Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bullying in Schools

This story about the young Irish girl who committed suicide after intense bullying from "mean girls" is disturbing on so many levels.  I have to ask myself how does a kid become a bully on one side, and what about any person allows them to be bullied?  I'm sure everyone has an opinion about this topic from every side - the bully, the subject of the bullying, legally, the adults, the other kids who knew and the parents on both sides.  At what level could this have been headed off before it ended with this girl feeling so trapped that she took her own life?

Should everyone have a mean streak?
I have been out of high school a long time, but I remember bullies both in grammar and high school.  I had a mean streak when provoked, so it only happened once per school, but not everybody has that.  It makes me wonder if they should.  I never bullied, as a matter of fact I stood up for classmates if they were being bullied, but I was no avenging angel.  It had to happen right in front of me for me to say or do anything.  It sounds like many students in the school knew about the band of so-named "mean girls".  The young girl was new to the school and to the country so is it possible she did not have a network of friends to protect her, or for her to turn to? 

Where was the Adult Intervention?
The parents told the school, but the principal claims to not have been aware.  I don't know about now, but when I was in school, teachers and principals (vice and head) walked the halls, stood outside as students arrived and observed.  Their mere presence kept down a lot of the crap.  I don't doubt that bullying happened and for the students in my school who were bullied, high school was undoubtedly a very different place, but even when I told my mother about someone else being picked on, she went to a counselor at school on their behalf.  It takes a village to raise children and clearly some of the adults in this village were asleep at the wheel.

Current & Future Victims of Bullying... What can be done?
Self-defense classes?  Therapy to shore up their self-esteem so they are not susceptible to being picked on?  We can't make everyone a senseless sociopath, but there must be something that can be done for the kids who are headed down this same path.  When I hear that this girl was pushed into the locker, it sounds like "horsing around" but what if she had done it right back?  What if when the "mean girls" called her a slut, she hurled it right back?  Would that make her just as bad as them?  Or would we call it self-defense?  What if she launched that can of pop right back at them in their car?  Would it at least have made her feel better?  Who knows?  And it is certainly not my intent to blame the one being bullied, not at all.  I just wonder if there is some training and therapy that can be done within the school system and home to provide these kids with a network of support.  The long-term affects for those who do not make the ultimate choice of ending the bullying, have scars to live with and need the therapy or counseling anyway.  Right?

Well the former kid with a mean streak in me has my own ideas; and the adult in me who has run into adult bullies, has a whole other idea; but for constructive purposes, I will speak as a parent.  Speaking of which, where are the parents of these bullies?  Do they bully?  Are they bullies?  Are they absent parents not paying attention at all?  Do they support such behavior?  Can the parents be held liable?  Why not?  These "children" are minors and caused the death of another, aren't the parents liable?  All of these kids have plead "not guilty" but how will their level of guilt be determined?  And what message are other bullies receiving watching this circus?  Do they now want their 15 minutes of fame?  The ax has to come down on these kids and hard for this not to become the next repeatable offense that is good for fame.

So back to what to do with the bullies themselves.  I would go through the formality of calling them "accused" but why?  Let's assume for purposes of "kindness" that I am not referencing these students currently accused but the millions of bullies in schools around the country.  There is always giving them a dose of their own medicine, there's paying attention to what is going on in their home and then there is swift repercussions EVERY time there is a complaint.  What can be done?  Do we not understand that it only escalates?  Is there a "scared straight" program that might work to show them what it is like to be bullied?  Do they receive counseling?  Do we start earlier in the school terms teaching kids what not to do?

So in summary, this current case needs to follow it's natural course of investigation, prosecution and punishing these "mean girls" and boys.  But there are certainly some "teaching moments" being provided by this current case.the lessons and procedural changes to be learned are many.  Can objects of bullies be counseled and shored up to become stronger against these teens who feel the need to stand on others to make themselves feel better?  What role do peers play in stopping or mitigating the torture?  Where are adults in the lives of teens vs. where should they be?  And can they be rehabilitated?

My honest opinion... every victim and bully should be counseled.  There is a reason a person bullies others, and there is a reason why a person accepts being bullied.  That is the root of the issue.  The rest (parents, administrators & peers) are band-aids.

Windy City Diva
~A Parent