I’m sure we’ve all been there, whether it was on the playground, at school or maybe even at home. If you weren’t bullied, chances are you were the bully or the bystander. An anti-bullying presentation made at the Broadview School last week opened my eyes and ears to the real issue of bullying and the torment it must cause kids and teens that feel the brunt of others’ cruelty.
I never gave much thought to bullying in my younger years. Being a natural redhead, I was often called freckle-face in elementary school or ginger in high school, but it never went past the point of harmless nicknames that didn’t really bother me.
The problem begins once those nicknames, comments or isolating remarks become hurtful and embarrassing to kids.
Two days before the Broadview anti-bullying presentation, a young girl from Eastern Quebec committed suicide. Fifteen-year-old Marjorie Raymond was the latest victim of bullying, surrendering to suicide, leaving a note for her mom explaining she had been bullied at school and couldn’t face another day of the abuse.
You don’t have to look far or search the Internet for long before you hit thousands of stories, videos, blogs and threads related to the issue of bullying. Facts and stats fill pages of Google: warning signs, ways of deterrence, effects of bullying, youth violence, suicide, and more.
But it’s more than bulleted lists, more than numbers. They’re kids suffering, often in silence, because they’re embarrassed, afraid or don’t know what to do.
It’s hard enough for adults to cope with feeling alone, and that’s with years of life experience. I can’t imagine how kids feel going to school each day, being criticized for who they are- how they walk, talk, look or act.
An 11-year-old Ontario boy, Mitchell Wilson, lived with muscular dystrophy and suffered bullying by his classmates. After a physical attack, he took his own life. Eleven years old and he killed himself.
Kids need to realize what bullying can do. They need to understand the magnitude of the problem and understand that it isn’t just a dirty look, a push or shove, a nickname or nasty remark. It’s the responsibility of parents, teachers, role models and anyone with any influence over youth to explain what can happen and how bad it can get.
The province of Ontario is leading a zero tolerance attitude for bullies and their behaviour.
The provincial government proposed an anti-bullying law on Nov.30, that would, if passed, allow Ontario schools to permanently expel students for bullying others.
There is zero tolerance for harassment in the workplace, and there should be on the playground, in the hallways and in the classroom. There are laws in place that protect the victims of harassment, and penalize the offenders. Bullies need the same.
The guest speaker at the Broadview anti-bullying presentation underlined the fact that “it does get better”. But maybe those words are maybe meaningless to some students, anything but hope. We can’t overlook bullying. We can’t minimize the effects or chalk it up to ‘normal’ childhood behaviour.
After the anti-bullying presentation at Broadview, a little girl (maybe seven years old) walked up to the speaker and asked, blatantly, “how does bullying start?” Simple, direct and to the point. How does it begin? How does it end?
If we don’t ask our kids about bullying, they may never tell.
Just because you’re kid isn’t the bully or isn’t the victim, doesn’t mean they don’t see it or participate in it. By standing by, saying nothing and doing nothing they’re just as much a part of the problem.