Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Overwhelming Cost Of Bullying

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.

41 comments:

Zanthie said...

I was a victim of bullying for over 18 months. Management did nothing, even though I complained and gave plenty of examples.

There is bullying that take place in the office near me, and though I refuse to get involved I do step in to let the offending party/parties know that it is NOT acceptable.
I wish more people did stand up for people...
I am now working somewhere that I love and know that I am respected :)

z.xoxo

Jo said...

Zanthie, I'm sorry you were the victim of bullying. Why is it that management is always so reluctant to do anything? Perhaps they are afraid of the bullies too.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Such needless and cruel deaths are indeed tragic. But I fear that we will never get rid of bullying. Humans like to develop packs and practice the pecking order and bullying which is an exultation of power over someone else, derives its roots from these.

By education we can reduce the number of bullies but we cannot get rid of them. But bullies need victims and we need to educate children how not to be victims too. And finally as you mentioned, where were the friends. With friends at your back, bullies show themselves to be cowards.

Marcos Vinicius Gomes said...

It's so bad that in 21 century we haven't learned how to lead our youth...and this can provoke future traumas on minds of people that suffered bullying. Take care of our childreen, this is the point...

Firefly said...

My kids are still very small, but already I am worried about possible bullying that may take place in the future. This dad will be hovering like a hawk

Yaya' s Changing World said...

I have never understood the joy that some people derive from being bullies. For the most part, I believe people are good. But it only takes one to make life miserable for many.

~ Yaya
Yaya's Changing World

Bruce Coltin said...

Two similar cases have happened recently, here in Massachusetts.

I would rather see the kids who did the tormenting, in that small town and here, rounded up and held accountable, along with their parents. Public humiliation is an old fashioned remedy that should be applied in these tragic cases.

greenpanda said...

Management never do anything because they either think it will go away or they think you can deal with it yourself.
They fail to realize that's kind of the point of bullying - you can't, generally.

Book pusher said...

Jo a powerful and important post. I suspect part of the reason that bullies do not get pulled up often enough at school is due to the incredibly manipulative nature of their behaviour, both at school and the work place, they are masters of manipulation, often playing the victim when in reality they are the perpetrator. Teachers I suspect are often reacting to what they see as over protective parents when they fail to back up concerned parents. Bullying seems to be getting worse, it seems to be an accepted part of our culture. Getting kids to refuse to tolerate it isn't easy, to speak up for each other and for what is right. School seems to be a vicious training ground, some fail to survive, and what does it do to the survivors, left with life long emotional scars and for some the conviction that the way to succed is to trample others.
There is nothing sadder than the loss of a young person in such circumstances.

A human kind of human said...

This story is so sad and it happens much too often. Bullying a young child seems to break something in his spirit that makes him a target for bullies right through life. I do not not know if you have ever read the book "19 Minutes" by Jodi Picoult. In this book you find the very sad story of a boy who was bullied right through his school years. It all culminated in a horrible school shooting. Now I know it is just a story, but when you read it, you do get a measur of insight into how this boy suffered at the hands of bullies. While reading the book I often felt more sorry for the killer and his mother than for the victims and their parents. It is such a sad, sad, sad situation.

the walking man said...

I love bullies. Every single fight I ever had with one showed me how weak they really are.

I know where the kids head was at and I too regret his actions and the suffering his parents will endure for the rest of lives. God knows they tried to help him by switching schools but stupid is found everywhere,

Burcu said...

Unfortunately most of the time, this bullying thing is supported by school principle or management as well.
There are such children whose background is quite dark and aren't on purpose to study but doing everything else at school. Those children can even dare to threaten school managers and teachers.Yes most of them are scared from these kind of children.
It all comes from lack of family education. Parents don't pay attention to their children and this courages their sarcastic behaviours.
Jo, did you watch the 'Dangerous Minds' movie? It's a similar story to what u have shared with us. Children who are irresponsible even from themselves...But the shame is not on them; on their family.

Greetings

Whitney Lee said...

This is hideous. There was a similar story on our local news recently. It seems to happen so very often.

I don't know what the answer is. Children obviously need to be taught love and tolerance, and as someone else stated, how not to be a victim. That is probably a simplified answer. Maybe if schools taught, from a young age, these same things, some of it would stick. Perhaps an understanding of the variety of reasons people bully would help as well. Still, change of that sort will not happen without people pushing for it, and it won't happen overnight.

DJan said...

When I was going to school, it wasn't such a big problem. I know that bullying is terrible these days, and I keep hearing of these stories, and I too wonder about the teachers and the parents: why are they not instilling uplifting values in their children? Could it be all the violence in the world and the video games they play??

Timekeeper said...

Jo, I know first hand what this boy went through. I was damaged forever because I couldn't read in grade school. I had to run away or do what this brave young boy did. I posted a blog Death to Life that describes the hell. It's in Older Posts. My heart as well goes out to his family and friends

Teri said...

As a child, altho I was small, I was known as a "mean little weasel" or a "crazy *&%*" to the playground bullies because of the way I would launch myself at someone attacking a weaker person. To this day I'm known for not suffering the "jerks" around me easily.

For adults, harrassment laws have come a long way. But you have to use them. Document your case. One of those keychain recorders you used to remember to your shopping list or driving directions can be kept in your pocket and easily flipped on.

Alissa said...

Schools and teachers don't do enough to stop bullying. When I was in school most of the teachers tended to side with the popular kids, because, let's face it, the popular kids are more likable and well, in my school if you were a decent football player that pretty much gave you free reign to do anything.

Kimberly said...

I was bullied for years in grade school because of my weight. My nickname - Fatchison. It is a self esteem killer but unfortunately it is an ugly part of growing up. My own father bullied me about my weight. I wish I could say I just held my head higher & went own about my business but that would be a lie. I feel for the family of the young boy but not nearly as much as I feel for the boy himself. I hope the bullies feel the recoil of this every day for the rest of their life.

C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson said...

So many times parents have no idea what is going on with their children. It is so important to maintain an open line of communication, one where children are comfortable in sharing the daily events of their lives. Perhaps, simply know that the parents are supportive could alleviate some of these senseless losses. My heart goes out to these and all parents who have lost children. BTW, I agree that the schools and teachers should make a more concerted effort to identify bullies and their victims, take appropriate actions and especially notify all parents.

Katy said...

I think one problem with bullying in American culture is it is seen as a part of life and the people being picked on just need to "suck it up."

I have to say that I have seen my daughter's school take bullying very seriously. Starting in pre-school they that teaches kids to build community of enclustion, treat each other with respect, and just as importantly, where to go and what to do when you or someone you know is being picked on. I like that they stress that no situation is too small to bring to a teachers attention and they have a motto that says, "you will never be in trouble for stoping trouble."

Honestly I'm surpirsed more schools aren't making bullying a top priority with the world being the way it is today.

Paula Slade said...

That is so tragic. There is a wonderful web site that children and teens can turn to when they are being bullied, or to join forces with others to prevent cruelty and promote awareness. Young Disney starlet, Demi Lovato has been a spokesperson for this (she herself had been bullied as a child.) Check the site out and pass it on to children in middle grade and beyond - it is worthwhile: http://www.pacerteensagainstbullying.org/

A Joyful Chaos said...

So heartbreaking that things like this happen.

Rebecca said...

Jo...this Post has really spoken to me.

My kids never ran with any crowd and we raised them both to be kind...especially to those who were suffering in one way or another. They were never in the "IN" group, nor were they members of the "OUT" group. They both stood firmly in the middle...like most kids, I suppose.

When our daughter (who is now 25) was a senior in HS a jock (football player/handsome dude) started taunting, teasing and bullying another kid in her English class. The jock was being downright horrible and would not stop picking on this other kid. The teacher did NOTHING and the entire class of students sat silent. No one said a word.

So...my girl being the kind of person she is looked over at the jock and said...

"Why don't you just shut up Jarred and leave 'Chris' alone? Does it make you feel like Mr. Big Man to try and make him feel small? Just shut up! You're so weird!"

Everyone looked at my girl (who was and is a beauty) and started clapping. At first she was the "cheese standing alone" but when she showed true guts towards the "popular guy" the crowd began to gather around both her and the VICTIM and cheer..all of a sudden the other kids began to yell out "Yeah...leave him ALONE! LEAVE HIM ALONE!!!", etc.

Someone MUST take a stand. My girl said she never saw Jarred bully the kid again...

Rebecca

TC said...

I have ALWAYS tried to be the anti bully and tried to teach my kids there is nothing worse than putting another down who can't or won't defend themselves for any reason. Our little town was very cliquey and I frowned on that too, be friends with everyone. I was bullied a bit but managed to ignore it and get beyond it. I feel so sorry for that boy and his parents. Trust me if the kids there bullied him and they didn't learn their lesson they will bully others too.

Brenda said...

Very disturbing! I think there is a law in place here that prosecutes individuals involved in bullying. I really get upset when I hear stories like these.

Susie Hemingway said...

So very very sad to read this post. How can young people be so cruel? I watched carefully for signs of bullying when my(now adult)sons were at school and reminded them constantly to always care for the feelings of others. Caring must be learnt like anything else and does I'm sure have to start from day one by example.This sort of tragedy is Heartbreaking !

Nezzy said...

This tragic story breaks my heart. It's so very sad when something like this happens. I wish we had more who would 'man up' and come to the defense of the week and punish the bullies!

God bless ya'll!!

Nancy said...

Well said, Jo! I think sometimes adolescents use other adolescents to deal with their own problems. These children become lightening-rods for angst, anger, sexual energy. Add problems from home, that they feel helpless to change, and you have the perfect bully. Parents need to be aware of how their children are thinking and acting, however most are too caught up in their own problems. I wish I had an answer to this age-old issue. It really is the ugly side of humans.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Bullying is rampant in every stage of life - school, workplace, marriage, friendship - and it's always horrible. In this sad case, it's particularly dreadful that nobody did anything about it. Kids can be cruel, and unchecked, they grow into cruel adults.

My original last name was Cahn. There were a few giggles about "Garbage Cahn" but I was never bullied about it, although I am no stranger to some of the other instances I mentioned. I think most people lack courage which is why they fail to stand up for underdogs, and sometimes even join with the bullies so that they, themselves, will not be bullied. It's a vicious cycle and we have a right to expect more from those with the power to change things.

ρομπερτ said...

Dear Jo, allow me to thank so very much for this entry of yours - that I could "wear" as a pair of shoes, that I had to wear, found on the street; as clothes, that other students would laugh about; as belongings, that were thrown into the trash can, at school, to name just a few.
This happend about two decades ago - yes, it breaks a heart to learn that life hasn't changed much. Maybe time to do even more than already to prevent. Much respect upon this post and the wish for a nice Friday.

A Woman said...

Jo, how terribly,terribly sad. Yes there are still bullies around us. In schools, work and relationships. It often takes an extraordinary amount of courage to stand up to one. The key I found in dealing with them is to look at what makes that person a bully. Often I've found that the "bully" has a very low self esteem. The only way they can feel better about themselves is to put another person down. It has always helped me to realize that the bully has no power over me.

I'm part of management where I work, our firm is adamant about not tolerating harassment and bullying. Every single incident is investigated and it is the surest way to the door if one is found to be harassing or bullying anyone. More firms should be aware of it and know that if they don't follow through and investigate every complaint they are opening the firm to a liable suit, particularly if it regards a "non discrimination" status.

My heart goes out to this young mans family.

KathyB. said...

This breaks my heart....

Jo said...

LGS, yes, unfortunately I agree. We will always have bullies, and we need to educate children to stand up and protect each other.

Marcos, you are so right. Bullying can create traumas that last with children forever.

Firefly, yes, keep an eye on it. Parents and teachers do indeed need to keep an eagle (hawk?) eye on the situation. :-)

Yaya, omigoodness, yes. All it takes is one. And then everyone else is afraid too, unfortunately.

Bruce, yes, sometimes these people need to be on the receiving end of what they "dish out". Public humiliation is painless, but effective.

Stephen, no people can't deal with bullying. And it does not go away on its own, unless the person leaves.

Book Pusher, "...they are masters of manipulation, often playing the victim when in reality they are the perpetrator." That is one of the main tactics of a bully, isn't it? I have seen it happen!

Jo said...

Anna, yes, it sounds very similar to what happened during the Columbine shootings. Those boys had been the victims of bullying too. And what a horrible tragedy occurred.

Mark, you hit the nail on the head. Bullies are cowards. All they need is to have that pointed out...! One way or anotehr... :-)

Burcu, "Those children can even dare to threaten school managers and teachers." Well said...! Managers and teachers are afraid of them, and they are afraid to deal with them.

Whitney, yes...! And often those same children are the victims of bullying at home, so they are being taught it is normal behaviour. They take their frustrations out at school.

DJan, violence in video games does seem to be making children more violent. It is hardwiring their brains into think it is okay. It's awful!

John, I am going to read your post. I am looking forward to reading your book too. I think your story happened all to often, sadly.

Teri, "To this day I'm known for not suffering the "jerks" around me easily." You are my hero! And, I had no idea about keychain recorders. What a great idea!

Alissa, isn't that the truth? It was the same in my school too. And often the so-called unpopular kids went on to make something of themselves, and the popular kids didn't.

Jo said...

Kimberly, oh, gosh, I'm so sorry you were bullied. Sometimes teasing can go way over the line to bullying, and then it has to be stopped. I hope you are feeling better about things now...!

Connie, I think sometimes kids are afraid to tell their parents, because they are afraid that the bullying will just get worse. I think bullies count on that, sadly.

Katy, you know, BC has a very strict no-bullying code in school, and advertisements on TV about it, but when it comes right down to it, I really don't think people know how to handle bullies. This poor boy paid the price for that, unfortunately.

Paula, thank you for the link to that website. It's most informative. I think our managers at work need to see this too...!

Joyful, oh goodness yes. That family's life is ruined now.

Rebecca, your daughter is my hero...! I once saw someone do that in school as well, and unfortunately the person who was doing the bullying was the teacher. Please tell your daughter for me, she is my hero!

TC, I hate cliques. They are just the worst! And wherever you get groups of people together, you get cliques. You know, I notice that even in the blogging world. There are cliques that form, and people start to get aggressive. It's just sad.

Jo said...

Brenda, yes, and I wish people who enforce the anti-bullying laws, but I have yet to see it happen, sadly...!

Susie, good for you! It is so important, isn't it, that we teacher our children not to bully or "pick on" other kids. These lessons begin at home, and they are indeed our responsibility.

Nezzy, I love that term "man up". I have actually seen teachers cringe at the thought of having to deal with bullies. They do indeed need to man up...!

Nancy, yes, I think these children are being taught these behaviors at home. So, often dealing with the parents isn't of much help either.

Susan, yes, kids can sometimes be little savages, and that's when they have to be taught not to be that way. Even the best of kids will push the boundaries. And, by the way name rhymed with banana ... *sigh*

Robert, oh, gosh, yes, children can be unmerciful with children who are poor or who are different from other kids. I have a feeling, though, that you have had the last laugh. And I think you are a a good father, too.

A Woman, "Often I've found that the "bully" has a very low self esteem. The only way they can feel better about themselves is to put another person down. It has always helped me to realize that the bully has no power over me." That is SO true! I have often found the best way to deal with bullies is to feel sorry for them. They are just jerks. *heh*

Kathy, it broke my heart too. I have not been able to stop thinking about it.

Country Girl said...

We take bullying in our school VERY seriously. Teachers are always on the lookout for it and have been trained through seminars.
When a bully is recognized, we can only do our best. They are usually a victim of bullying themselves, but we can't keep them in our school. And we won't invite them back for the following school year.
I still have a difficult time with how your management handled the black widow spider at your place of work. But I'm so glad for your sake that she's finally gone.

Alicia said...

How sad Jo. It's breaks my heart to hear of stories like this and yet you hear of them everyday. Human beings can be so cruel to each other.

Mia said...

Bullies aren't evil monsters. They're frightened children compensating for their own insecurities the only way they know how. They usually learned that behaviour from their parents or older siblings who treat them the way they treat the smaller children they bully.

When I was a teacher I tried to figure out why the bullies acted out and did what I could to modify their behaviour. Treating everybody's fears and anxieties goes a long way.

Having said that I like the part where Drillbit learns that the school bully is 18 and kicks his ass.

Nishant said...

wish more people did stand up for people...
I am now working somewhere that I love and know that I am respected :)


Work from home India

Holly said...

When naming kids, parents don't aways think of the teasing kids will go through (though this kid had to deal with how a different culture handled his name). I had an odd surname, some of my best friends were Rose Bush, Cherry Stump and Chuck (not Charles) Roast. The odd-named kids hung out together for protection. Fighting back, in any method, can be difficult. Holly