014: Demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they wave the group's flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul.

As we struggle to comprehend the growing evil of the terrorist group ISIS, we need to look no further than our own neighborhood bullies to understand key weaknesses within ISIS’s tactics in order to thwart them.

Terrorists aren’t the only villains who use violent acts to create fear in part by targeting innocent, non-combatants. Bullies do so every school day in America, causing more than 160,000 children to stay home and motivate others to take their life. Bullies also wed power to fear and target innocent classmates, except bullies do so to gain social status as terrorists strive to usurp political power.

Both ISIS and schoolyard bullies endeavor to dominate a target’s psyche through addling fear, foreboding powerlessness, and threat of future cruelty. Both groups sneer at others with disdain and contempt, believing they are a kind of master race, destined to rule and superior to their targets who “deserve” to be treated with unspeakable cruelty.

Most of us have no opportunity to thwart terrorism. We rely upon our courageous men and women in uniform for that. But we can muster a more common courage to thwart terror from bullying in our schools

“Terrorism,” wrote New York Times columnist David Brooks, “is not an act of war but of taunting,” and taunting is among a bully’s sharpest knives.

A taunt is a battle cry intended to demoralize another and make a target abandon self-defense, such as the late Alex Moore of Jemison, Ala., who in May, 2010 took her life in part due to taunts from classmates who called her “fat bitch,” among other slurs for more than two years.

A group of eight male bullies stalked a younger and smaller target in California for months. They made the ticking sound of a clock when he walked by, letting him know that as the ringleader told him, “You can run, faggot, but you can’t hide.”

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, through escalating their barbarism upon the innocent, wants the free world to feel the same dread, drop its guard and give up.

As terrorists are willing and able to kill the body, most serial bullies want to damage and even kill their target’s spirit. And just as terrorists rejoice in their brutal murders, some bullies rejoice in their evil deeds as well.

When the suicide of overweight Alex Moore was announced at her school, one of her most enthusiastic terrorizers proclaimed with swagger, “That fat bitch deserved to die!” In backwater parts of the world, being non-Muslim can be a fatal distinction. In backwater parts of America, so can being overweight.

Genocide is also a tool of terrorism, and “to begin to fathom genocide,” writes international bullying expert Barbara Coloroso, “the place to start is not with conflict but with bullying. Bullying is a conscious, willful, deliberate activity intended to harm, to induce fear through the threat of further aggression, and to create terror in the target.”

Though the battle plan to thwart ISIS and adolescent bullying differ, one important similarity must be heeded.

Martin Luther King said that evil carries within itself the seed of its own destruction. When it comes to terrorism and bullying, one of those seeds is an intoxicating hubris, which causes both groups to over-estimate their abilities.

Like schoolyard bullies, ISIS’s driving arrogance may have caused it to march into a self-made trap. By burning people alive, drowning others in cages and beheading many more and with such demonic theatrics, crucifying innocent children, burying children alive and selling others into sex slavery, it has moved the world from fear to indignation and anger, creating an unintended foundation of hope because as Augustine realized, “Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.”

President Obama’s comments this week about ISIS shows he has yet to demonstrate such needed anger, nor fully comprehend the sadism that electrifies a terrorist’s mind and perverts his soul. “Ideologies,” he said, “are not defeated with guns but with better ideas and more attracting and more compelling vision.”

This may be true when assessing conflict, misunderstanding, miscommunication and so on. But terrorists and bullies are not motivated by these conditions. They are motivated by disdain and contempt, which stem from a volatile mixture of supremacy and hatred. They glory in a form of evil that requires potent force, not “better ideas.”

Most of us have no opportunity to thwart terrorism. We rely upon our courageous men and women in uniform for that. But we can muster a more common courage to thwart terror from bullying in our schools, the leading form of child abuse in the nation and where millions of innocent children have their psychological skin seared from taunts, terror and threats of further abuse daily.

Evil isn’t just “over there.” It slithers each day through our playgrounds and classrooms. Anger toward it is easy. The hard part, as with ISIS, is wedding our anger to courage in order to thwart it.

Paul Coughlin is an expert witness regarding bullying and the law, a former newspaper editor and is the author of numerous books, including Raising Bully-Proof Kids. He is the Founder of The Protectors: Freedom From Bullying-Courage, Character & Leadership for Life, which provides a comprehensive and community-wide solution to adolescent bullying in schools, summer camps, faith-based organizations, and other places where bullying can be prevalent.

Why football is a source of so much bullying, hazing in America

Originally posted on

Sayreville Schools Superintendent Rich Labbe made the announcement last week during a meeting with football parents, after a criminal investigation found credible evidence of pervasive and generally accepted forms of harassment, intimidation and bullying on the team. Now, the Associated Press reports, seven teens are facing sex crime charges.

The was the right decision by the school district because contrary to popular myth, bullying players and coaches don’t listen much to peace, love and understanding. They listen to swift, immediate and painful consequences, which is exactly what school officials did.

It’s the right medicine for an illness that plaques this nation.

Still, some New Jersey parents are furious, saying the school’s decision is unfair to innocent players who didn’t bully. Not so fast parents. Most bullying takes place in front of peers but away from authority. Bullies bank on a code of silence from bystanders who should speak up but don’t. So when it comes to bullying, there aren’t many “innocent bystanders.”

Last September, in Utah, stand-up coach Matt Labrum and his staff suspended all 80 players on the Union High School football team for their off-field antics, as well.

Labrum believes football helps create great men. As the founder of an anti-bullying organization, The Protectors, I wish I could agree.

Of all the complaints we receive about sports programs and bullying, no other sport comes even close to the horrendous and sometimes criminal behavior associated not just with football players, but with coaches as well.

A mother from Ellwood City, Pa., reported how several high school football players forced her 13-year-old son to drink urine out of a plastic soda bottle.

Roxana Spady of Columbus, Neb., sued Columbus Public Schools. She says her son was physically assaulted and held while a team member defecated in a dormitory toilet and then dunked her son’s head in it.

Even flag football is messed up. Four Walker Middle School players in Tampa, Fla., faced criminal charges, including third-degree felony battery. Two received 5 years probation for sodomizing the younger player with hockey and broom sticks.

A California pastor remembers how high school players pulled his pants and underwear down to his ankles and shoved Icy Hot up his rectum with their fingers and a wooden tongue depressor. He says they did it multiple times and threatened to beat and murder him if he told anyone.

Football culture harbors bullying, a fact illuminated by the damning Wells Report commissioned by the NFL, which led to the firing of bully player Richie Incognito, coach Jim Turner, and head trainer Kevin O’Neill.

Here’s why football is more messed up than other high school sports: Bullying follows power, and football programs are the most powerful entity on most school campuses.

This power delivers privilege, entitlement and above-the-law thinking. It’s Enron with swollen biceps and acne. Also, bullying thrives in larger groups, and football has a larger roster than other sports.

This attitude that harms football culture has a poster boy, former Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who in the Wells Report exhibits classic bullying mentality: hubris, lack of remorse,obstruction of justice, blaming the victim and unwillingness to acknowledge wrongdoing.

The disgraced player with one of the dirtiest records in the NFL surely learned how to get away with bullying well before college and going pro.

I help numerous schools fight bullying each year. “If you really want to decrease bullying,” I tell them, “start with your football coaches,” who sometimes are also the school’s athletic directors, giving them even more power and cover for their transgressions.

If these coaches possess the right moral fiber and have had anti-bullying training, then schools have real advocates. If not, one or more could be harming that school right now.

Ironically, football also has the power to lead our schools away from bullying, which is the No. 1 form of child abuse in the nation. Better football players, urged by better coaches, are taking the cachet of athleticism seriously and using their prominence to influence others.

Take quarterback Carson Jones from Queen Creek, Arizona, for example. He befriended fellow student Chy Johnson, who was born with a birth defect, had trash thrown at her, was called “stupid” and was pushed down in her school’s hallways. Carson “saved me,” Johnson told a reporter.

Like the football player I spoke with in Plano, Texas, who saw his teammates regularly tormenting a kid. He calmly sat next to the kid, and the bullying stopped.

These are the players with the right stuff that coach Labrum believes makes real men. I agree with him there.

The NFL is gaining hard-fought yardage against its bullying culture. But why is high school football so blindsided? There are dozens, if not hundreds, of broken programs just like the one in New Jersey. They, too, should be shut down and rebuilt by real coaches with the red-blooded values of respect, freedom and dignity for all.

Paul Coughlin is an expert witness regarding bullying and the law, a former newspaper editor and is the author of numerous books, including Raising Bully-Proof Kids. He is the Founder of The Protectors: Freedom From Bullying-Courage, Character & Leadership for Life, which provides a comprehensive and community-wide solution to adolescent bullying in schools, summer camps, faith-based organizations, and other places where bullying can be prevalent.