By Frank Lewis
I never thought I would ever get up the nerve to write this column, but after what may have happened in Minford this week and after again listening to the voice of my friend Brenda Strickland, laced with tears, I suddenly realized that while there are some parts of one’s life that he or she would rather not recall, sometimes there is the greater good.
I was bullied as a child. Once you make it known that you have been taught that fighting never solves anything, the bad elements of your neighborhood get wind of it and it is just like a wolf smelling blood. That happened to me up until the time came that I turned on the main culprit and nearly beat him to death.
That moment is forever etched in my mind because that should not have had to have been the solution. There should have been help available, but there was not. What is frightening is that I don’t think the attitudes of the couple of generations that have passed since I had my experience have changed at all. I believe people in authority believe bullying to be no big deal. I still hear adults say kids should “just learn to handle it.”
I believe people in authority have so many issues to deal with every day they don’t want to be bothered with dealing with bullying episodes - there are tests to pass and standards to be attained - and in the long run, there is very little time to deal with what most people just consider harmless spats.
I believe they are wrong. What I think we do not concentrate on sometimes is the perpetrator. I believe parents are concerned that their children may be bullied and so they talk with their children about it and what they should do if it happens to them. What I also believe is that parents of bullies obviously either have no clue that their child is abusing other children or they think it is some rite of passage in becoming someone strong in life.
Actually in most cases bullies are not strong at all. I believe them to be among the most insecure people in the world. I believe they don’t have answers to important questions about their own stations in life, and by taking that out on others they somehow put off the inevitable moment when they will have to deal with themselves.
Just as parents should monitor their children’s lives to make sure they are not being bullied, parents should monitor their children’s lives to make sure they are not bullying another child. They should also know what they are doing online. I am hopeful that the time will actually come in which those who cyber-bully will be held accountable for the deaths of children who were driven to suicide by the constant harrassment of a bully.
There are scores of social issues that schools have to deal with by utilizing programs that educate their students on various topics. I’m not sure there is any one topic these days that is more important than teaching the consequences of bullying. That is a theory I share with my friend Brenda Strickland. I called her on Friday morning and she said she was getting ready to call me. We didn’t have to formally introduce the subject of our conversation. She knew what I was calling about and she was heartbroken.
I would like to see more schools bring her in to talk with students. I would like to see some corporation fund a series in which she could go into every school and talk about the phenomenon of bullying. Unfortunately, classes on bullying are usually at the bottom of the fiscal barrel, so they are cut - big mistake.
I can tell you, your child may be just like I was, completely haunted by not knowing what was around the block as I headed to school, and in constant fear, and you may not even know it. It is frightening to know you can’t go onto the school playground without worrying about being jumped, or even walk up the block where you live without being wracked with fear. It is a dynamic that can’t be measured except by tell-tale results such as lower test scores and the inability to focus on the task at hand.
Please don’t brush the topic of bullying aside. Please don’t hide your head in the sand. Please monitor your children and if you find they are being bullies, do not let anyone off the hook until the problem is solved. You are your child’s only hope. Please do not let them down.
To parents of bullies, here is what your choices are, and history will bear this out. You can deal with it and put your foot down now or eventually spend your weekend visiting them in prison.
Bullying has to stop now before another innocent child is ripped from our lives.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.