This afternoon I came home from work, kicked off my shoes and sat down to relax and watch the local 6:00 news. The headline news story quite literally broke my heart, and I have not been able to think about anything else. A young man -- 15 years old -- killed himself because he had been the victim of school bullying for several years. His parents had taken him out of one school and enrolled him in another, only to have the bullying continue. His grieving parents showed his photograph -- a handsome, clean-cut young man. He was well-loved by his family, but he was finding it impossible to make friends. Of course, the usual Facebook tributes are starting to pop up now, by people who are claiming to be his friends. It makes one wonder, though, where were they when he needed their friendship? If the bullying had been going on for that long, where were his teachers?
Beginning with middle school and beyond, grades seven through 12 can be loaded with shark infested waters at the best of times. Add bullying into the mix, and these years can be unbearable. If a young man or woman has anything that is just slightly different from the norm, they will be bullied. In this case, the young man had an unusual name, and unfortunately I think that may have had something to do with his being the victim of taunts. As sad as that is, parents often have to take that into consideration when they are naming their children. Like it or not, our names define us. A name that may be grand and elegant in one culture, can sound comical in another culture -- especially to kids on the playground. This young man's name was Ashkan -- a regal name in Iranian culture. A great Persian king was named Ashkan. But, put a boy with that name in amongst a bunch of yobs in a logging town on Vancouver Island, and you can be sure to expect trouble.
There is never any excuse for bullying, public humiliation, threatening someone or spreading malicious rumors, and too often it goes overlooked -- both in school and in the workplace. I have witnessed bullying, most recently with a co-worker. Management was aware of it, and they did nothing. The bully got away with her bullying tactics for several years. Finally she retired and everyone breathed a deep sigh of relief. The atmosphere has changed drastically and we are all glad she is gone. But if I had been in management, that woman's *ss would have been fired out of there years ago. Why are teachers and managers so reluctant to deal with bullies? And with the advent of technology, bullying can take on some particularly vicious forms. Facebook and other social network sites, e-mail, texting, etc., can make bullying insidious and frightening for the unfortunate victim.
I feel so sad for this boy's mother and father. Their son is gone forever, and there is no excuse or reason for it. His parents said their son dreamed of being surrounded by animals, even having his own seaside zoo as an adult. He designed a hovercraft car he wanted to run on green energy. He drew futuristic transport trucks. There is a memorial planned at both his schools on February 23th, the day that would have been his 16th birthday.
Bullying is cowardly. If you suspect someone is being victimized by a bully, or if you suspect someone is perpetrating the bullying, for goodness sake do something about it. And, I hope those kids in that small town on Vancouver Island live with the ghost of that young man forever. Maybe they will be able to prevent something similar from happening to someone else.