Not too many weeks pass without this newspaper receiving what has become a familiar call from a distressed parent. Their child is being bullied at school, and no matter how hard they push, school officials won’t do anything to stop it.
Their child, they say, doesn’t want to go to school, is faking illness, their grades are falling and they are an emotional mess. Heart-wrenching stuff for children trying to navigate difficult transitions in their lives.
We follow the same playbook, asking exactly which school officials have been advised of the bullying, and often directing the parent to their representative on the Board of Education, but we end the call feeling as the parent does — relatively helpless to protect that child.
If you are in the summer, fall or winter of your life, you might be tempted to scoff at the notion of bullying. When you were in school, it was called “being picked on” and the most vulnerable students, often those with a mental or physical disability or ones viewed as “different,” were targeted. Then it was mostly left up to the child to stand up for himself or herself.
But social media and its reach has changed the dynamic and broadened damage that bullying can have on a child. It is now routine for a bully’s taunts — and a victim’s humiliation — to be seen by literally thousands of people with just a few keystrokes.
According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, about 14 percent of students — more than 6 million across this country — say they have been bullied through text messaging or on social media. But twice that number report being bullied on a school campus.
There are a lot of red flags raised by a child being bullied: faking illnesses to stay home from school; changes in eating habits; difficulty sleeping; nightmares; declining grades; loss of friends; avoidance of social situations; decreased self-esteem; and self-destructive behavior.
Children can suffer long-term psychological damage from bullying, and although counseling can help, it can be expensive. When bullying is allowed to continue unchecked, it can be a contributor to the third-leading killer of young people, which is suicide.
Identifying the problem is the easiest part; doing something about it is trickier. Educators are not well-positioned to do much. That fix, as is so often the case, will be found in the homes of children who do the bullying — children who are in someway compensating and would also benefit from counseling.
There is nothing courageous about a student bullying someone who is vulnerable; in fact, the act is cowardly.
The courage is found in those children who reject following the crowd and joining in on the “fun” at another child’s expense, or even more so, those who step in between the bully and his victim. Now that is cool.
— This editorial was adapted for the Bladen Journal from The Robesonian.
Quote of the day
“Don’t sit and wait for a miracle when you can be one.”