Walter Duy, Guest Columnist
Effects of bullying don’t go away easily
With the suicide death of Phoebe Prince, the school bullying problem has reared its ugly head once again. Not since the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999 where two boys took the lives of 12 students and one teacher, then their own, has there been such high media attention. References to that tragedy continued to surface over the years.
Truth be told, there have been a fair number of suicides due to bullying since that time. You may wish to read the heartrending individual stories of seven students in the book “Bullycide in America,” JBS Publishing Inc. The difference is that these children, mostly middle school or early high school students, hadn’t taken out their frustration and depression on others in a catastrophic way. They chose, as Phoebe did, to ultimately suffer in silence and then end their own lives – in some instances by taking the advice of their tormentors. How very sad indeed.
In reading about the tragic scenarios, two things stand out. It appears that school officials simply didn’t know how to respond to the bullying, as it is very insidious and difficult to pin down. In other instances they simply didn’t take it seriously.
So what has happened between 1999 and now? We know boards of education have mandated policies of zero-tolerance toward bullying. States have passed laws regarding bullying (see bullypolice.org). We see signs in elementary schools with the circle and slash over the word “BULLYING.” In our area we have “Character Counts” and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, both of which certainly have valuable effects on our students.
The suicides are the extreme of course, but how about the children who are bullied day after day in small but harmful ways? How about those who are made to feel inferior due to being overweight, underweight, short, tall, not as bright, different, not wearing the cool clothes, not belonging to the “in” crowd or any other of a myriad characteristics causing them not to be accepted? In many instances these are the bullied children. Bullying them is easy because quite often these kids have resigned themselves to the fact that they deserve to be bullied. Talk to any group and one will find adults who were in this category and continue to have scars causing pain to this day.
There are a number of anti-bullying programs out there. I am proud to say that the Peaceful Schools program, for which I am the facilitator, is one of them. Thanks to the generous funding from the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley, and more recently the Dunham Fund, a greater sensitivity toward all children is taking place. Thanks should also go to the Juvenile Protective Association for their continuous support.
Now in its sixth year, the Peaceful Schools program is serving six elementary schools in the East Aurora School District and one in the West Aurora School District. If you wish to learn more about it, you may visit www.coolcarl.com and watch my local TV show on Comcast channel 10 at 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, or on FVTV channel 17 at 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays and at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays. We are committed to helping the sensitive and not always accepted student gain respect from all. Truly all children deserve respect.
Walter H. Duy served the Kaneland School District for 17 years as middle school and elementary school principal. After early retirement he served Mooseheart for 10 years as elementary principal. He is now facilitator of the Peaceful Schools program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.