When bullying strikes

Sad child (When Bullying Strikes -- Oregon Marriage Equality)

Note: The child in the photo is NOT Tyler Blankenship.

Please note that the author of this blog post is a 15-year-old straight ally and is writing about bullying as someone who is currently within the school system.  Bullying is something that affects a variety of children, particularly those who are perceived as “different,” and especially LGBT children.

There has been a lot in the media about bullying recently.

Unfortunately, I had to endure bullying myself throughout elementary school. I was threatened with violence, and I had to endure emotionally distressing situations that attacked me for who I was. This would have continued through middle school, but I finally had the guts to stand up to someone who tried to intimidate me; this was a huge step for me because I am more of a sensitive and passive person.

Fortunately, I wasn’t really hurt by any altercation between myself and the bullies involved, but the reason I bring this up now is because I believe that the schools don’t do enough to stop bullying from happening. Sure, they have education assemblies in elementary and middle schools, but no one really pays attention to their main message.  Further, the administrators talk to people after a report of bullying, but they don’t follow up with any punishments they threatened the students with (at least in the schools I’ve attended).

The underlying causes of bullies that make them who they are, I don’t know (it very well could have to do with the way they’ve been raised), but children need to learn that they shouldn’t just sit back and let the bullies continue bullying (I am not an advocate for violence, but I think kids need to have the confidence to defend themselves if necessary).  Parents need to give their children confidence to stand up to anyone who tries to intimidate them, and school administrators need to be stricter on bullying policies. They certainly weren’t at my elementary school, and action was only taken on two occasions when I was verbally abused (both only a one or two day suspension at best — and one of them was because the person admitted to it). Now that I look back, I find this incredibly ridiculous. The most the school ever did to prevent this from happening was putting me in a separate classroom, which was very ineffective during lunch/recess.

The reason that they didn’t take further action? Because the bully didn’t admit to doing it.

Throughout middle school, I had this “guardian angel” of sorts that helped defend me against verbal abuse. He barely knew me (he probably didn’t even know my name), and I barely knew him, but he was somewhat higher ranked on the social chain and was respected. It’s my understanding he had a huge turn around with his life during middle school and started helping people he didn’t know from these types of acts. He was an underlying reason I summoned any type of will to defend myself.

The policy at my high school: If you are being bullied, run (luckily incidents of bullying at this high school, to the best of my understanding, are very rare), and other schools around the country follow the same policy. But what happens when you’re in a situation where there’s no chance of running? Are you supposed to stand there and let someone attack you for 20 minutes until the end of the period? I’ve been told by a teacher that if you fight back under any circumstances, you’ll both be punished (usually expulsion).

Now once again, I reiterate that I am not an advocate for violence, but if I were to be attacked today or tomorrow, (excuse my poor grammar here, but) you better believe I’m gonna sure as hell fight back. One thing people don’t understand is that the only way to stop someone from bullying you when the administrators at schools do nothing to offer protection is to deal with the bully yourself.

During middle school, a person I knew was being harassed by some random person. So a few of the victim’s friends got together and told the bully to stop doing what he’s doing. The bully never harassed him again. The “guardian angel” did the same thing for people; he told people what they were doing was not cool. These types of people don’t exist everywhere, and I’m lucky I was in an environment where people like that do exist.

What is the alternative to leaving it up to the students to defend themselves (as I’ve suggested above)? The administrators need to actually follow up on threats of punishment they make. If someone is bullied anywhere, for ANY REASON, that person shouldn’t even get a warning in middle school. Further than just a piece of paper called a “referral.” No bully will stop because of an office referral. Fewer out of school suspensions, and more, and longer, in-school suspensions (ISS). Expulsion. Police involvement. Not just a simple “Don’t do this again or I will call your guardian.” That’s crap.

Something more needs to be done by the staff at our schools to prevent these kinds of incidents from happening. Children commit suicide over this, and these suicides are happening at an alarming rate.

Read a related post by Andrea Free:  ”Bullying, small towns, LGBT youth:  time for a change.”

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