The Bullying Epidemic
Vol. 7 No. 8
Jon Carmichael, a Dallas-area eighth grader, took his own life in March after he had been "bullied for years," according to one of his friends. "Because he was short," the friend said. Two 11-year-olds, one in Georgia and one in Massachusetts, hanged themselves. According to their families, classmates labeled both as "gay" and bullied them. Both, their families say, opted for suicide over the constant taunting at school.
The Georgia boy's mother said she complained to the school officials at Dunaire Elementary that her son was being taunted, and was once put into a "sleeper hold" in the bathroom. The school reported that the boy was not subjected to any more teasing than his peers, and the investigator hired by the school determined that mostly teachers and officials had been unaware. "There is name-calling, there it teasing, but I will tell you that it is almost always done outside the presence of adults," said investigator and retired Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore. "There is a code of silence among the students."
Bullying is nothing new. The difference now? "You used to get a reprieve every time you went home," said Beaux Wellborn, who runs Dallas' Bully Suicide Project. Text messaging, instant messaging, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, online chat rooms give bullies 24/7 access to their targets. And their abuse is visible to an unlimited audience. Suicide has become "honorable," said Wellborn, who was a bullying victim back when he was in high school. In Dallas, there have been four bullying-related suicides this year, the Project claims. See the story here.
The bullying/suicide epidemic is now in the national limelight. On May 5, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the federal anti-bullying bill called the Safe Schools Improvement Act. If this bill ultimately becomes law, schools that receive Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act funding will be required to implement a comprehensive anti-bullying policy. Click here to read a copy of the bill.
Teachers and school officials have to take bullying very seriously not only to protect their students, but also themselves and their schools. A "deaf ear" will not. As teachers and school administrators, you are part of the solution. You do make a difference in children's lives everyday.
In his book Weakfish: Bullying Through the Eyes of a Child, leading school safety expert Michael Dorn, outlines the life of a child who is horribly teased, molested, and abused from elementary school through high school. This child, thanks to advocates he found in teachers and community leaders, rose above the abuse to move on to a highly successful and productive life. And there is huge surprise at the end.
For school and community members, Dorn says, "We can all make a difference in the lives of young people. We can help create a safety net to allow our children to grow and develop in a warm, caring and supportive society." He offers advice for educators, school resource officers, school nurses and mental health professionals, and for bullied students themselves. To purchase Weakfish, click here.
So now it is time for all teachers and school administrators to step up to the plate and be proactive. As this issue continues to be in the national spotlight, look for more opportunities to learn about practical solutions through workshops, Webinars, and print materials.
Michael Dorn also offers a Weakfish Keynote on DVD (DVD package also includes a copy of the book) for school administrators, which is available at the ISM Bookstore.
Other Resources for Teachers
The Phoebe Prince tragedy is a national story, and you can easily find news reports in an Internet search. Read Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen's account here.
For more about the Georgia boy's story, click here.