I have been thinking today about the suicides of two 11-year-old boys who were bullied at school. Obviously, this is incredibly tragic and my heart goes out to their families.
Bullying has now become a hot topic issue. Certainly bullying is not new, and I would think virtually everybody at some point in their lives goes through some type of bullying in one degree or another. So why is it now such a hot topic? Have no other teenagers ever committed suicide or had psychological problems related to this problem? Perhaps it is because they are so young- 11 is a shocking age to consider suicide! Perhaps it is because rather then bullying for race, people are bullying because of one's sexual orientation- perhaps that is seen as a worse reason to bully. I don't know, but I was thinking three things in regards to this issue.
1. I don't have school age children, so I don't even know how this would work. But, if your child is being bullied by another child, can one get a restraining order against that child? That might cause more problems, I don't know. But, it should at least keep that bully away from your child. That would certainly inconvenience the bully's parents, because that child might have to switch schools to stay away from the one who got the restraining order (I may be wrong, but I believe the one who has the restraining order against them is the one who has to make the changes to stay away from the one seeking the order- but, I could be wrong on that).
2. I in NO way want to say that these boys parents are to blame- certainly the bully's parents are MUCH more to blame, but I am wondering why this bullying would lead to suicide. Like I said before, bullying has been going on since Cain and Abel. But is there something we, as parents, can do if our children are on the receiving end of being bullied to help them have the strength and courage and self esteem to overcome the bullying? I don't know what that would be, but it seems that if parents were more involved in their children's lives and taught them that their worth is not based on a few mean kids at school, maybe it would lead to less tragic results. Again, I am NOT blaming these parents, I am just wondering if there are things we can do with our children that would be stronger then the words and possible attacks of the bullies.
3. A lot of blame has been put on the schools. I can understand that, because that is where much bullying begins and/or occurs. I do think there should be some policies specifically related to bullying- including expelling students who bully. I believe most schools do have some policies, but certainly these policies should be strengthened. But, how much can the schools do? They can not provide body guards to every student. They can not walk home with students to make sure they aren't beat up. They can't duct tape kids' mouths shut on the playground. My first year of teaching we had a huge problem with gays being beat up (that seems to be the group to bully right now- at least in our suburbs here). When I say beat up, I mean beat up- to the point where one of them almost died. I think there were 3 having these problems. Many of the beatings occurred on school grounds, but after school hours- after dances, basketball games, or whatever-when adults had left. All 3 of the boys ended up transferring schools and we, as teachers, had to teach gay tolerance programs in our classes. I had no problem teaching these classes- the problem I had was the comments the students made! It was unbelievable the hatred that came out of their mouths. How can I, as a teacher, change that? They are learning this hatred at home and it is being fed by their peers at school. I can't compete with parents in teaching tolerance! That leads me back to my original thought- how much can we really expect the schools to take responsibility for what occurs?
I have zero answers. These are just some things I have been thinking about in regards to this issue.