There is a Chassidic story about a man who went around town spreading gossip all the time. Something happened to make him realize how hurtful his behavior was and he wanted to repent. He went to the Rabbi and asked what he could do to make up for his behavior. The Rabbi told the man, "cut open a feather pillow and scatter the feathers to the winds." The man thought this was an odd thing for the Rabbi to ask him to do, but he was glad to do it if it would help him make amends.
When he returned to tell the Rabbi that he had done it, the Rabbi said, "Now, go and gather all the feathers." The man said, "Rabbi, that is not possible. The wind has already scattered the feathers all over town." The wise Rabbi said, "You cannot undo the damage your words have done any more than you can gather up all the scattered feathers."
When Dharun Ravi invaded his roommate's privacy and spread the word to his friends, the gossip spread like feathers in the wind, with tragic consequences.
One good thing has come out of this tragedy. New Jersey strengthened its anti-bullying law so that it is one of the strictest in the country (see NJ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/PL10/122_.PDF). The law requires public schools to "conduct extensive training of staff and students; appoint safety teams made up of parents, teachers and staff; and launch an investigation of every allegation of bullying within one day."* It is an excellent law that mandates prevention programs and prompt and thorough investigations of all reports of bullying and harassment. Hopefully other states will follow New Jersey's example.
If you want to get involved in the development of school prevention programs, you can access resources at The Center for Social and Character Development http://cscd.rutgers.edu/ResearchAndResources/ and the New Jersey Dept. of Ed. website http://www.state.nj.us/education/students/safety/behavior/hib/. If you are a parent, there are many ways that you can take action at home and in partnership with your child's school to help prevent harassment, intolerance, and bullying http://cscd.rutgers.edu/WhatParentsCanDo/.
What experiences have you had with bullying in schools as a parent, teacher, counselor or student? Were you satisfied with the way the situation was handled? Do you have any ideas about what can be done on the college level that can prevent another tragedy like the suicide of Tyler Clementi?