Tag Archives: school

The Bullying Epidemic

Some states of the United States have implemen...

Image via Wikipedia - This is a map showing state laws in schools dealing with bullying.

 

My family moved from sunny Florida to the beautiful Northeast when I was in 6th grade. I was delighted by my new school and the new friends I had made so quickly. But something changed, I’m not sure what happened. These “friends” within one weekend turned on me and made my life a living hell. I was cornered in the stairwell, picked on in gym class and  I was terrified. I locked myself in my room in the morning and cried to my parents about not wanting to go to school. Luckily after a month, my parents’ contract on our new house fell through and we moved to a different town. Somehow in this new school I made life-long friends I am still close to. But I remember…  

The bullying epidemic has always been around. Kids have always been tormentors, bystanders, or the tormented. None of this is new, but now we have a whole new way of humiliating our peers: the internet. Nothing is sacred. We also hear about it more often, too. So the pranks are widespread, as are the damages and the consequences.  

The recent suicide of a Rutger’s student after a web video of him having sexual relations with another man was posted on the internet does not say something horrific about our kids, it says something horrific about our society. I think (or would really, really like to think) most of the time the bullies do not realize the impact they have on their victims. It has been shown most who bully are just insecure about themselves and must attack first, lest they be attacked. Most bullies, it has also been shown, have parents which encourage this behavior either through entitlement, competition or their own actions toward others. It is most often defended by this perceived sense of superiority whether it be cloaked in self-righteousness or complete ignorance about the consequences of their actions.  

Just look at what’s happening in politics right now. The hate is palpable. And rarely do we discuss policy, it is usually just a twisting and reorganizing of the dirt until one party looks absolutely evil and inhuman. This is often what attackers do to their victims. They are blissfully unaware of the pain and make it commonplace where everyone can jump on the bandwagon and not feel guilty about the lies and hate they have spread. (Please note this case: While yes it is free speech, it is written by a person in power and is a great example of bullying.)  

Years ago I was given an assignment in a college class where we had to write an editorial to the local paper about some type of sociology subject. The school I was attending was located in Colorado and the timing happened to be right after the Columbine shootings. Much had been written about the subject, the school, the bullying, the victims, the perpetrators and on and on. However at one point, the principal of Columbine high school actually stated there was no bullying in his school. Studies have shown there was much more to the Columbine Massacre than bullying, but to think your school had no bullying? My opinion piece was so obvious it just simply said, “What? What hole or rock do you live in and under? Do you not remember your days at high school? Are you that out of touch?” It was published in the paper.  

This situation hit home for my family recently when my son was the victim of cyber bullying on Facebook. This was during the summer and when I reached out to his school to make sure the administration was aware and he was not placed in classes with these children, the secretary actually stated, “Well, they shouldn’t be checking their Facebook during school hours.” I was speechless and simply wanted to answer, “Put me on the phone with the person who signs your checks because the intelligence level of this conversation has just hit rock bottom.” Luckily, the administrator was a little more vigilant and made sure my child was placed in classes away from these bullies. When I posed the question asking for help and advice on my Facebook, the response was overwhelming. These are not isolated incidents.  

We have to address this problem. But we need to start at home. Schools and new laws can only do so much. We have to teach our kids  each person, however different they may be, is valuable and has feelings. But we must set the example. We cannot mock other adults or children with our kids and think they don’t learn a lesson. We mustn’t be blind, like a certain principal, and think our kids are angels. We mustn’t have an uncanny need to relive our childhood and ensure our child is the best football player/cheerleader/student body president because that’s the only path to true redemption. There are many paths.  

We must instill in our children the self-confidence to stick up for others being bullied. We must listen to our children and not shrug it off with callous statements like, “It will make you stronger.” “Just walk away and don’t say anything – you’re better than that.” These statements do not work and we must find the ones that do. Remember these tormentors are not adults who are mature enough to respond with reason. We must as a society realize that this is not simply a part of growing up. We must explain to our children that our homes are safe grounds and we as adults, must not be afraid to stick up to the parents of these kids and confront them.  We must, if our kids are younger, monitor their Facebook and question what is going on in their lives. We must somehow give our children the ability to stick up for themselves.  

We cannot stand back and continue to let this happen. While some victims go on and turn their torment into a successful careers, like Jodee Blanco, others do not.  Bullying can leave deep scars which never really heal. Yes, it might make them stronger as adults but that is only if they make it to adulthood, which far too many of our children are not.  

Yeah sure, I’ll talk to him

I got a call from one of my kid’s teachers today. It was the same story I’ve heard many times before. This time it went something like this:

Teacher: “Your son has been told numerous times to come into the class and put away his books. He consistently fails to do it in time; he’s too busy talking.”

Me: “Yes, he told me he had 5 points deducted because he had his book in his lap.”

Teacher: “Yes, it’s supposed to be inside his desk or at his feet.”

Me: “Oh, ok.”

Teacher: “I give them all a couple of minutes to put away their things in the beginning of class, but your son never pays attention to the time.”

So that’s when I tell them in the shortest length possible, I know. I know he’s unable to do anything in the exact time alloted. He daydreams, he fidgets, he creates things with paperclips etc…but never what you ask him to do right that second. Then I apologize and tell them I’ll talk to him. His story is entirely different, but there are still enough similarities to see and sympathize with the frustration he’s feeling.

We can go on and on that it must be our parenting; he must listen and instantly obey. But…he’s not going to. The reason I know this is because his father is the same way.  He doesn’t even hear half of the things going on around him. He, like my son, can observe the tiniest object in  a place no one would ever look and remember its exact placement, but realize the person in front of him is on fire — no way. They could both instantly recognize a tree has lost 3.5 leaves from a certain branch they walked by the other day, but if you asked them to hand you a pair of scissors they will forget by the time they reach the drawer. Meanwhile they’re contemplating where those 3.5 leaves could have gone. And if they did go somewhere it was probably some far off land…

You know, the far off land where only “artsy” people’s minds wander. I imagine it looks something like The Yellow Submarine movie or a Van Gogh painting.

I know it must be annoying if you’re a teacher. I know it is as a mother and as a wife. It’s annoying to me because I am so firmly planted in this world… I’m a complete and total stressed out mess. There is no wandering to a far off land; I’m too busy worrying about the dirt that’s right under my feet.

And you know what? I’ll never be an artist. I’ll never “see” what these people see. I’ll never live in their far off land. And you know what? That Sucks for me.

The more time goes by the more I realize, public school doesn’t teach you anything but the basics and if you’re “special” in any sort of way it’s just something  hopefully you can deal with and still come out of with at least a speck of self-esteem.  Basically, school — you suck.

And Now for Something Completely Different…

So I’ve been at a loss for what to write, besides those great stories that come into my head while I’m falling asleep. Gosh those are good stories, the verbage is so eloquent, everything falls into place and comes out exactly how I mean it.  It’s perfect. Novels, blog entries, the little assignment sent home by one of my children’s teacher asking me to describe my child, man they’re so good. I should get a tape recorder.

But alas, all I have is the dribble that comes out in the daytime.

It’s back to school time here in the South. Yes, the kids have heat advisories warning them to stay inside for recess, but there is air conditioning which is more than our house had for half the summer.  Anyway, even though it’s hot, it’s time to “get it together”. The routines, the bedtimes, the early wake-ups, the homework, the after school activities, the babysitters, the forms (oh my God – why are there so many forms?), dinner at a reasonable time, the homework, did I mention the forms?

It’s a time better suited to cooler weather. Cooler weather tends to make you want to have some routine. Hunker down so to speak (that’s a Florida term for what you do when a hurricane is coming — why I thought it works here, I don’t know). You know you feel the need to get things done, the need to “make it happen”.  Summer is better suited to lazy days at the pool, vacations, sleep-overs, margaritas, water with everything – just not my margaritas. A time when you swear you’re going to start working out everyday and look fabulous in a swimsuit, but not today…Today is for drinking and lying slovenly in a chair by  the pool. Plus it’s too damn hot to work out, I break out in a sweat just reaching over to lift my wine soda out of the cooler.

They’ll close the pool in a week or two, truly signaling the end of summer. The temperature is expected to be in the 80’s; who could possibly swim in that? In a few weeks we’ll start turning on the fireplace to discount the air conditioning which is set at 65. And I’ll start eyeing my boots and scarves, thinking – well, it is awfully chilly in the house…

The routines will start to become, well, routine. We’ll settle in, getting used to the structured days. We’ll think of all we’re going to accomplish this year. I’ll volunteer think about volunteering  for too much and then whine I don’t have any time, spend too much at the grocery store and then think about where to go out to eat every night. I’ll be late to work because someone’s socks are not aligned properly on their toes. It will be another school year, another chance to get it right. Or another chance to really screw it up. But let’s think positive, right now it’s one last chance to spend the weekend in a lawn chair. One last chance to swear off jogging because it’s too darn hot, one last chance to think every night deserves a wine spritzer. One last chance to think eventually the kids will get in bed early.

I know, I know — who am I kidding? I’ll be saying the same thing come December; I’ll just change the type of drink.