Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bullying, an epidemic.

I am a huge reader of crime news and I watch Nancy Grace a lot more than I should. Part of it is really for research. I see a situation and I use it in a book. The biggest reason is just morbid curiosity. I read these stories and hope for better endings even when I know how bad they are. Our news is covered in violence. Violence for stupid reasons usually. The stories that hit me the hardest are the ones about violence against kids. Those of you who know me or who read my blogs know how passionate I am about children's rights and safety. All of you who read or listen or watch the news have heard the name Phoebe Prince. If not I'll fill you in. Phoebe was 15 years old and after repeated and horrible bullying she chose to take her own life in the stairwell outside of her apartment. Her suicide brought to light just how many kids took part in the systematic torture of this girl. Having been a very geeky and awkward teen I know how bad it can be. In junior high in Utah I can remember two girls in particular who loved to torment me. I was shoved down stairs. My house was egged. I had my locker torn apart and nasty things left in it. I had lovely notes about me scribbled in bathroom stalls. Even younger in Texas I was teased. I was the chunky girl who didn't shave her legs or wear a bra. (I was raised by a guy who was a bit behind on a girls needs.) I was teased relentlessly. Friends turned on me. I tried to cover by making myself more interesting. (Yes LYING) I still shudder at some of the things I would make up to try to not be that nerdy girl. Of course my "stories" always made things worse and when true tragedy was in my life no one believed me. It just seemed like another made up story. I lied about boys, I made up a mother who was missing from my life for all sorts of cool reasons, I created "cool" friends just to try to seem less stupid. Those early teen years flew until one day, like poor Phoebe, I tried to take my life. I didn't try hard that first time. I think I wanted someone to take me seriously. I wanted someone to see me. Really look at me and get me and love me despite the fact that at my core I was a book loving dreamer with the imagination to match wrapped in a plump body and without any girly knowledge. I tried a couple of times to kill myself, each time getting a little more daring then the last as things got worse and worse. Thankfully I met someone who did see me. He saw the stupidity and the beauty that was me and he loved me anyway. I wish Phoebe had found that someone. As a teen parents really don't count. We crave the love and closeness of a peer. We want that girlfriend we could talk to about anything and still be friends the next day or that guy who saw us and thought the sun rose and set with us. Phoebe did not find that and she took her life. Now the kids who bullied her are all up on charges and frankly I think that it is too little to late in so many ways. Yes the school responded to the acts that staff knew of with a firm hand. Good for them. BUT so many who are bullied tend to take it or try to fix it themselves. So many never tell and witnesses rarely say a word. Can you imagine if someone had said something; if students had reported the threats and degradation, if bystanders and made themselves heard on Phoebe's behalf? I wish more people would comment when they see someone being harassed and demeaned. The only way this epidemic will ever be dealt with is if we as communities stand up and refuse to take it. If you see someone being pushed around don't be afraid to call the police or whomever can fix it. Give these kids the voice they rarely have.


  1. It was Mary Jo, in my class, in rural Iowa, that tried to end herself. About 44 years ago, now. No one claimed to understand why.

    My parents happened to move to a nearby town, eight short miles away. That school and town were welcoming, were a community with the heart the first place claimed. And bullying wasn't a daily presence, as at the first school. Football at the second school wasn't big, either. Surprising, that.

    Except I don't think it is surprising. In my time in the US Navy I was seldom attached to a real "Gung Ho" outfit. It seems that pressure for grades, team sports, or almost any other "Gung Ho" effort - results in denigrating mere human feelings and nurturing your peers, instead of climbing on anyone that you can.

    Perhaps if it were forbidden for parents to attend, or be told the scores, of school activities, if test scores and scholarships were not allowed to be shared at home, we could maybe let parents focus on what is important in their children's lives.

    Because I really think that parents that haven't learned how are failing to provide the structure at home that should be the first line of defense, to nurture children and even maturing adults.

    Phoebe's school should face a serious and in-depth review, for systematic abuse. Knowing there were incidents, they should be aware they encourage bullying when they fail to address the underlying causes. Jersey rules - nothing is wrong if you don't get caught - is a horrible form of situational ethics. Administrators and teachers are in short supply, and with the antics in Washington D.C, I don't see hordes of motivated and prepared people choosing to make education their life's work. But their needs to be an assessment of what "works" in bringing up children, beyond grades and test scores.

    I am sorry for how much happier your childhood, and Phoebe's, should have been.

  2. Brad, I saw your comment. It double posted and when I deleted one they both disappeared!! So sorry. Thank you though for your comment. I agree that the pressure we put teens under can be a huge contributing factor in bullying. When we force them to compete and remind them to be the best they fight to do so and in the end that causes more harm than good. Sure competition can be healthy but making the winners the vaulted and valued citizens only makes those who didn't "win" feel even more alone and left out.

  3. And now your comment is back. Ahhh the quirks of the internet!

  4. some kids are rotten little horrible people. They always have been and always will be. I got really teased a few times. However if everyone who really teases you gets walloped in the nose pretty quickly those folks leave you alone.

    I don't think it is so much that kids are teasing more but that other kids are less able to deal with it than they used to be.

  5. Good point TOR. A lot of kids just don't see a way to stand up and find solutions for their own safety let alone helping with another. I wish that there was a way to teach all kids about equality and personal rights and safety but as of yet there is no magic button. *Sigh*


We love comments! We are happy to answer questions, join in debate and conversation, or just say hi. All we ask is for respect. Respect us and others. Keep it civil. Obviously we aren't afraid of cussing but we don't like anyone degraded or invalidated.

We also know we make mistakes. Feel free to call us out. You can't improve things that need it if you aren't aware of it.

If you have an opinion share it but know if it is going to cause hurt to someone we care about we will not approve it.

Most of all have fun!!