Bully: One Point. Victim: Zero. Again.

I don’t know about you, but I am well and truly tired of the unchecked bullying that goes on in our schools and on the air.  Cyber space, with its photoshopping and instantly viral social networking capabilities, is one heck of a nasty place.  In this technologically advanced world, the playground–and the bully–knows no bounds.

According to irate students in a small rural community, one such instance occurred yesterday.  A photoshopped picture with a cruel caption was posted on a social networking site FROM A SCHOOL COMPUTER DURING SCHOOL HOURS.

As the story goes, the guilty party was told to take it down.  Great.

Take it down.  Check.

Parents called.  Check.

As soon as school let out, the picture went back up.  My question: where were the parents on this?  The ones who had been called as the sole form of punishment for the child’s violation of school policy?  Where was anyone?

The photo was reposted over and over again by the bully’s friends.  Some kids saw it and laughed, no doubt spurring the bullies on.  Encouraging them through their applause and like buttons and nasty comments.

Other kids are furious.  I’m furious.  I’m tired of the hand slaps that bullies receive for violating another child’s privacy, for smearing reputations and for causing emotional damage.  But more so, I’m frustrated by the lack of consequences.  When nothing substantial is done, adults send the message that we condone this type of behavior, thus perpetuating the cycle and escalating the viciousness of future attacks.

When the Ravi/Clementi verdict was handed down, I rejoiced for a brief moment.  I’d followed the story and was rooting for justice.  But then my heart stopped when “guilty” made me realize a young man could be deported–away from his family, away from his friends, away from a culture he knew and transplanted unceremoniously into foreign territory.

The consequences are scary and heart-wrenching.  Nobody wins in this situation.  Not Tyler Clementi who took his own life after Ravi’s deliberate invasion of his privacy.  And not Ravi who is looking at a possible prison sentence and deportation.

Had Ravi known he’d be caught, had he known Clementi would commit suicide, had he known he would actually be prosecuted and found guilty, I guarantee, he would have made a different choice that day in his dorm room.

And that’s my problem.  Kids don’t know.  They don’t know because they continue to get away with bullying.  They receive a tiny reprimand, an empty threat.  It isn’t until things escalate to the point of tragedy that verdicts are made and sentences carried out.

Why, though?  Why do we wait for extensive damage before we act?  Why do we feel that parents and teachers and principals and grandparents and aunts and uncles do not have the right–nay, the responsibility–to demand respectful behavior from kids?  Why are we so lazy with the well-being of a child’s life that we sit back and allow bullying to take place?

Ravi knew what he did was wrong.  He knew it.  You can’t attend school in America and not know about the so-called zero tolerance policies on bullying.  He knew it, as did those who launched the cyber attack yesterday.

Sadly, they also knew that adults rarely follow through.  Their chances of serious consequences were virtually nil.  Ravi gambled and lost.  So far, yesterday’s perpetrators have won.  I can only hope that won’t be the case for long.

What do you do to enforce positive behavior in the kids you know?  What is an appropriate consequence for bullying within the school setting?  Do we, as citizens, neighbors, friends or family, have the right to intervene when we see bullying?  Do we have a responsibility to do so? 

Furious minds want to know.

*And no, this isn’t my kid.  And yes, I am fully aware that my children are not perfect.  Nor am I as a parent.*

6 responses to “Bully: One Point. Victim: Zero. Again.

  1. None of are perfect, but we do our best not to hurt others – intentionally or not.

    Technology has increased the amount of bullying by enormous amounts – because it’s easier to do remotely. We discuss bullying a lot at school, and do our best to follow through with consequences that will help everyone. Doing some sort of community service sometimes helps the bully gain a little perspective. Conversations/discussions help, but only if they continue on an on-going basis and are not one shot deals. Often the bullies have no friends and lack the skills to make friends. They might have hanger-ons, but that’s different. Directly teaching friendship skills and continuing to follow through with the kids daily is one way we’re trying to help. It’s a tough problem to solve – but we’ve got to keep trying!

    • Jemi, I love this perspective and it’s a great reminder that the bullies themselves bully out of their own fear and insecurity as to where they fit in the world. It’s not a black and white issue. It’s not clear cut by any means and we must work as a team to aid all kids in gaining self-respect.

      You are right that too often, our attempts to educate and mold behavior are one-shot wonders. Immersion into a positive atmosphere where expectations are clear and help to all kids is necessary to long-term success.

      Thanks again for your wonderful words of insight.

  2. I work with kids, and a new bullying policy JUST went into practice. Seeing the change it has made in one week–five school days–is unbelievable. I didn’t have the authority to even call a parent before, and the kids knew it. Now I can suspend them for three days for the first offense. Five days for their second. Or, if they bully someone three times, expulsion from the program.

    Consequences, when followed through, are amazing. The parents aren’t happy, naturally, because no one wants to think their kid could be a bully, but the students are noticeably changed.

    When no one is taken to task on bullying, everyone is hurt.

    • AM, thanks for sharing this wonderful story. It gives me hope.

      And no truer words have ever been spoken: “When no one is taken to task on bullying, everyone is hurt.”

  3. I think schools are in a pretty tough place. It is difficult to have consequences that are sensical and too often parents don’t or won’t follow through, which truly limits their effectiveness. My biggest pet peeve is that no one addresses the “other half” of the problem: namely that parents themselves are bullies. When the parent is the bully what hope is their to address and change the behavior to child bully?

    • Well, there is THAT. Bullies are usually made: either because they are bullied themselves (often in the home) or because they are so insecure with who they are (again, generally a product of homelife).

      And you’re right, schools are only in control of what happens on their turf. But they need to stand firm in following through on written policies regardless of the pressure they receive from parents. Easier said than done, I know. Especially in small communities where everyone knows everyone and social connections come into play.

      Thanks for your ever awesome insight.

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