Big Bad Bullies: Brenda and Dwana

Fighting Back
Dr. Phil talks to Debra and Lauren about bullies and a fight that was caught on videotape.
Dr. Phil tries to get the facts of the beating straight with Dwana. "What happened on the bus?" he asks her. "Why did this take place?"

"Because Lauren touched me in a sexual way," she responds.

Dr. Phil asks Brenda if she supports her daughter's actions. "Yes, because Dwana called me at my job and told me that the little girl was messing with her," Brenda answers.

"If [Lauren] did touch her ... doesn't the reaction seem to be way disproportionate?" Dr. Phil asks. "I think experts have looked at the tape and said that she kicked [Lauren] seven times, spit on her and stepped on her face. Does that seem like something, as a parent, that you want to support your daughter doing?"

"No," Brenda says. "I don't teach Dwana to do violent things ... But with Dwana hitting her back, I told her she's supposed to hit people back when they hit her."

Dr. Phil tries to explain to Brenda that Dwana didn't say Lauren "hit" her; Dwana says Lauren "touched" her. "And for that, she got kicked seven times, spit on and stomped," he points out.

Dr. Phil asks Dwana if she thinks she overreacted by attacking Lauren on the bus.

"Yes, I do think I overreacted," she admits.

"Are you sorry about it at all?" he questions. When Dwana is unapologetic for her role in the beating, Dr. Phil asks why. "She touched me in a way that I did not like," Dwana says.

"Well, I think if I was uncomfortable with that, I would think that I would move away," Dr. Phil responds.

"You can't move away on the bus without permission," Dwana replies, as the audience laughs at the irony of her comment.

"Well, it seems to me like permission was a little loose that day," Dr. Phil remarks. "You've had this problem before, right?" he asks, referencing Dwana's former charge of assaulting a police officer. He asks Brenda, "Does that tell you that the decision-making process here is maybe out of proportion to what's going on?"

"A little bit, yeah," she replies.

Dr. Phil introduces Mark Werksman, who has worked as a Deputy Defense Attorney in the Los Angeles juvenile courts. He tells Mr. Werksman that Dwana is facing an arraignment for her role in the fight and asks what outcome might be expected.

"What we saw on the tape was a violent, vicious assault," replies Mr. Werksman. "I think it's hard to imagine that a court of law will view this girl's defense as a legal defense to viciously attacking Lauren."

Dr. Phil explains that many parents are unsure of what steps to take when their children are being bullied.

"The school doesn't respond; the school district doesn't respond to satisfy them. The parents feel powerless, but you're saying that there are things they can do on the criminal side of things to bring charges against another child?"

"Absolutely," agrees Mr. Werksman. "I would advise parents to go straight to the police and don't always expect the school district to know what to do or to take the appropriate action."

Dr. Phil turns to Brenda, "Do you fear that you're basically setting her up to spend time in jail?" he asks.

"No, I'm not," she answers. "I've been supportive of Dwana all her life, but Dwana has a temper like her dad."

Dr. Phil tells Brenda, "I feel that you get the feeling that if you don't stand up for this little girl, nobody is going to stand up for her."

"That's right," Brenda agrees.

"I can't tell you how much I understand that and how much I appreciate that," says Dr. Phil. "But I think, at the same time, you have to look at the facts: She's justifying this vicious and uncontested attack ... this was an ongoing and vicious beating, some of it apparently after the girl was already unconscious. Don't you say in your heart of hearts, 'I wish she hadn't done that'?"

"I talked to Dwana and told her that that was wrong," Brenda explains, "but she told me that that girl shouldn't have hit her. I'm a single mother and I live by myself. I have two other kids and I do the best I can with all three of them."

"You don't want to go to jail, do you?" Dr. Phil asks Dwana. When Dwana admits that she doesn't, Dr. Phil says, "Is it possible there's a better way to handle this kind of thing?"

"Yes, it is," she agrees, refusing to make eye contact with him.

"Couldn't there have been a better way to respond where you don't wind up in court with a criminal charge against you?" he asks. "I want to say to you that I would arrange anger management training for you or some type of alternative skills training, but I don't think you want that."

Brenda interjects that if Dwana would go to anger management classes, that she would attend with her. Dwana insists that she doesn't need help, saying, "I'm not going nowhere and ain't nobody going to make me go nowhere because ain't nothing wrong with me."

Dr. Phil tells Brenda, "If there's something I can do in your community with people you know and trust from your church or community center, know that I'm willing to make those things available to you at our expense. I'm not trying to demonize your daughter," he stresses. "But I think her behavior is absolutely, unequivocally unacceptable and it's going to land her in jail over and over again."