Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bullies thrive wherever authority is weak.

I was about 16 years old when the house phone rang and my mom said it was for me. I answered, excited like any teen would be to have a friend calling. Except this friend - a girl I had known for years; I had been to her house to play and she to mine - the words she used were cruel. Threatening. And I didn't understand why. As quickly as she began, the call was over. I stood there stunned. Replaced the phone on the hook and walked silently to my room, never saying a word to my mom who stood just steps away.

It was hell at school the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.

Days turned to weeks.

I was threatened, called names, followed into the bathroom. Not just by the first girl, but by a second as well. Girls I thought I had no quarrel with. [Apparently, they thought I had found out something about them and were afraid I would tell. Except I really didn't know anything about it until they don't me during threatening me. Der!]

It didn't matter though. It was hell. I hated it. I hated them. I hated school. I hated the teachers who sighed and blandly commented to my two bullies to knock it off or get back to work. I hated that my friends sat silently by and did nothing. I hated that the confident kids would give me a look that said I'm sorry, that's just not right but refused to say anything out loud. I hated that I was all alone. Day after day I was just all alone.

Bullying has gotten more brazen and bold over the years. Especially at my old school. It's no secret that parents have pulled their children out of our local high school due to what they have experienced as a lack of discipline; a lack of authority. Violence is common. Fights break out daily. Teens yell back at the teachers. And children are scared to walk the halls. What kind of parent would want their child to be there?

I was talking with a student who goes to my old school ... a beautiful, talented, sweet girl... who was describing her experience with being relentlessly bullied (both physically and verbally) for the past several months:

Everyday she yells "slut!" or "whore!" at me in the hallway with her friends or pushes or shoves me. Today at lunch I was behind her and she turns around with her friends and yells, "you dirty ass slut get the fuck away from me! I can't even be ten feet away from you, you fucking bitch! Get the fuck out of here before I beat your ass again!" And so, without a word I walked to the back of the line while everyone just stared. Do you know what it's like to be like, 'shit, I hope she's not down this hallway so she yells slut at me in front of everyone.' I can't tell a teacher because she'll get yelled at and then find me after school somewhere and hurt me. I just want her to leave me alone. I can't deal with it anymore. I don't think you really understand what I'm going through. There is nothing you can do. Or teacher. Or anyone else. It is what it is.

What?! It just is what it is? I can't accept that.

I can't accept that no one sees what is happening. I can't accept that there isn't one single teacher in the entire school who hasn't caught on to what's happening. Or is it happening so much with so many kids that it's become commonplace?

When I was in school, there were lunch ladies and room supervisors and the principal would walk around making his presence known. Where are these people?

Where is the leader who says enough is enough! This behavior will not be tolerated in this school!

If any of my co-workers acted like that they'd be fired. I'd go to my boss, or my boss's boss and make it known. If I was ever hit or shoved or touched or threatened I'd call the police and press charges. Because that behavior is not okay and I'm going to make sure they know it's not okay.

Why is it that high school is some sort of limbo where kids just have to put up with someone relentlessly making their life hell? Hey, someone treats you like this as an adult and you've got options - but you're just a child so you have to put up with it. That is not okay.

Bullying should be taken seriously. Kids sitting silent, worrying about walking down a hall, or into a bathroom by themselves for fear they'll get harassed are not going to spend their time focusing on homework. They're going to be anxiously planning their survival route between classes. Getting an A in Algebra is not going to silence someone screaming whore! at you while you walk down the hall.

Not to mention, what do you think this bully is going to be like in ten years? Or twenty? How do you think she's going to act in a relationship? Or towards her children? If a 16-year old girl is that full of rage and anger and violence - she needs help. She will not be able to claim her right as a productive member of society if adults keep turning their backs and pretending not to see her lashing out.

It's time to step it up, Educational Systems. It's time to reclaim your authority and knock bullying out of our schools. There should be no place for bullying in our halls.


Rebecca said...

Well, I guess maybe I should plan on moving the family before the kidlet hits that high school. :\

I remember having two senior girls bark at me as I walked the halls my freshman year - every day - for a whole semester. Nothing compared to what kids are going through now. Take school time and then add bullying through social media and texting. I just can't imagine being bombarded that much. I agree - something has to be done.

Tina, said...

Only one of the reasons we pray so hard for our youth, the teachers, the parents and our government (local and national).

wv: prersenn

Becca said...

So, so awful. And you're right, adults have options, but kids will be kids? It's such crap. I'm so worried about the school years!

Johi said...

In my opinion, and I will probably catch flack for this, everyone has gone too friggin' "PC" and soft. There need to be real consequences for these kinds of actions.

Girls bullied my ALL THE FUCKING TIME in high school. It sucked. And then I stood up for myself (in a way that would not be accepted now) and it basically stopped. I am not recommending that as an answer, but I think that kids need to feel empowered to save themselves from these kinds of situations.

Actions deserve consequences, people should be able to stand up for themselves and victims deserve protection.

Jen Smith said...

Totally agree with this post. Bullying is horrific - I went years without a single friend. And it took over 25 years but I have finally found some peace.

Our class was so horrible that the teachers would quit before we advanced to their grade so they wouldn't have to tolerate my classmates.

Interestingly, a couple of years ago I finally connected the dots...the worst trouble makers in our class were also the ones invited to "special weekends" at the priest's cabin when we were in 1st and 2nd grade. (good old Catholic witness protection)

And here I thought it was all about me!

Phoenix Rising said...

@Rebecca: I am so incredibly sorry you had to go through that. I cannot imagine how hard it was to hold your head high day after day of that.

@Tina: I pray. Lord, do I pray. And, believe it or not, I also pray for the girls doing the bullying and their parents/situation. I might not ever know what makes them behave like this, but I can only imagine it includes a lot of hurt and fear.

@Becca: Kids will be kids should be reserved for picking noses and trying to hide a toad in their bedroom as a pet.

@Johi: Could you come to our school and stand up to the bullies? Wear your green suit. :) I'm afraid it'll be one way or the other: not being able to keep it inside and blowing up in an incredibly inappropriate way, or just slipping so far into a depression of running away and hiding. Surely there must be SOMETHING in the middle.