“WHY ARE THEY PICKING ON ME?” Understanding & Responding to Social Cruelty


[semester equivalent = 2.00 credits]



Lori Gibson



Are kids at your school mean to each other? Of course they are. When kids are cruel to other kids not only does it do direct harm to the victims, it also affects the learning environment for everyone. Over the years schools have responded with strong, no bullying polices and these are important because they show solidarity with the victims. Dr. Carl Pickhardt suggests in his book, Why Good Kids Act Cruel, that it’s time for a more effective approach.

He believes that while we do need to deal decisively with acts of social cruelty, that most of these acts, especially in the teen and early adolescent years, are caused by deeper issues that should be addressed. This course aims to provide educators with a more complete understanding of social cruelty and encourages a proactive approach for addressing it.

This course is appropriate for Pre-K through grade 12 teachers, administrators, support staff and parents. 

Note: The book was written mainly for educators and parents of middle-schoolers. However, regardless of the age group you work with this information is crucial so we can be part of the solution.


LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  1. Defined social cruelty, its emotional and academic consequences for the victims and how social cruelty undermines the social safety of all students.
  2. Learned why “good kids” engage in social cruelty and how the normal developmental tasks of childhood/adolescence play a significant role in the dynamics of social cruelty.
  3. A sense of the five (5) major tactics of social cruelty, including the unique adolescent fear that gives the tactic power and the unique cruel message each tactic sends when it is used against the victim(s).
  4. Learned what educators and parents can do pro-actively to prepare students to deal with social cruelty, as well as what steps can be taken to hopefully prevent, or at least limit such acts.
  5. Acquired some specific strategies that educators and parents can employ to help students cope with social cruelty when it occurs. 

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit.  The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit. 


Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participant’s their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), or Washington State Clock Hours or Oregon PDUs. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours and Oregon PDUs.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering determine with your district personnel, department head or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



The required text is Why Good Kids Act Cruel, by Carl Pickhardt Ph.D., 2010: Source Books.  New York, NY. 320 pages.   ISBN 978-1402219443. 

  • Why Good Kids Act Cruel: The Hidden Truth about the Pre-Teen Years
    ISBN# 9781402219443
    by Pickhardt Ph.D., Carl

    Buy from Amazon


Text, Why Good Kids Act Cruel, is approximately $5 approximately from Amazon.


Lori Gibson, M.A., E.S.A.  is a school counselor for Spokane Public Schools. She holds a Master's in Counseling Psychology from Gonzaga University. She also has a B.A. in Elementary Education from Whitworth University. Over the past 28 years she has also held positions as a counselor for North Chicago High School in Illinois and the Lake Washington School District in Redmond, WA. Lori has taught workshops for The Heritage Institute for the past 18 years (most of them with her dear friend Jacquie Johansson Bernbaum). She is passionate about the opportunity to support her colleagues in their noble work in schools.  In a time when high stakes testing seems to take precedence above all, she believes educators must work diligently to focus on the "whole child.” The challenges facing students can include learning disabilities, social difficulties, family stressors, generational poverty or entitlement issues, to name a few.  Educators know these are challenges that can make it extremely difficult for some students to engage in the learning process. This necessitates teachers and administrators to be up to date on the latest research and have specific strategies to address the needs of their students. The purpose of Lori’s courses is to equip educators for these challenges in a respectful and encouraging manner.


“WHY ARE THEY PICKING ON ME?” Understanding & Responding to Social Cruelty

Coloroso, Barbara.The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander. HarperCollins Publishers. New York, NY. 2009. 272 pages. ISBN 978-0061744600. This book is a classic that explores the dynamic between all of those caught in what the author and others in the field of social cruelty refer to as the “bully circle”. Looking at each role in the “tragic play,” as the author puts it, has been an important step in understanding the roles of everyone involved when social cruelty occurs. She suggests a range of methods that parents and educators can use to identify bullying behavior and deal with it in a constructive manner.
Greene, Ross. Lost At School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them. Scribners. New York, NY. 2014. 317 pages. ISBN 978-1501101496. This book is revolutionary in the philosophy, approach and strategies it presents for working with students who have behavioral challenges. It questions the traditional school discipline plans, discussing why they do not work for the students who fail to meet the expectations of the system. The methodology that is presented for getting “buy in” from students regarding their behavior could be very beneficial when it comes to addressing acts of social cruelty.
Holtham, Jeannette. Taking Restorative Justice to Schools: A Doorway to Discipline. 2009. Del Hayes Press: Allen, TX. 2009. 90 pages. ISBN 0982270615 This is a short, practical book on the theory of restorative justice and how it applies in a school setting. This thinking should be a consideration when exploring how to work with students who have been involved in perpetrating social cruelty. What makes this book a gem are all of the implementation tools that are part of this resource.
Kriete, Roxanne. The Morning Meeting Book, Expanded Edition. Center for Responsive Schools, Inc: Fitchburg, MA. 2014. 232 pages. ISBN 978-1892989603. This book is a “must-have” for all K-8 classroom teachers. It clearly explains the purpose and gives detailed instructions in how to conduct a morning meeting. The investment of time that you give to the morning meeting format will pay off in the dividend of a respectful, safe and caring classroom community.
Pickhardt, Carl. Why Good Kids Act Cruel. Source Books. New York, NY. 2010. 320 pages. ISBN 978-1402219443. This is also a “must-have” book and the course text. It describes not only the symptoms of social cruelty, but also the deeper causes, which include the anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity that come with adolescence. These developmental issues contribute to the “perfect storm” that can lead to social cruelty. This book gives many strategies for caring adults to employ and includes the roles that educators must play to increase the social safety of all students.