When I was in 7th grade the thought of going to school made my stomach turn. There was girl threatening to beat me up. Her name was Terry and I didn’t know she existed until the day she confronted me. I was on her “hit list” because I had apparently looked at one of her friends the wrong way. She never actually touched me; just grabbed my lunch, said mean things and tried to make my life miserable. I went home and cried every day. Eventually, she got bored and stopped bothering me. But I was always on the lookout for her, so I could stay clear.
As I sat watching the much publicized movie "Bully," tears rolled down my cheeks. Seeing kids in middle and high school tell their stories of being tormented by their peers struck a very personal chord. I got angry as I watched a school administrator tell a victim to shake hands with his perpetrator and say, “I bet you guys could be really good friends.” She was really that clueless. I was shocked by her, “I’ve done all I can I do” attitude. Sadly, I’m sure it’s quite common.
Another girl featured was an honor student, who played basketball. She rode the bus to school every day and everyday she was picked on. She told teachers, but nothing was done to help her. She got so fed up that one day she brought a gun on the bus and started waving it around. Her intent was to scare the bullies. Thankfully, no one was hurt. A man in the community explains that the girl was charged with 45 felonies, including kidnapping and attempted deadly assault on all of the students in a school bus; he also says that he believes the pre-teen girl deserves to go to jail, saying that unless she was "being whipped daily" that she did not need to escalate the threats by bringing a gun onto a school bus. This man obviously doesn’t understand the toll that mental abuse can have on a person.There is no justification for wielding a gun, but watching the story unfold, I felt for this girl. She was at her wit’s end and clearly didn’t know what to do.
Not all bullying is physical. The constant name calling, exclusion and hazing has been enough to drive many kids to take their own lives. In the film, parents of children who committed suicide after being bullied spoke of the pain their kids had endured. Many expressed frustration about the lack of support from the schools and local police. All of them are on a mission to help save other kids from the fate suffered by theirs.
Talk to your kids. Make sure they know what to do if someone is harassing them, or someone else. And, if you’re the parent of a perpetrator, take action. It is our job to talk to our kids about these types of behaviors and make sure they know the consequences.
"Bully" shines a spotlight on this growing problem and what is, or isn’t being done about it. Many of those associated with the schools in the movie felt that they were, “doing everything they could,” which in many cases was little more than lecturing the tormentors.
Back when I was being bullied, I took comfort in knowing that at least I could have some peace at the end of the day, at home, cut off from the outside. But today, kids don’t even have that. Bullying continues via social networks and text messages; there is little escape.
Earlier this month, lawmakers in California passed a bill that would give schools broader authority to punish students who harass classmates on social networking sites. The bill would allow schools to suspend or expel students who partake in online behaviors meant to harm other teens. Bravo!
If kids know that they can’t get away with bullying, they will stop. Scream from the rooftops that tormenting behaviors will not be tolerated and that the consequences will be swift and serious. Do it for your children and everybody else’s. See "Bully" and take your kids.