As I write this (as a parent), I do so with heavy heart and in the hopes that the suicide of a precious 13-year-old girl (my friend’s niece — in another state), that resulted from ongoing bullying, doesn’t happen again, anywhere.
My immediate response to the news was a mixture of intense sadness and anger. Since then, I’ve chosen to channel/dilute those emotions through this pen onto this paper.
Bullying, aka assault, is a heinous crime that has always plagued humanity.
Equally disturbing are the malicious ways bullies try to silence and terrify their victims.
Bullies aren’t age or gender-specific but if they’re over 18, they go to jail. Sadly, our county has many under 18 who “bully by committee.”
The ultimate “bully by committee” (terror) affected all of us on Sept. 11, 2001.
Those “bullies” (terrorists) tried to shatter our spirits (something all bullies try to do daily) but what they didn’t count on was the roar-of-millions response: “You stirred-up the wrong hornet’s nest and will be held accountable.”
Bullies of all ages/gender need to be held accountable by their parents, teachers, peers, etc., because bullying is a crime, period.
Holding bullies (under 18) accountable is a delicate, complicated matter because there are many factors to consider including the fact that they aren’t born bullies nor is their deviant (criminal) behavior, automatically, their parents’ fault.
Peer pressure is a major factor along with violent video games/movies, reckless websites that all promote the idea that violence is good and being feared is the ultimate cool; especially in a county where there are very few positive outlets (release valves) for our youth like, say, a Boys and Girls Club (a great concept that would likely face much resistance).
Peer pressure to be a bully and terrorize victims in this county (and I’m paraphrasing a local law enforcement officer) is ‘really bad’ — that is to say that if you’re in a gang of bullies it’s cool but if you report them you’re a snitch, at which time you’ll be humiliated and harassed until you switch schools or surrender completely (suicide) — a preventable tragedy.
I believe that a pro-active approach (starting at home) is crucial.
Remind your child often that you love them unconditionally, that they matter and that they can talk to you without fear of reprimand about anything, anytime.
If they won’t talk to you (please don’t take it personally), then urge them to talk to someone, such as a school guidance counselor, teacher, or a teen help line (that you’ve researched beforehand).
There are several available, including one that even allows them to text message a trained counselor for advice on everything (teenlineonline.org). Correspondence is kept confidential and/or anonymous.
There’s also the ‘What’s up?’ teen program at Miner’s Clinic at 530-268-5854.
However, if your child’s demeanor takes a dramatic turn for the worse, it’s probably not a phase’ and it’s more than OK for you to seek guidance in order to best help them.
Their very precious, important life may hang in the balance.
One way of preventing your child from becoming a bully victim is to enroll them in a self-defense course but if/ when they are assaulted verbally, physically and/or sexually, authorities need to be notified.
Further, if your child has a cell phone they should consider dialing 911 (covertly), while the assault is happening (and leave the phone turned on) or, at the very least, record the incident.
Worrying about who’s going to get in trouble is the bully’s problem, not your child’s or yours.
Witnesses don’t always help the situation but, regardless, your son/daughter’s friends support is crucial.
If you meet with the bully’s parents, try to keep calm knowing that nobody in that principal’s office really wants things to get worse.
Inform the victims and bullies that you have exchanged contact information with all families involved and push for the principal to require mandatory follow-up counseling.
Finally, since my firsthand experience (several months ago) with “bully by committee,” I’ve heard many local ugly bully stories but one really struck me.
A precious 10-year-old (after a sibling told some bullies to back off), lost all her friends in the blink of an eye. How’s that remotely OK?
Mike Craig lives in Grass Valley.