Childhood bullying is an epidemic in this country. Around 28% of students experience it first hand, and nearly 70% witness it happen.

When we hear about it, we feel sympathy for the kids being bullied, as we should, but don't often give this care and consideration to the perpetrators. Instead, our gut reaction is to ask questions.

"Why did they do this?"


"What is wrong with them?"

"What did the parents do/not do?"

But if we hope to improve the mental health of our children, the adults they become, and the communities that raise them, we need to ask better questions. Journalist, philanthropist, and TV legend Oprah Winfrey wants to help people get there by examining the role of childhood trauma.

"This story is so important to me and I believe to our culture that if I could dance on the tabletops right now to get people to pay attention to it, I would," she said on "CBS This Morning."

Trauma is the emotional response to a distressing event, including but not limited to violence, sexual assault or abuse, a natural disaster, or an accident.

The heightened emotional response can occur immediately after the event, (think the shock or denial that may occur after getting mugged), but it can also continue months or years later. Survivors may have uncomfortable flashbacks, confusion, anxiety, or feel withdrawn. The symptoms can also be physical, with nightmares, racing heartbeats, muscle tension, and fatigue. Trauma can literally take over your body and mind, and its effects can be magnified in children.

Photo by Duane Prokop/Getty Images for Feeding America.

In a report for "60 Minutes" Oprah sat down with Dr. Bruce Perry, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist and expert on childhood trauma.

Perry revealed that adverse or distressing events in a child's early development, can increase their chances of social, mental, and physical problems later in life.

"That very same sensitivity that makes you able to learn language just like that, as a little infant, makes you highly vulnerable to chaos, threat, inconsistency, unpredictability, violence," Perry told Winfrey. "And so children are much more sensitive to developmental trauma than adults."

Bruce D. Perry, M.D. PhD. Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.

Since trauma can stem not just from single events, but from living in stressful environments, children in these situations may be wired differently than those living in consistent, nurturing, predictable homes.

Perry says children living in chaos and unpredictability (think residing in areas with a lot of crime, growing up food insecure, or with parents who are struggling with addiction) are at much higher rates of risk for academic trouble and potential mental health problems.  

"If you have developmental trauma, the truth is you're going to be at risk for almost any kind of physical health, mental health, social health problem that you can think of," Perry said.

"If you don't fix the hole in the soul ... you're working at the wrong thing."

Trauma-informed care is one approach to tackling this issue.

Trauma-informed care means taking into account a person's trauma and the coping mechanisms they've been using when educating or treating someone. This might look like a school environment where open communication, empathy, and sensitivity to how other people are feeling are top priorities, not just to help children cope with trauma, but to create a culture of welcoming, tolerance, and acceptance to prevent further trauma. This would also mean teachers, administrators, and support staff would be trained in direct intervention methods to support traumatized students.

After learning about the effects of developmental trauma, Winfrey reached out to the board of her school in South Africa to change the way they're approaching education.

"It has definitively changed the way I see people in the world, and it has definitively changed the way I will now be operating my school in South Africa and going forward any philanthropic efforts that I'm engaged in," she said on "CBS This Morning."

Oprah Winfrey chats with students of the first graduating class at her South African girls' academy. Photo by Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images.

If Winfrey seems especially passionate about this, it's because she experienced traumatic events as a child.

She's spoken at length about the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of a relative when she was a child. And recently opened up about the spankings she received from her mother, which were common at the time, but no less distressing. Winfrey threw herself into school work and found a positive outlet, and supportive, trusted adults in her teachers. Without those role models and a positive outlet, her story may have gone a lot differently.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

To improve our schools and communities, it's worth rethinking the notion of "bad kids," or "bad parents."

Instead of asking "What is wrong with them?" take a step back and consider the role childhood trauma may have played in their upbringing. Asking, "What have they seen or experienced?," and "Who was there to help them through that experience?" may provide some insight. Trauma doesn't negate their misbehavior, but it may provide the empathy and understanding they desperately need to change their ways.

"If you don't fix the hole in the soul, the thing that is where the wounds started, you're working at the wrong thing."

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

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A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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