October is National Bully Prevention Month. I recently watched Bully, a documentary that follows the lives of a few families who have children that face bullies at school. I had heard about it and how powerful it was, so I finally got around to seeing it for myself, and I am so glad I did. This documentary was incredibly eye-opening. It was hard to watch two of the families coping with suicides as a result of bully intimidation. Admittedly, I’m a crier (one time I cried during an Oreo’s commercial), but this time was different. I cried nearly from start to finish and I was legitimately sad. My heart was physically hurting from what was unfolding on-screen before me.
The documentary focused largely on verbal and physical bullying. Now, having physical and verbal intimidation tactics down to a science, they now have the power of the Internet at their fingertips making them bigger and badder than ever. According to the National Education Association, it is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day because they fear attack or intimidation from other students. These kids may be hiding out at home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have fully escaped the torture they endured at school; now it follows them home in the form of texts, comments, and pictures.
The next day, I talked to my sister Megan, who is a junior high teacher and she began to explain that bully has become a buzzword: she said that many parents and students immediately jump to the word “bully” when the smallest of incidences occur, which frustrates many educators. She said that pretty much every case at her school is investigated and nine times out of ten it’s silly stuff that doesn’t constitute bullying, but that’s what everyone seems to call it.
I could see her side of it; this is twenty-first century parenting. Parents are helicopters now more than ever, encroaching on teachers’ space. What happened to where parents need to know every last thing that goes on at school? Why are parents trying to shelter their kids so much that they are outraged when a science teacher uses the word vagina?
But this conversation still got me thinking–if bullying isn’t something that’s happening at the school my sister teaches at, and aside from a few isolated incidences, it wasn’t really happening at any of my schools growing up (at least not in my class), then why is it happening in other schools? What are some schools doing right that others aren’t, and how do we solve this issue? Why do some of the kids in this documentary not trust their administrators to solve their problems? Because for many of these cases the problem starts at home. Children are more likely to act out when they are going through a difficult situation at home, such as divorce; but it can also come down to something as simple as their parents never taught them basic manners. The first step to solving this is communication among teachers, not just within their school districts, but with other cities or other schools that may be having a bully problem. This way teachers can reach out and offer some advice as to how to take care of it.
Many of us fear raising the kid who is bullied because it’s hard and it’s scary to send your kid into a world where they are picked on for being themselves; but we also need to fear raising the bully. Parents need to be conscious of the fact that their kids might be the tormentor. I think in this new day and age a lot of parents refuse to believe that their child could be capable of things like this. Parents need a wake-up call and they need to work together to prevent these horrible situations. This is the 21st century, for God’s sake. We live in a country that is supposed to celebrate diversity and being different, yet our nation is battling against it. So what’s the answer? Do social networking sites raise the age limit to older than thirteen? Do parents get more involved in their kids Internet privileges? Do schools need to have mandatory “social media etiquette” sessions with their students? I don’t have the answers, but we all need to be working towards a solution.
I strongly encourage everyone to watch this compelling documentary. It’s on Netflix!
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