Bully’s suck!

Photo: katinalynn/Creative Commons 

I’m going to talk about a subject that I normally wouldn’t address here, but I feel like I have to use this space to say what’s on my mind a little bit too.

Last week, a young girl from the Kasson-Mantorville area, was bullied to the point where she took her own life.  Her name was Rachel Ehmke.  I had heard about this story earlier this week, but didn’t want to post about it at the time.  I didn’t because I didn’t feel as though my voice would matter.  As the week has gone by, this story, and many others just like this in Minnesota, moved me to say something.

I feel bad, and mad all at the same time.  For her, and all of the other kids who have decided that this was the best way to end their ordeals with bullies.

Unfortunately, bullying happens in schools and in workplaces throughout the country, and it’s really starting to make me wonder what is going on.

It happens in person, behind backs, and online.

I think a lot of us go back to our childhood and can say that at one point or another we were bullied.

I was.  I’ve talked about some of it on this blog before.  Some of it, I haven’t told anyone.

I know many of my friends had similar experiences.  I remember many times my mom telling me that life would get better after high school and you could leave it all behind.  The thing is, when your in school, graduating from school seems like a lifetime away.

I feel like bullying has changed from when we were kids.  This is no longer kids being kids.

Bullying Statistics:

  • 13 percent of Minnesota 6th, 9th and 12th graders are bullied regularly (e.g. once a week or more) according to a 2011 study by the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education. This means that over 100,000 students report being bullied at least once a week.
  • Nationwide, more than 3.2 million children in grades six through ten are victims of bullies each year, while 3.7 million bully other children, according to a report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
  • 42 percent of children have been bullied while online, according to Pacer Center.
  • 160,000 children miss school every day because of intimidation by other students. (Pacer Center, Bullying Fast Facts.)
  • Fight Crime: Invest in Kids reports that kids who are bullied are five times more likely to be depressed.

** Statistics are from the press release from Lori Swanson’s office on the bullying legislation

Last year, Lori Swanson, the Attorney General in Minnesota called for legislation to address school bullying.  According to the press release at the time, “The bill proposed by Attorney General Swanson is patterned after a bill that passed the North Dakota Legislature on a bipartisan basis earlier this year. The North Dakota legislation has been given an “A++” rating by the national website: www.bullypolice.org. Minnesota’s current bullying law has been given a grade of “C-” by the same website, which is the lowest ranking of any state with the exception of three states that have no laws.

Here is what is currently in law in the state of Minnesota.  Here is the Bullying and Safe Schools information from the Minnesota Department of Education.

While I applaud the effort as it is a step in the right direction,  I still feel as though we need to dig deeper and address this at a lower level.

To the bully’s – Here’s the deal.  Being bullied stays with you forever.  Imagine if someone was treating you this way.  I suppose it’s a survival instinct.  You feel like you have to bully someone else, or you’ll be the one that’s bullied.

I think that’s a lame excuse.  See, being bullied causes a scar in you that never goes away.  There are cool people out there who don’t have to rely on being a bully in order to have a great group of friends.  Just because someone else is doing it, doesn’t mean that you have to.  In fact, if you were a stand up person, or want to be one when you grow up, it’s on you to say something to stop it.

To someone who is being bullied – Unfortunately, some people are not nice in school.  I can’t describe in words to you how your life is going to change after high school.  I know that it seems like a long ways off, so instead of telling you what my mom tried to do, I’m going to encourage you to talk with someone.  If school officials and all parents are on the same page, things can change.  Bullying affects us in different ways. You may lose sleep or feel sick – I know there were many days I felt ill, simply because I didn’t want to face the things I knew I was going to at school. You may want to skip school – I tried to once.  My parents came home at lunch looking for me because I failed to show up for school.  After talking with my teachers and my parents, I knew that because of the supportive people around me, I at least had someone who had my back.

To the parents – If someone tells you that your kid is being bullied – get involved.  If someone tells you that your kid is the bully – You had better act on it.  It is our responsibility as parents and adults to stop bullying.  If someone tells you that your kid IS the bully, don’t just sweep it under the rug and say that’s just “kids being kids”.  Guess what, it’s not.  Can you imagine the pain that is being felt by these families and these kids that are going through this?  It’s wrong, and if we don’t stand up, it’s only going to get worse.

In Rachel’s case, her parents knew and so did the school.  They tried to stop it.  In other cases that have been reported, parents didn’t know.  If you are feeling hopeless or helpless or know someone that is, please call theLIFELINE at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

It’s doesn’t have to be this way.

Released in March, a new documentary called Bully is a must see for everyone.  Educators, Parents, and Kids.  Watch the trailer here.

Two thought’s for today:

1. How can we get our kids to understand that they can talk to their parents or someone who they can trust when something isn’t right?

2. What are we going to do as a generation, to make sure that bullying stops?

I’m tired of shaking my head when I hear about bullying and the affect it is having on our kids.  This isn’t right.

I’m attaching a link to the Stop Bullying website.  There’s a treasure trove of information there.  It’s a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.  Also, visit thebullyproject.com for more information.  I was looking around their site and there’s toolkits for parents, kids and educators.

Parents talk to your schools about their policies on bullying.  Don’t be silent.

What are we going to do?

Be the difference.

Roman

9 thoughts on “Bully’s suck!

  1. I think that is an incredibly important topic, and I am very glad that you posted about it. I agree that as a country, as a culture, we absolutely have to do something to stop this terrible crime from happening.
    My only worry is that we are trying to stop it by passing laws, and by looking to schools for the solutions. I am a parent of three and a fifth grade teacher; I deal with bullying a lot, and I do everything in my power to prevent it, to stop it and support the victims. BUT:
    we live in a country where TV shows glorify cruel, sarcastic, excluding and bullying behaviors. Our political discourse is disrespectful, negative, closed minded and hurtful. Parents arm their young children with electronic devices and then don’t monitor their use.
    I don’t think that we can legislate our way out of this. And I don’t think that we can simply order schools to do more and then think that our job is done.
    I wonder what others have to say.

    • I keep wondering about the schools and if that is the right place too. It’s why I asked what are we going to do as a generation to stop this. I still can’t get over parents who will stop and say, “well my kids can’t be the bully.” I’ve found that parents who are turning a blind eye when their kid is the one doing the bullying is making it worse.

      I think everyone plays a role. Educators, Parents, Kids, bystanders.

      I too, don’t believe that legislation is the way out of this. When the government gets involved, it usually isn’t exactly what was intended with a bill. There always ends up being a loop hole.

      The role of television and the media has to be on this from the beginning. There are tv shows that are really too aggressive with what is being shown. Ugh. And I’m a former television person saying this. I used to believe that people could just turn the channel and watch something else. Kids don’t turn the channel. They are an inquisitive bunch. If they see something they don’t understand, they’ll keep watching it. I know I may catch some flack for this, but the show Glee has done a lot in showing how a tv show can make a difference. Just this past weekend, Twitter was alive with “How Glee changed my life” hashtags. I can honestly say, I wish that show would have been on when I was in school. They do a really good job of teaching as well. It’s one of my favorite shows on tv right now.

      We have to make difference.

      People say that my generation (x) doesn’t stand for anything.

      Why can’t it be this?

      • What a thoughtful reply! Your generation clearly does stand up for a lot (I have three kids who are involved with the Occupy Movement, so I know!)
        I so agree with your thoughts on television, too. I watch movies or shows sometimes with my fifth graders (like the odious “high school musical”) and stop the action when the kids behave in a way that is designed to get a laugh but is really cruel, hurtful, snide or bullying. I make them recognize that this isn’t “humor”.
        We all do share responsibility, I agree! “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

  2. Molly Rieke says:

    Roman, we shared much of the same experience. Your mom and I can say Mr. Felt were helpful beyond words at times. Kasson is about 20 miles from here so this was close to home. It is a horrific problem as I know you know all to well. What’s sad is that how the schools are going about it makes it so much worse. Our son Riley is 12 and this year has had his bike stolen, 2 backpacks ripped, and one winter jacket ripped along with countless homework ripped and all by the same two boys. Now Riley is a big kid, not fat but could kick someones ass if he didn’t have the self control, I’m so proud he has but you know what? Part of me says teaching him that in todays world is wrong. Why, you ask? Because the schools solution is to pull both or all kids involved into a room, tell them they should be friends, and not check back with it. The school feels they’ve done their job and the target kid just got a bigger bullseye on their back. What does the target learn? Much like us, they learn that talking about it causes more trouble. Like RIley has said to me, “Mom, I can’t talk about it, it just gets worse.” He then goes to his solice, video games, texts with a couple good friends but reminds me so much of how much kids suck.
    People can say it wasn’t as bad when we were kids but that is bullshit. I was 14, at bible camp and one picture taken of me in a shower that was oh so funny to a whole cabin full of girls was passed through the high school where the “trash and slut” comments” were endless.It was hard to look anyone in the eyes because I never knew who had seen me naked. Those same girls that thought it was so funny didn’t realize that they were bullies, their scars inflicted were real and because of them I wanted to die in school and out. I’d not go to lunch and sit outside of Felt’s old room on the 3rd floor of the high school to avoid the whole lunchroom thing.My grades suffered, I dropped out of sports and ultimately even skipped alot of classes encluding losing joy in music which had always been my escape and safe place. Eventhough I did nothing to deserve their cruelty, that damage was real and long lasting. That was only one of many incidents but ultimately changed my self esteem, and my person forever. It created in me a self destructive streak from believeing that I was trash. Words hurt and words create feelings inside oneself. I hated school, I hated them, and it made me hate myself for a long time. So what would have helped? I look back and realize that many things could have helped BUT it would have only taken one person to say, “Hey, that’s not funny guys”, Only one person to NOT develope the film, only one person who got a picture to tear it up and throw it away, just one person to tell an adult. That one person though would not have been me. Why? Because like my son I learned earlier not to talk or things would get worse. The 7th grade year was relentless and I went to our wonderful counselor for help and what did he do? He did the same thing they do now,he pulled both her and I into the office, she denied stealing notes from my locker and spreading them through some girls and said we’re friends I have no clue what she’s talking about. From that point on, not only did it increase from her but she drew others in to help her, lock me out of math class in Mr. Thompson’s room, rip up my homework, make endless Molly McButter fat jokes, her mother retaliated by isuing detention regularily and much more. Anyway, my point is we all think we’ve come so far but we have not. WE still handle bullies the way we did in our day, the only difference now is that it takes a death and people talk a few days and say Bullying is Bad, but don’t stop to realize that every time they laugh or share in not stopping humiliation or degredation they, themselves have become a bully too. Until these bullies are outted for what they’ve done and can be held accountable for their harassment nothing will change and kids will die :.(

    • What can I say about Mr. Felt? For so many years I’ve thought, I should really write him or at least let him know what a difference he made in my life.

      I think many people had at least one teacher who was their advocate. For me, that was Mr. Felt. Class act all the way around in all respects. I’m feeling like another blog post about it. There’s just too much to say in a comment.

      My experience didn’t start out very well. I moved to RWF at the end of 6th grade. By the end of the first week, I had been picked on so badly that I wanted nothing to do with school. I can remember being teased about a drawing I had done in art class. I can remember who it was, I can remember the look on their faces. It probably hurt worse because I felt all alone. Just moving to a new community, I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet anyone up to that point. It was after that, I decided I would walk home every day, rather than ride the bus. You remember where the school was, and you remember where we lived. I’ll just say it was on the other side of town. The only other memory I have of 6th grade in RWF was towards the end of the year. I have so many more positive memories of my time in Waseca prior to the move. I had a bunch of friends, many of whom I still keep in contact with today (power of Facebook). At the end of the day, I was a new person, in a new school. They didn’t have to accept me in, and I probably did nothing in that final three months of 6th grade to get in to the crowd.

      Kids have to rely on friends. I relied so heavily on my friends in high school. Our group was small, but it really felt as if we were all new people to town. You, Raymond, Chris…There are more, but we were all from “out of town”. Because of the friendships I had made, by my senior year, I didn’t care about the bullying anymore. I was still being called fat, being made fun of for hanging out with certain people, being in choir, plays, all that stuff. I was made fun of relentlessly for trying out for baseball my senior year. I didn’t even make it to a game. A bunch of us just decided we’d start a softball team instead. I had a lot more fun doing that anyway. It was at that point I realized that high school was not forever. No matter what was thrown my way, I was going to move on. The words still hurt, but since I didn’t care about them anymore, I didn’t have to worry about it.

      There are many stories of bullying, and as a parent, it is heart breaking to see our own kids be bullied.

      I guess I’m just tired of seeing kids being bullied to the point that they consider suicide as the easier way out.

      As a society, we have to change.

  3. Molly Rieke says:

    Part of me says we’ve lost something in telling kids they can’t defend themselves because if I would’ve kicked her ass or told my kid to just kick this kids ass I think she and others would have thought twice before pulling shit again.

    • In 2nd or 3rd grade, I had a kid tell me every day during school he was going to beat me up.

      I decided I had enough. I met him after school on top of the hill. After a short tussle, I shoved him hard enough that he fell down the hill. Never bothered me again.

      In 7th grade, I had someone who would hold a marker near my face, threatening to write on me. I held back many times from engaging him, figured he would go away. He didn’t, so one morning when he started in, I threw a garbage can at him. Before class. We were sent to the principal’s office. Before the principal came out, the kid said, “let’s get out of here.” For whatever reason, I got up and went with him. I suppose I didn’t want to be in trouble either. We went and checked out the “under belly” of the old high school. Only entrance was through the old drama set room. We sat there until the bell rang. We became pretty good friends after that actually. I’m still friends with him today.

      Today is so different though. The thought of kids having easier access to guns makes it more serious. Kids can’t simply stand up for themselves like we could.

  4. Megan says:

    Hi, I’m 15 and wrote this because of a personal experience. I did the video myself too. I was not going to let them break me. Reality, if it shows that it bothers you, they’ll just do it more. I hope my song will help those that are starting to feel torn down — to rise up! Don’t let anyone make you a victim. They aren’t worth it.

    Megan

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