A Lesson in Anti-Bullying: Demonstrated by our Favorite Bully- Biff Tannen

#BullyingPreventionMonth ended last week, but we educate ourselves on anti-bullying tactics every month of the year. Learn how bullying differs from harassment and many other important legal issues surrounding bullying in the state of California. Stand up against bullying every day, not just during the month of October.

It’s probably safe to say that everyone has been bullied at one time or another in their life.  Whether it was in elementary school, high school or at your place of work, someone has pushed you around, berated you, stole your lunch money, made fun of you or called you names. Nationally, more than 13 million American children will be bullied, making it the most common form of violence young people experience.  Well, as this October is Anti-Bullying Month and the 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future, the moon and stars have aligned perfectly and provided us with an opportunity to revisit Biff’s Bad Bullying Behavior.

Everyone remembers the movie Back to the Future, right?  (How could you not??)

Quick synopsis- In attempt to evade the evil Libyan rebels seeking return of their plutonium from eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, who used the plutonium to power the flux capacitor in his time-traveling DeLorean instead of building them a bomb.

Marty McFly jumps into the Delorean and upon reaching a speed of 88 mph (in the Puente Hills mall parking lot), 1.21 jigawatts of power sends Marty and the car back in time to November 5, 1955- the date parents’ first met.  Marty then meets his future parents in high school and accidentally becomes his mother’s romantic interest.  In an ensuing caper of errors, Marty must repair the damage to history by causing his parents-to-be to fall in love, and with the help of Doc Brown and find a way to return to 1985.

While helping his to-be father, George McFly, try to woo his to be mother in 1955, Marty inadvertently witnesses several occasions of George being verbally and physically abused by the school bully, Biff Tannen.  The most memorable of which is:

This scene, despite Crispin Glover’s adorably dorky demeanor, makes everyone cringe and sink down in their seats.  And if you’re like me, it makes you want to jump up and give Biff a swift kick to the boys (if you know what I mean.)  However, what is sad is that George takes the knocking on his head, slap and verbal abuse from Biff with a smile and even joins in the laughter when Biff’s friend makes fun of Marty’s “life preserver” jacket.  So, would Biff face any repercussions for his bullying behavior in 2015?

Well, what is bullying anyway?

“Bullying” is defined as any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, and including one or more acts committed by a pupil or group of pupils, directed toward one or more pupils that has or can be reasonably predicted to have the effect of one or more of the following: (A) Placing a reasonable pupil or pupils in fear of harm to that pupil’s or those pupils’ person or property;  (B) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health;  (C) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance;  (D) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900.

Bullying is different from harassment because the “bully” is not usually just one person with a grudge but is often a group of schoolmates, or people who were once thought of as friends.  Bullying in the modern era is not just a message written on the men’s room wall “for a good time call…”, or name-calling in the schoolyard.  Bullying, in the age of social media, is often fairly anonymous and because of the anonymity, typically more vicious and more likely to reach a wider audience, thereby, creating more bullies.

In November 1955, when George and Biff were in high school, bullying existed (obviously), but not much was done by the parents or the schools to deter this kind of behavior.  In fact, if you were being bullied, you were likely to be told to turn the other cheek or “man up” and defend yourself (enter the Karate Kid). 

However, in the wake of several high-profile suicides among students who were chronically bullied, and after two students, who said they were constantly bullied, attacked and opened fire on their fellow students at Columbine High School in 1999, various states started passing laws to stop bullying behavior among students.  In the aftermath of the school shooting and in reaction to a local bullying-related suicide in the state, Georgia became the first state to pass bullying legislation and California followed shortly thereafter.  In 2011, California passed the Safe Place to Learn Act located in the California Education Code §234(b) which provides that all students have a right to attend school without discrimination, harassment, violence, intimidation, and bullying and applies to students either at school, at a school function or in transit to or from school.  Since then, there have been numerous amendments, revisions and new laws added to the books in California aimed at preventing bullying.

Now, how do these bullying laws affect Biff at all?  Well, the answer is, they don’t…(wait for it)…yet.  The scene shown above was off campus and while Biff is most definitely committing battery- willful force or violence used against another person, but the likelihood that George is going to go to the police and file a police report is slim to none and slim just left the bar.

Since Biff is basically a giant meathead, we assume that his bullying knows no bounds and would occur on campus and off.  In those instances where he is bullying anyone on campus, or in transit to and from campus, the above-mentioned legislation would most definitely get Biff suspended, and eventually, expelled.  Moreover, the “Under the Sea” dance is a school function, which would also fall under the above legislation.  In addition to the many criminal charges Biff racks up while attempting to rape Lorraine in the car at the dance, Biff also continues his bullying of George and in doing so, almost breaks his arm. 

While no one ever saw what happened, except Marty and Lorraine, schools today would have every inch of that parking lot under video surveillance, thus, enabling them to catch Biff in the act of yet more bullying.  (With the amount of bullying by Biff just shown during the three days of this movie, I don’t see Biff even graduating from Hill Valley High School.)

Just to throw insult on injury- what does almost every human being on earth have in 2015?  A cell phone!  If this scenario were to occur today, we all know that Biff, his friends and all of those patrons at the diner would all have their cell phones out taking pictures and videoing George getting bullied by Biff.  (Any video would also likely catch that Biff is having George do his work for him, which would lead to other disciplinary issues at school, but one issue at a time.)  None of these people videoing the scene would bother to defend George, but all of these videos would wind up on Facebook, You Tube and other social media, leading to George getting ridiculed by even more people at school the next day.  Moreover, why waste time bullying someone face to face, when you can do it all day on your cell phone or computer.  We all know Biff would be mercilessly bullying George on any social media forum possible (as long as he knows how to work modern technology).

Luckily, thanks to the love of the internet and the cell phone, Biff Tannen and all of those lookie-loos sharing the video could be punished as well.  Recently, Assembly Member Christina Garcia proposed AB 881, which becomes a law on January 1, 2015 and centers on protecting children from cyber bullying and reaches beyond the schoolyard to stop bullying wherever it occurs.  Previous legislation was written before the explosive growth of electronic devices and instant communication, so AB 881 clarified that an “electronic act” means the creation OR transmission of any communication. This means kids who participate in cyberbullying can now be suspended for cyberbullying even if they were not the one who originated the document.  (This bill was supported by the Junior League Long Beach, among others.)

Based on the current laws of California, and those effective in January 2016, Biff Tannen would be suspended…a lot, and most likely, expelled, for his bullying behavior.

Lessons learned here:  Justice is sweet.  High School sucks.  Don’t be a bully, because you could end up in a pile of …

-Megan Hitchcock

[ This post originally appeared on The Legal Geeks blog.]

Take The 12-Day Love Yourself Challenge!


BuzzFeed really inspired me this week! The popular entertainment site is challenging me to love myself.  This is not as simple as saying: “Yes, I love myself” — this is a 12-day challenge with specific tasks, that appear to be simple, fun, and effective! I am excited to get started. Will you join me in taking on the 12-Day Love Yourself Challenge?

-Lauren T.

What Does Leadership Look Like


The topic of leadership has been at the forefront of many meetings I’ve been a part of lately. We’ve all seen leaders that we want to follow, and those we’d rather not. A good leader can motivate and inspire, and a not-so-great leader can make you want to disengage and lose passion. To an extent, leadership can be a natural talent. But not to worry, there are many ways we can all improve our leadership capacity — and become someone worth following (and be inspirational!).

I was listening to a radio program the other week that piqued my interest. A successful fashion designer, Eileen Fisher, was being interviewed on her business and experience in life. She was inspirational and intriguing. After listening to her interview, I wanted to know more about her (and actually thought she’d be a cool gal to grab coffee with!). Today, when I was googling leadership advice, a past interview on Inc.com with Eileen Fisher popped up in my search results. I went through her 10 leadership tips and thought they were so relevant, and quite honestly, were the realist illustration of how I envision an ideal leader. Her advice had inspired my post this week. Please see below for top takeaways I took from her leadership tips based on her experience founding and running a $300 million fashion brand.

Top Leadership Tips:

– communicate the big picture and help others see how their roles play a part in the big ideas

– focus on what is really important and set priorities

– follow curiosity and believe

– a leader is never alone, bring people together — think teamwork!

My favorite — excite, motivate, involve – embrace each person’s energy. Inspire people to engage their passion, creativity, strengths and skills in the work. Appreciate and acknowledge everyone’s efforts and contributions

– communicate — trust, express, share, listen, be present

– be authentic

– be supportive

– grow

– have fun and be positive

Do any of these stand out to you? Leadership may not be for everyone, but her advice and tips resonate because they exhibit ideal personality and behavior traits. Whether you have high aspirations to be a leader one day, or just want to be a better person, Eileen’s tips are candid and spot on. I challenge you to make a list of what you believe a strong leader means and who stands out to you as an example of one (in your life or a public figure). Once you’ve created that list, make a goal of challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone and strive to achieve those qualities. I also encourage you to start a dialogue about leadership with your family, friends and peers. Knowledge and learning about others brings you closer together. I always find when I learn more about what makes someone tick, what they value, and what inspires them, I become so much more connected to them. I also have grown and developed so much as a woman by emulating those I look up to as great leaders!

A closing thought about leadership I read and felt was moving…. “Every great leader has their own dogma, a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. Kevin Daum, Inc. 500 entrepreneur and best-selling author, says that every successful leader–from Steve Jobs to Warren Buffet–promote a distinct philosophy. ‘Leaders must have unbending principles that guide them and their companies, or people will simply take any path that suits them.'” What do you believe in, what is your truth, what path do you want in life?

-Alex W.

If you’d like to read all of Eileen’s leadership tips, click here- http://www.inc.com/ss/10-leadership-tips-from-eileen-fisher.