Friday, April 12, 2013
Has it always been like this, discounting the hierarchal bullying as "boys being boys?" We quickly quip that girls are caddy, that you know how gossiping is and you just can't stop it. But if not, if girls are going to be caddy and if "boys will be boys," then how do we stop this bullying cycle that is claiming children's lives? When will the parents of the bullies see what's happening? How can we help those bullied know where to go for help? How can we possibly open the eyes of kids of all ages to see that it is not okay, never okay, to be mean to another human being? What have we done wrong that children have become so cruel that they will drive a child to suicide? While watching the documentary Bully, it was the aftermath of a teen's suicide that struck a nerve of disgust in me. The day after Tyler Long, a 17-year old, hanged himself, kids came to school with ropes dangling from their necks. What does that say about them, about us, about our culture? Being disgusted isn't enough. Doing something about it is. No one single entity is to blame. Schools can't take all the blame. Parents can't take all the blame. Classmates can't take all the blame. Even the bullies can't be exclusively blamed. But collectively, they're all to blame. We are all to blame. Adults have to show kids that it's not okay to be mean, to belittle, to ridicule, to tease. Instead, we need to let them see how to interact with others. Because bullying is only part of the problem. Mental health is a significant factor. Ugliness in others can be survived if you're strong. It doesn't justify it, but for decades, possibly centuries, children have endured the teasing of others. In a new age of mental health issues, ranging from depression to the autism spectrum, bullying can have a deeper and a longer-lasting impact on kids. And the mental health of those capable of wearing a rope around their neck suggests a deep-seated apathy, a sociopathic nature that has become part of today's culture. And now, suicide has become an option. Bringing a gun to school has become an option. And until we show them other options, how will they know? As teachers, we witness bullying on many levels. No matter the severity, adults must speak up and out. Silence condones the behavior. It reinforces it. But it is our actions that matter most. We must lead by example. We have to be positive models for how human beings should treat one another. Hopefully, kids will see that it takes character to speak up against a bully, that having a voice is more powerful than being popular. And perhaps they will choose to be the one. Everything starts with one.