Saturday, October 20, 2012

Stop Bullying Now

No one knows how much bullying goes on in schools. The more  we see of it, the more horrifying it becomes, the more our culture will mobilize to fight to problem.

Fifteen-year old Amanda Todd killed herself in Vancouver a few weeks ago. Tricked into sexting a picture of her breasts to a boy while she was in the seventh grade, Todd was harassed and tormented by him and by her schoolmates. You probably know the story. If not, here is a link.

Carly Weeks reported on similar recent incidents in Canada:

Aermis Kolke, a 13-year-old from Estevan, Sask., killed herself in April, 2011, as a result of intense bullying. Mitchell Wilson, an 11-year-old with muscular dystrophy from Pickering, Ont., committed suicide in September, 2011, months after being physically attacked by bullies. Marjorie Raymond, a 15-year-old Quebec girl, killed herself in November, 2011, after being tormented by bullies.

Carly Weeks knows about bullying. In middle school pupil she was subjected to it:

Over the course of several years, starting at the age of 12, I was bullied by my classmates. They threw things at me, verbally abused me and harassed me by phone.
They called me “Rat.” They would yell it at me every time they saw me and made up songs about it….

Weeks emphasizes a crucial point, the complicity of school authorities:

When I was in the schoolyard being mocked and taunted, all of my classmates took part, forming a circle around me. Years later, one of them apologized for her involvement. She told me she didn’t speak up at the time because she was too afraid of what might happen to her.

When my mother had to call the school and explain that her daughter, who loved learning, was too agitated and upset from the previous day’s episode to get out of bed, the secretary said she would list me as being sick. My mother insisted she write down the real reason: I was bullied.

When I was surrounded in science class by a cluster of classmates who disrupted the lesson by shouting obscene insults at me, the teacher never intervened.

Of course, we live in a therapy culture and we know that it will prescribe its own cure for bullying. It will offer vigils for the victims where we will all get to show how badly we feel about it. It will fund learned psycho-social studies, all of which will blame the problem on capitalist warmongers. And it will prescribe sensitivity training sessions where children will be encouraged to humiliate themselves in front of their classmates. It will even designate special counselors who will teach children to play act bullying, the better to learn how bad it feels to be bullied.

Finally, we will conclude that bullies need to be hooked up to IV empathy drips.

If you read Weeks carefully, however, you will see that bullying occurs in public schools because teachers and administrators allow it to occur.

When the adults in the room refuse to exercise authority, refuse to impose discipline and refuse to intervene,the bullies are given free reign. Better yet, they feel vindicated in their bullying.

If no one is stopping them they must be doing something right.

However painful it is to be taunted mercilessly in a classroom, when a teacher allows it to happen, the pain is compounded.

The teacher’s failure to intervene tells the bullied girl that no one can protect her. At that point, the anguish and despair become unbearable.

I am old enough to remember a time when such behavior would never have been tolerated in schools. But, way back then, in the 1950s, children respected those who were in authority. They learned discipline, not self-esteem; they looked up to their teachers and were not told to express their emotions freely.   

Apparently, it is no longer the case.

As schools descend into an anarchic state reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies, we must recognize, as Weeks does, that the fault lies with the adults in charge.

We need to start calling out school teachers and school administrations for their dereliction. If they are afraid to intervene because they are afraid of lawsuits, then we need to condemn those people whose litigiousness is making it impossible to discipline children in a classroom.

In some cases bullied children must learn to fight back. In other cases, as I have previously suggested, bullies must be severely disciplined.

They should be suspended or expelled from school. Their parents should be told that if the behavior continues it will be reported on their high school transcripts.

If parents cannot discipline their children, then perhaps they should be held to account.

When bullying occurs in schools, it is easy to identify the ringleaders. When the bully hides behind a cloak of online anonymity, authorities should find a way to breach the anonymity and to prosecute the bullies using laws against stalking.

In the real world, when the authorities cannot stop bullying, then others take the matter into their own hands.

As you know, the bully who tormented Amanda Todd has been exposed by a group of hackers called Anonymous. Link here.

Of course, the minute the name was divulged there were anguished outcries about vigilante justice and about how the man's right to due process had been violated. 

These complaints are empty. If  the law’s authority is evoked primarily to defend the rights of bullies then people will eventually cease to respect it.

If those who make and enforce laws insist that they cannot protect children, but must do everything in their power to protect bullies, then everyday citizens will start thinking that the law has become a criminal protection racket.


Anonymous said...

Great post. I don't know if this comment is appropriate for this blog, but here goes. Firstly, I think the suicide thing is something people are expected to do when suffering, it has become a type of trope. The drama attached to it has an allure, especially for females.

The solution to this problem is very simple: slap these kids. If your kid is the bully type (and you know if he/she is) then slap the kid. It works. I know it does. It is not barbaric and takes only a few slaps before 99% of such kids adjust their behavior. The earlier done in life the better. If, by chance, a kid has "issues" in life because of it then too bad. One or two punks who've been tamed means nothing to 7 billion earthlings. In the grand scheme of things their crying over being rightfully slapped is silly.

Parents need to slap. Not on the wrist, in the face and back of neck. It works. You all know it does. It i unpleasant however, you can make the unpleasantness go away by knocking off the offensive behavior. Slap them. Do it. Don't be afraid of PC. Slap them. It's free. It's quick. They will thank you for it when they are adults and not in prison. Slap them or their future cellmate will stomp them into retardation and make them sleep on the floor. Slap them.

Kath said...

Years ago I was at a public pool with my kids.
A boy was there bullying his sister. Dunking her under water and generally terrorizing her. The life guard did nothing. Their parents were nowhere to be seen.
I confronted the bully and told him to stop. The amazing thing is that he stopped and showed some respect. It looked like he was in need of some real parenting. What a shame for that boy and his sister.
I agree that it is the responsibility of teachers to stop bullying in the classroom. The parent's responsibility is to stop bullying at home which includes controlling their children's social media use.

I also agree with Anonymous that there is now an allure and drama being attached to suicide as an escape from bullying.
Kids are not learning survival skills because educators are eliminating normal childhood activities.
Look how kids are not allowed to play hard anymore. No dodge ball or even scary fairy tales. They are taking away the traditional tools that helped children learn to navigate the harsh real world. It must be hard for young people to withstand torment when their natural survival skills have been suppressed.

Sam L. said...

Vigilante justice can be the result of there being no other justice.

Teachers seem to have no administrative support and thereby no authority to stop bullying (it's just so...judgmental!) Discipline seems (by report) to be absent from schools. (It's just so...judgmental!)

"If those who make and enforce laws insist that they cannot protect children, but must do everything in their power to protect bullies, then everyday citizens will start thinking that the law has become a criminal protection racket." Which it seems to have become, because it's...judgmental.

Anonymous said...

This is just another variant of the story you told this week about how administrators at Amherst College protect rapists, and fail to care for victims. As you note, it owes to a massive failure on the part of adults to instill discipline. But it also owes to an increasingly brutal culture, in which people are encouraged to use each other with impunity. A society with lax standards and failing morals, needs its police. Without them -- the law of the jungle prevails.

Katielee4211 said...

So sad. Several years ago (I want to say maybe 10-15?), the 16/17yr old son of my ex-es cousins killed himself over school bullying. His parents had talked to the school several times, and were pretty much told 'boys will be boys'.

He came home from his job one evening, sat down with his Dad, they talked. He seemed calmer than he had been for awhile. They said good-night, he walked down to his room and shot himself in the head.

The school, of course, did damage control, promising to look into this carefully, yada, yada.

I wonder if his tormenter's understood the consequences of their actions? Then or now?

Anonymous said...

Oh, the administrators are doing something here....all it takes is one accusation of bullying and you're guilty and suspended. The pendulum has swung the other way, just ask my son, who was judged guilty before hearing his version of the events. Zero tolerance is leading to idiocy, just like it has with the weapons bans.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

You make an important point here. The next step after systematically failing to take action to stop bullying is overreacting. For failing to see it anywhere the administrators start seeing it everywhere, and naturally, children accuse other children of bullying just to hurt them... it's a form of bullying.

For better or for worse the application of proper sanctions for bad behavior requires a judicious temperament-- and that precludes turning a blind eye on bullying as much is it precludes seeing bullying everywhere and expelling children without even giving them a chance to tell their side of the story.