According to Stopbully.gov, roughly 28 percent of U.S. students in grades six through 12 have admittedly experienced bullying. For students in grades 9 through 12, it’s 20%. Additionally, roughly 30% of young people admit to bullying others in surveys. It’s difficult to know the true extent of the issue of bullying within our society however, as only about 25 percent of bullied students ever bother to even notify adults. And unfortunately, when they do notify adults, often nothing productive or helpful comes as a result.
The most recent outrage centers around a student who, in order to prove he was being bullied, recorded his torment on his Ipad and tried to present this to responsible adults. Their reaction was to force him to delete the file, tell him he was breaking the law, and set in motion a process which has led to him being charged with disorderly conduct.
There have been countless stories of children and young teens who have been bullied, attacked, murdered, and even in some cases many have also chosen to take their own life in an effort to stop the ongoing emotional and physical torment. Bullying has plateaued now to include social media websites, cellphone cameras, and other equipment. These tools have assisted bullies in many cases at taking their harassment outside of school. They are able to bully the victim now on a variety of different platforms.
Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old student in Coquitlam, Canada made a Youtube video about her cyber-bullying experience, titled My Story: Struggling, bullying, suicide and self-harm. In the video she shows a series of flash cards that tell of her experiences. After her suicide which occurred shortly after she posted her story, her video went viral and received international media coverage. It has also inspired anti-bullying campaigns and spawned a charity in her name which aims to support anti-bullying awareness education and programs for young people with mental health problems.
In Todd’s case, as a response to the ongoing in-person and online bullying, decided to move with her family to a different area to start over at a new school. The bullying followed her, when the attacker was able to befriend individuals who had been attending Todd’s new school. The attacker claimed to be a new student that would also be attending the school, a lot of effort was put in for the sole purpose of harassing and attempting to create a miserable life and school experience for Amanda. The bullies would share derogatory stories and photos of her past experiences, with students from her new school, in an attempt to prevent her from escaping the bullying. Perhaps if Todd’s mother would’ve opted for homeschooling instead of placing her back into a public school system, the circumstances would’ve turned out differently.
Even after her first attempted suicide where she drank bleach, students took to her Facebook page to ridicule her for failing at trying, encouraging her to do it again, refusing to give up in their relentless efforts to make her life a living hell. Following her actual suicide, some students and other online bullies still insist on visiting the page, to post mean comments and photos. The world isn’t without its fair share of nasty people, who enjoy throwing away time in their life by trying to make other people feel small.
In many circumstances, the schools and their officials are unable or unwilling to protect the children, or to even punish the bullies. Numerous victims continue to be punished, instead of the bullies who should be the one suffering the consequences. Instead of levying punishment however, the school system often takes a blind-eye to the matter, or worse they punish the victim or persuade them to act in a way that won’t encourage any further bullying.
Take Grayson Bruce for example, who was recently instructed by school officials to cease using his My Little Pony lunch-bag, after classmates repeatedly verbally and physically bullied him for using it. Instead of trying to correct the wrongful behavior and actions from the bullies, the school officials decided to hinder the victim. To put this plainly: the school socially sanctioned and isolated a child out of fear that students would do this… the school’s actions actually made Grayson a more likely target for bullying.
In another recent incident at South Fayette High School, described vaguely above, sophomore Christian Aaron True Stanfield claims that he has been bullied for weeks by other kids at school. After school officials failed to intervene, or to help make it stop, he decided to record the bullying first-hand on his Ipad. After showing the evidence to principal Scott Milburne, he reacted by calling the police, giving the victim a detention order, and forcing him to remove the evidence from his Ipad. As police were unable to view the contents that he had recorded, which confirmed the attacks, he was instead charged with disorderly conduct. He was also threatened with felony wiretapping charges.
The boy’s mother claims that she reviewed the footage and believes that her son has been repeatedly attacked at school: pushed, shoved, kicked, one kid even tried to burn him with a lighter. In the recording, as the teacher is heard attempting to help her son with a math problem, a fellow student shouts “You should pull his pants down!” While another replies, “No, man. Imagine how bad that (c**t) smells! No one wants to smell that (t**t)”. Passively, the teacher instructs the children that they may only talk if it is related to math. It reads as if the teacher is too afraid to stand up for the victim in her class, whom it is her responsibility to look after during those school hours. Why couldn’t she at least fathom to give her students a much-needed lesson in common courtesy and decency at the very least, or even could have attempted to relay to them the realistic consequences of threatening, harassing, and attacking other human beings. Instead of looking the other way, in a move that passively accepts such stomach-churning behavior, the teacher should be acting like the adult and role-model in the room.
The misguided authorities in this case, who are skewering this bullied student with detention, charges, and threats, claim that Pennsylvania is one of 12 states in America that require the consent of all parties when making a recording. This is the basis for the misconduct and wiretapping charges. The lawyer for the defendant argues that the recording should be considered, as it clearly served a legitimate purpose. Of course, the government itself doesn’t need to adhere to that restriction on wiretapping in Pennsylvania: the NSA is free to listen to whatever calls or read whatever e-mails they feel obliged to. Meanwhile, when a citizen tries to record something as innocent as being bullied in an effort to make the attacks stop, the victim is the one who gets punished. The bullies have yet to receive any punishment or consequences whatsoever over the incident.
“The whole thing has been a horrible nightmare,…. This whole ordeal has made my son miserable.” – his mother told the Tribune-Review
In classrooms where there is one teacher for over 30 students, it’s difficult to keep an actively watchful eye on everything that goes on. Students are left to be raised by their fellow classmates, with peer-pressure and the fear of being ostracized from the group fueling their actions.
The social situation that school creates is an environment which requires a student to be confident in their individuality and who they are, all while undermining their dreams and evaluating them with the aims of achieving conformity under standardized testing. The system, instead of protecting and encouraging individuality, aims to strip it and induce conformity. The number of anti-bullying campaigns continues to rise, yet bullying goes on and is getting creatively worse. The stated aim is to rid schools and society of bullying, which is difficult to do when we are confronted by legalized bullies every single day of our lives.
Stop bullying is a lot like stopping a kidnapping: do not let it go uninterrupted. You have to bring attention, consequences, and responsibility into the mix, and in fact once you help: you drastically increase the odds of others getting involved by overcoming the bystander effect and literally inspiring anyone around to do the same.