Bullying-An Ever-Present Threat...
Recently in the national news, there was a report of a teen suicide, allegedly due to repeated bullying by a number of other students.
That news item caused me to reflect on the issue of bullying in school, and with my own experiences (both as a classroom teacher, and as a student) with this reprehensible behavior.
Virtually anyone, at any time, whether in school, or in the workplace, or elsewhere, can become a victim...or even become a passive unwitting participant in the bullying process. Whether we like it or not, our school days, work days, and even our recreational times, are social laboratories for learning about people and about life in general. Sometimes, the lessons learned are not good ones.
In my early school experiences, I was on the receiving end of bullying for several reasons. (Although I'd better point out here that there is NEVER a valid reason to bully anyone!) In the first place, I was one of the youngest and smallest kids in the room. Adding to those issues, I had a speech impediment, a hearing problem, and difficulty with walking. Any one of those issues could have made me a target for bullies, and the combination of them made for a number of difficult moments in my elementary years. In junior high, my dad was a teacher in the same building where I went, and this fact presented yet another twisted rationale for even more bullying to occur. Only after I had learned a number of techniques as to how to deal with bullies, did the bullying finally go away.
Unfortunately, far too many people are not taught about those techniques as I had been. Even if people do learn how to deal with bullying, there can still remain long-term negative consequences with trust issues, evolving from those early childhood experiences. Trust issues, along with having a fear of social rejection, are but two of many consequences that can arise from negative childhood experience memories that can be difficult to overcome.
Fortunately, bullying, whether at school or in the workplace, is increasingly being recognized as the destructive and devastating behavior that it really is. Increasingly, teachers, caregivers, clergy, and workplace leaders are being trained to recognize and respond to aggressive actions brought on by those who seek to threaten and victimize others.
Bullying can either be direct, or it can be applied in more subtle forms. Lately, there seem to be more and more incidents of comments made through texting and e-mails; often with devastating consequences for the victimized.
A quick check on the internet will reveal shocking statistics as to the thousands and thousands of students estimated to miss school each day as a result of bullying. An equally serious concern for both schools and institutions, would be how a victimized person might respond, once they have been confronted with bullying. Some victims, rather than seeking help, might resort to violence themselves. Any number of school or workplace violent incidents could well have been traced back to bullying.
Bullying, once thought to be a normal rite-of-childhood passage, is increasingly being recognized as the grave societal danger that it is. One of the best defenses against bullying is always to have a school, or office area, under active supervision and scrutiny. Bullying seems to crop up when there's no one around who can intervene. Bullies generally seem to want to try and avoid the limelight, whenever possible.
Of course, there have also been incidents where the bully actually turned out to be a person in authority. In those cases, that's another situation entirely. These days, for example, more teachers are trained to avoid the use of classroom sarcasm, or unnecessarily loud or personal language; as students can learn to model and perpetuate those types of behaviors with their peers.
As one who knew full well the effects of bullying as a student, and also as one who was forced to address school bullying many times in my role as a classroom teacher, (now retired) I would hope that we all would realize that bullying is certainly NOT considered to be a normal childhood rite-of-passage anymore. Indeed, bullying has been, and continues to be, a major (and costly) human tragedy; both nationwide, and in the pulse of this city.