Playground Bullying, Part 1

Playground Bullying, Part 1

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Debbie Dujanovic reporting How will you react to what we found in our Eyewitness News Investigation? A look at what can go on during school recess.

Our cameras capture the video that has experts alarmed.

The next three nights, you'll hear from a lot of people on this.

We randomly chose schools from Sandy to Salt Lake and noted two problems: aggressive behavior among children was far more common than we thought. And playground supervision was far less common than you might think.

You decide if what we found is crossing the line.

We are putting pictures with statistics -- what's happening to children --what parents say needs to stop.

Anne Frymuth/ Prevent Child Abuse Utah: "We don't really see kids as being the people our kids are afraid of."

Anne Frymuth is an expert on Child Abuse Prevention.

Anne Frymuth/ Prevent Child Abuse Utah: "I think most parents think when they drop their kids off at the school door their kids are safe."

We asked her and Dr. Kristine Beelek, a family counselor, to analyze what we documented on school playgrounds in the Salt Lake Valley.

We did capture scenes like this. And the experts assessed situations like this as rough, but not bully behavior.

But most of what they saw alarmed them.

Dr. Kristine Beelek, PhD/Family Therapist: "It's shocking and if you haven't been on your child's playground, you need to. It's a huge eye-opener."

Over the course of our investigation Eyewitness News documented incidents at elementary schools in Salt Lake, Kearns, West Valley, West Jordan, and Sandy. We parked away from the schools during recess time. We documented questionable incidents at nine of the 10 schools we watched.

What alarmed the experts? How often it happens. One boy has his face pinned several times. He's kicked repeatedly. He fights back. It goes on for 15 minutes.

There's another boy --his leg gets twisted, then later. This child's behavior lasts all recess.

A girl whips a jump rope around, snapping other children. Boys hurl rocks.

As our investigation went on we noted more than 90 incidents on the playgrounds.

Anne Frymuth/ Prevent Child Abuse Utah: "The day you say that's okay, you've giving license to violence, period."

Dr. Kristine Beelek, Ph.D./ Marriage and Family Counseling: "If you came to work every day and somebody tore your clothes, injured you physically, you would call the police and get help. That's what bullying is."

In a survey we conducted last week we asked 500 Salt Lake area residents: Do you think schools are doing enough to prevent bullying? 71-percent responded: NO. More than half of parents say they've had a child bullied at school.

Katrina Yarrington: "I just cried and bawled, 'I don't want to go! I don't want to go! Don't make me go!'"

Katrina Yarrington and her brother both say what we've shown you, they suffered through.

Nicolas Yarrington/ Victim: "I feel sorry for the little kids who are bullied. There's no one to help them."

Being regular targets left emotional scars. Their parents decided to homeschool them.

Jon Yarrington: "Everybody says it's real-world situations, the kids should have these experiences and learn how to deal with it-- baloney. No child should have to put up with that kind of abuse. No child."

Dr. Kristine Beelek, Ph.D./ Marriage and Family Counseling: "Kids can't deal with it. If kids could stop it, they already would have."

Most experts agree: Immediate adult intervention is the first step to stopping this kind of behavior before it escalates.

Anne Frymuth/ Prevent Child Abuse Utah: "In my own neighborhood I would stop that if I saw it happening."

The incident that went on for 15-minutes - at one point our camera spotted the playground monitors here. No adult took away the girl's jumprope.

At this recess more than 26-minutes went by before we spotted a monitor.

And here, the adults appeared to be preoccupied.

Dr. Kristine Beelek, Ph.D./ Marriage and Family Counseling: "We have a huge problem that is so widespread that it doesn't draw the attention of the adults on duty. Let's you know how desensitized we've become to this kind of violence."

Dr. Beelek says the best way to reduce problems is to correct the behavior right away and give a child a positive alternative.

What are schools saying? Tuesday night you can see the interview that brought Utah's top school offficial to tears.

Patti Harrington/ Superintendent of Public Instruction: "You sit down with those kids and talk about sensitivity-- I'm sorry, Debbie. I get choked up too easily because I love kids."

See her reaction at ten on Tuesday.

For more information, you can email Dr. Beelek at

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