Friday, October 1, 2010

Bullies Thrive as Casualties Rise

In light of recent events, I feel compelled to share my thoughts, feelings, and concerns regarding the devastating news dominating the media these past few weeks.  It was not long ago that summer bid us farewell, the fall arrived, and a new school year began for students and teachers across the nation.  And so far, 2010-2011 has been more than memorable, as at least FOUR individuals have made the drastic decision to cut their  life short due to ongoing embarrassment, humiliation, and public exposure from peers.

It has to end!

Sadly, these are simply the anecdotes that have been brought to my attention.  How many more lives have been lost in this selfish quest of social supremacy?  How many kids are currently contemplating this very same decision, and sadly enough, will be inspired by the recent trend?

September 9.  Fifteen year-old Bully Lucas of Greensburg, IN was found by his mother - dead.  Billy had hung himself.  He was tormented for his alleged sexual orientation; however, he never once told anyone he was gay.  And driving Billy to suicide was not enough for some fellow high school classmates.  Hate messages have now been posted on his memorial page.  A graduate of Billy's high school was quoted for experiencing similar problems.  Now twenty-one, the individual, who chose to remain anonymous, has horrible memories from high school.  He claims he reported such behaviors numerous times but the school district failed to respond.

September 22. Tyler Clementi, an eighteen-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge and into the Hudson River. Tyler was a bright individual and talented violinist. But after Tyler's roommate streamed him having an intimate encounter with another male over the Internet, Tyler struggled to see the point in living.

It seems the older we get, the more creative some become in their methods for humiliating another person. Because, as Tyler knew, nothing he ever did would reinstate his reputation. He would, for the rest of his college career, be "that kid." Don't get me wrong - I wish with all my heart he was able to find help and support to make a better decision. However, I think we need to wake up and start realizing actions can have PERMANENT wounds!

September 23.  Last Thursday, eighth-grader Asher Brown, 13, of Cypress, Texas was discovered on the floor of his stepfather's closet after his life was claimed from the bullet of a pistol.  Tragically, it was Asher himself who pulled the trigger.  Asher was constantly bullied by four other students at his Texas middle school.  His small size, religion, and wardrobe all made him a target, as did the fact that other kids perceived Asher to be gay.  The article states, according to Asher's parents, "His most recent humiliation occurred the day before his suicide, when another student tripped Brown as he walked down a flight of stairs at the school."

I'd like to remind all educators of the importance of having an adult presence in hallways, especially during passing time.  As an educator, I know it is common knowledge that the majority of bullying takes place during unstructured, unsupervised times: hallways, bathrooms, bus stops, at lunch, during the hectic minutes of homeroom, and in gym class, especially in locker rooms.  If we know these are the "hot spots," then we MUST make our presence known. 

We can never know for sure how many acts we prevent, because an act that never occurs cannot be documented.  But I guarantee, had an adult been present in that stairwell, Asher would not have been tripped.  Would that have made a larger difference in the grand scheme of things?  We'll never know....

September 28.  This past Tuesday, thirteen-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, California died after he made the decision to hang himself nine days prior.  Walsh was discovered in his backyard and immediately rushed to the hospital.  For nine days, he remained alive on life support.  During that time, Seth's friends created this video:

Seth had people in his life who cared for him.  But sadly, it wasn't enough to numb the pain he endured on a daily basis.

Ellen DeGeneres said recently that "one life lost in this senseless way is tragic; four lives lost is a crisis."  Please take a moment and watch her powerful message:

There are people in this world, some of them who are people I know, who are "tired of hearing the bullying sob stories."  Perhaps they are unable to recognize a need they are so far removed from.  Well, all I can say is, how nice for them.

"We were all teased," a "friend" recently told me.  SO THAT MAKES IT OKAY???  ARE YOU ATTEMPTING TO JUSTIFY THESE BEHAVIORS???  IT IS NOT PART OF LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The bottom line is, there are a number of people who have felt they had no other alternative.  It is not our job to pass judgment - to think in our heads that they made their own choice and had other options.  We have no right as humans to decide how someone should or should not be affected by a situation - to tell someone to "shrug it off."  These kids need our help, and for the names listed above, as well as countless others, we as a society have failed to help them.

Yes, you heard me!  In the subject of bullying prevention, I'm giving the country an F!  And I have a BSE, M.Ed., and four certifications that make me qualified to administer grades.

These kids are unable to see beyond the moment they live in - the current pain and suffering that eats at them twenty-four hours a day.  They don't foresee a time when their life will be better; they only see the next day as returning to the line to be fired at by the enemy.

We have wasted enough time defending the bullies.  Because they are "just kids," right???  They have needs, right?  They didn't pull the trigger or tie the rope around the victim's neck, right???

Seriously, with all do respect, SHUT UP!  It's time to wake up, stop the coddling, and recognize an epidemic infecting our country.  I swear the adults making these excuses must be former (or just older) bullies themselves.  Excuse notes are as useful as the used post-it they are written on.  And I have to say, I'm getting damn tired of reading them!


  1. Paul -

    Well said.

  2. So here is my 2 cents: I am 27 years old, an educated professional with a great husband and a family who loves me. But I can still close my eyes and see and hear all the horrible teasing I experienced throughout my youth. While I wasn't teased for being gay, it was still awful. To be honest, it never goes away. SO to anyone who says it is just "kids being kids" well, we know how that goes. I am proof that it stays with you. And also, I feel like bullying has really intensified in a really short period of time. It has reached epic proportion. I find it disturbing and disgusting.

    Oh and I thought you'd "like" the Ellen post. But no one should really like what she said. Because she shouldn't have had to say it.

  3. I think that we need to make people more accountable for their words. As a society we are quick to judge or place blame on anyone who physically hurts another person, but rarely are we judging people who torment or verbally abuse other people. In my eyes there is no difference between physical or verbal abuse, and I think that this is a serious issue more people need to be educated about. Ellen has the right idea about informing people, but this needs to be done school by school, child by child. Parents are also responsible for teaching their children tolerance and acceptance. No child should ever have to be afraid to go to school or afraid to speak up about anything.

    I can't wait to read the book!!

  4. It all begins with parenting. Having my little one now, I can't imagine him being bullied or worse yet, being the bully. I will raise him to accept everyone for who they are. To not judge and to respect ALL human beings. To understand that everyone is different and unique and that should be celebrated. If the parents don't instill these values then the school needs to step it up to ensure that this doesn't happen. It should NEVER get to the point where someone doesn't see the beauty in life anymore. The things that people say help to shape who you become, fortunately if they're good things and unfortunately if they're bad things. I have had both...and both have stayed with me through the years.... "No one should make you feel inferior without your consent."

  5. I agree with Courtney Love - I think parents need to step up to the plate here more than anyone. 90% of bullies are projecting learned behaviors. Too often parents forget that what they say, how they treat others, are easily transferred over to their children. Instead of defending our child when they get in trouble for treating another child unkindly, we need to be on the same team as teachers, and victim's parents. We need to put a pressure on making in stop.
    What frightens me is how YOUNG these most recent deaths are. I always say that I am happy that Facebook and texting didn't exist when I was in middle school. I dealt with some girl drama, and walking down the hall was hard enough. To not be able to escape it at home? That must be terrifying. I know parents are afraid to monitor these things, because "all kids have it!" but there has to be a better way. It's just getting worse and worse. I liked to think we were a nation of growing acceptance, but it seems like in this area we are going backwards as of late.


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