Bullying – stop the madness now

Published 9:01 am Tuesday, April 6, 2010

When a child dies, no matter whose child it may be, we all suffer.

Dying at such an early age wipes out all possibilities – the chance for that young person to mature into a teacher, writer, doctor, politician, athlete, etc. No one knows what life had in store for that youngster.

What hurts even more is when we lose a child due to a senseless act…especially in cases where they chose to end their own life because they felt they didn’t fit in.

The recent news surrounding the suicide of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl, the apparent target of bullying, was troubling.

Phoebe Prince hung herself on Jan. 14. Now, a trio of 16-year-old classmates of Prince are facing charges on violation of civil rights resulting in bodily injury and stalking. Prosecutors say they are among nine students who bullied Prince. The arraignment of three other teens is scheduled for this week.

This case has taken bullying to a whole new level. It also shows the emotional and psychological scars that bullying can leave on a victim.

Bullying is a big problem, according the kidshealth.org. Every day thousands of teens wake up afraid to go to school because they know the bullies are waiting. Yet because parents, teachers, and other adults don’t always see it, they may not understand how extreme bullying can get.

Bullying is when a person is picked on over and over again by an individual or group with more power, either in terms of physical strength or social standing.

Two of the main reasons people are bullied are because of appearance and social status. Bullies pick on the people they think don’t fit in, maybe because of how they look, how they act, and because of their race or religion.

The usual bullying method is of a physical nature, but it runs much deeper when a bully employs psychological tactics, including verbal insults. Taunting/teasing a victim as well as spreading vicious gossip leaves more bruises than a punch or kick. Verbal bullying can also involve sending cruel text or email messages or even posting insults about a person on a social website.

What separates bullying from a “knee-jerk” act of violence is the fact that it’s relentless. Most individuals, including adults, can take one episode of teasing or name calling. But when it goes on endlessly it can put its victim in a state of constant fear.

Young victims of bullying may see their grades take a nosedive. Others may suffer health problems. Studies show that people who are abused by their peers are at risk for mental health problems, such as low self-esteem, stress, depression or anxiety. They may also think more about suicide.

And the victim isn’t alone in this. Bullying is violence and it often leads to more violent behavior as the bully grows older. It’s estimated that one of four elementary school bullies will have a criminal record by the time they are 30. Some teen bullies end up being rejected by their peers and lose friendships as they grow older. Bullies may also fail in school and not have the career or relationship success that other people enjoy.

How many Phoebe Princes are walking the halls in fear inside our local schools? Perhaps a lot more than we think.

If our local school systems do not currently have policies in place dealing with bullying, I implore you to develop one immediately. Those that do have such policies, I beg you to enforce the same.

This newspaper…this reporter….doesn’t want to publish a Phoebe Prince story.

Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.