Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.
It’s been a long time since the sweet chants of “nanny-nanny boo-boo” echoed across the playground to initiate a game of tag or pick on the kid wearing the not-so-cool clothes.
Today, children are keen to more devious ways of insulting each other.
Harassment, cyberbullying and physical violence are typical means of inflicting pain or embarrassment on kids who have been deemed social outcasts. Victims of these forms of abuse have taken extreme measures to relieve themselves of the anxiety and terror of walking down the halls of their school. Sometimes that method is death by suicide.
In 1999, America saw the devastating effects that come from bullying.
The Columbine School shooting resulted in 12 deaths, showcasing the worst possible situation teasing could lead to.
The shooting erupted fear in school administrators all over the country. An urgency for more anti-bullying policies, gun control laws and school security measures developed as a result.
Without a doubt, it is important to ensure that students are safe and that weapons are not entering the school doors, but why not start with the source? Get help for the bullied. Some schools have recognized this vital step.
The Massachusetts state legislation enacted tougher anti-bullying laws after Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old Irish immigrant and student in a Massachusetts school, committed suicide in January 2010.
According to suicide.org, suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among 5- to 14-year-olds while it is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds. However, suicide is not the solution.
“Hit that kid back,” has often been the words encouraged by outsiders of bullying. Recently, physical retaliation against teasers has been supported in the media.
A video featuring two fighting boys, Casey Heynes and Richard Gale, has been circulating on YouTube. After a blow to the face and a couple of punches to the belly, Heynes fights back, ending the fight by body slamming Gale.
Heynes, an Australian 15-year-old, shared his battle with bullying March 21 on Fox News. He described his lowest point as the moment he considered suicide.
He encouraged children who have been victimized like him to “Look for the good days. Keep your chin up, and school ain’t going to last forever.”
A brighter day always comes, whether it’s tomorrow or in four years. Fortunately, teasing has received public recognition as an issue that needs attention. Many are powering the anti-bully campaign.
President Barrack Obama invited University of Colorado freshman Sarah Bruder to the Conference on Bullying Prevention at the White House to discuss her book, Letters to a Bullied Girl.
The book includes encouraging letters from strangers, apologies from former bullies and inspirational letters from those who were once bullied.
Taking physical blows and insults is not the way to end bullying. Neither is suicide or deadly retaliation. Fighting back only teaches children and teens to react violently in uncomfortable situations. However, there is a way out.
Implementing educational and supportive programs that help victims of bullying successfully cope with the aftermath of teasing could bring peace to the tormented.
Simply breaking up a fight, altering the seating arrangement in a classroom or expelling students just won’t do.