With all the tragedy that has surrounded bullying and its exposure in the mainstream media you would think the culture in our schools would change.
Everyone wants to blame someone and its very easy to point the finger at the school and the district in light of their lack of action and post commentary.
When I was 14, I changed schools because I moved. I didn't fit in perfectly at the new school, I was athletic and smart which didn't sit well with some of my peers. One day I was physically confronted on the playing field and was threatened in a way, like never before, that I believed was credible. After that confrontation, I left my backpack with a friend, jumped the fence and went home. I told my mom about the incident and she asked what I wanted to do. I said I'm not going back and she didn't let me. I was out of school for three days while she researched the best alternative. The faculty asked what the issue was when she returned for my backpack and they weren't aware and couldn't confirm anything I had claimed. Since my mom loved me and trusted my word she moved me without question and I escaped my bully relatively unscathed. Was the action rash? Sure! Was it necessary? Maybe... Did it solve the problem? Yes.
From an outsiders perspective to the problem of recent days, my opinion is that this is a much bigger, culturally entrenched problem.
I see a broader solution as much more than just the school taking action.
- First, a kid should always tell their parents about things like this. If a parent doesn't know, they can do nothing.
- Second, a parent must act on this knowledge going as far as they legally can. This may upset some, but can a parent request a restraining order against a minor? I don't know of a precedent to support this but it would immediately give the bully no option but to change schools.
- Third, the faculty and staff must proactively prevent and correct bullying behavior. Sure some of it doesn't happen in plain view, but when students speak up and you do nothing, you are part of the problem.
- Fourth, the student body. It's really hard for me to fathom that the majority of the student body at any school supports and/or inflicts bullying on others. Therefore it's my opinion that if students see others bullying, they speak up. Bully's get power not from themselves but from others condoning their actions, they become popular for putting down the little guy sometimes they are cheered on by their peers. Because of recent events, everyone is sad now. The student body mourns a loss but where was the student body when the bullying was happening? Does the student body regret their inaction when the bullying was happening? Are the bullies mourning too? Do they regret that their behavior led to this tragedy?
- Fifth and most importantly, if you, as a parent, are approached by the faculty or a parent and tell you that your kid has been found bullying, take it seriously! You are the biggest factor in correcting this unwanted and dangerous behavior. To brush it off is further enabling the behavior and, in my opinion, is purposeful neglect.
We as a culture enable bullies by not stopping them. By not confronting their parents and by not assigning any consequence for what they do. In some cases no physical harm is done but severe psychological harm can be done. And in many cases, that is worse than the physical harm.
My points above are not a perfect solution and they may not be one at all but I hope this gets you to ask the question, could we change this thing? Can we prevent it from happening? That is what's important: dialogue.
There is a saying from an African Proverb that in part says, "It takes a village" and you may not think anyone outside of your home has a responsibility to your offspring but they do whether you like it or not. When your kid leaves your home, they are among the village and we all have a responsibility to be kind to each other and treat each other with respect within that village.
Adopt a No Bully Zone in your life!
Editor's Note: Bullying in the case of Drew Ferraro's suicide hasn't been resolved. Glendale Unified School District and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials have said there is no indication that bullying was a reason for the student's suicide. Family and friends state that Ferraro was bullied.