1974… “I’m gonna kick your ass after school!”
2020… “I can’t take any more. I have a list of kids and I am going to kill them all.”
In nearly fifty years, this is where we are at today. I know first hand this is the progression of a problem ignored. And I also realize it was around before I ever set foot in a school. Television shows like Happy Days and movies like American Graffiti all glorified “rumbles” to deal with territorial or bullying issues.
Clearly, I was a troublemaker. Smaller than nearly everyone in my classes from the first day of kindergarten, younger than everyone for sure. I was also quite shy. Being the early 1970’s, since no one really talked about divorce, no one was aware that I did not have a male influence in my life, as it would take no time to become obvious with my lack of sports experience, as well as sticking up for myself.
Being such a high risk for being a bully and exhibiting the aggressive behavior of such, kids took the offensive and preemptive position to strike first, and make sure I got put in my place.
So between the description of my childhood stature and personality, and the sarcasm pointing to the threat I obviously presented, you can gather, I was not actually a bully. Instead, I was a victim, often, and many times. And there were several times that in spite of my ability or my personality, things were always able to be made worse for me.
Options I was given ranged anywhere from “ignore them” to “go to the principal,” both of which resulted in an escalation of not only incidents, but a variety of participants. Soon, it was not just other boys coming at me, soon, even girls (I was taught early on, never to fight a girl – so I allowed it to happen), and even multiple assailants. Instead of learning subjects in my classrooms, I was busy plotting ways to avoid what I knew would be waiting for me either during recess, or worse, on the way home from school. I had to decide which stairwell to take, and then which roads or alleys would be safe that day.
When things finally got bad enough, requiring intervention, those in authority took the following position, “it’s just a phase… all kids go through this stuff. You just need to start sticking up for yourself.”
I never resorted to the most extreme acts of “snapping,” which back in the 1970’s would have been me actually just breaking a nose. But I definitely get the mindset of students today, who feel they have no other choice, and sadly feel the need to respond in the most violent of ways. I am not speaking for those back in the 50’s and 60’s, but since my days in school, though things have been “tried,” and I put that in quotes, because I honestly do not believe any honest full hearted approach has ever been put into dealing with the chronic condition, clearly not a phase.
The results from my history involved with bullying are not scientific, but they are fact. I do have a huge chip on my shoulder, one that results in zero tolerance for impacting me negatively in any aspect of my life. I suspect every one of trying to get one up on me, and I will not allow it to happen. For those that were the bullies, many ended up with a criminal history. Some raised bullies of their own. And those that made it through adulthood, continued the aggressive dominating behavior leading to their “success” today.
This is not healthy. Back in my school days, there was no solution to bullying, and there was no interest in it. Even a school shooting involving a classroom near where I lived in the 1990’s, a bullying victim finally had enough, walked into his classroom, and murdered his bully in cold blood in front of his classmates. I want to be clear, I am not talking about school shootings or gun rights or anything like that. I honestly do not believe I will ever see any solution to this type of violence in my lifetime as it has now become a regular assumption, our children go to school every day, prepared to be the next victim.
WHAT THE FUCK!!! I never went to school thinking I had a chance of being killed. Now, it is just a way of life.
When I became a father, the two places I felt my children were supposed to be safe from the hatred and violence, was church, and school. Early through their childhood, I know the school district did make an attempt to take on bullying with an anti-bullying program called “Olweus” which in spirit was a good program, because it made many aware of the problem, but it also held those accountable. Two problems, program was tedious to maintain and no one had any interest in doing it, and of course, the “not my kid” parents, quick to threaten lawsuits defending their child’s rights to a public education. Olweus, disappeared. The option of dealing with bullying at the lower levels, still could not be handled.
Over the last couple of years, schools have come up with a different plan. Having no choice anymore, given the stakes involved, an option once considered a reason for further abuse, “narcing” on someone, with the help of technology, students are now able to request help, and report concerns, without fear of reprisals. An anonymous tip sets off a response of school officials and local authorities, hopefully to preempt a legitimate threat or event. This resource is called “Safe 2 Say Something.” Clearly a statement opposite of an attitude long gone by, “don’t be a narc” or in the late 90’s “snitches get stitches.”
The risks, and dare I saw it, the rewards, are immediate. With our children being ground zero, not just in the environment, but likely first to find out of such concerns with involvement in social media, and knowing that they do not want to be the next headline, there is now a safe outlet for them to report a concern or threat. And this program is not just about dealing with bullies or a full-blown violent event, but even helps in preventing students who have concerns of hurting themselves. If a friend is concerned for another who has recognized a negative change in behavior, that friend may just make that necessary call to get their friend help.
Does “Safe 2 Say Something” work? When it is used, yes, it does. Because one the authorities are involved, they can respond before something has the chance to happen. At the least, the authorities can determine if any threat is of real concern, or just someone venting. What this means, we are now at a crossroads, where we have to stop saying “it is just a phase” when something happens. Whether the threat is real, or “I was just joking, I wasn’t serious when I wrote that,” these acts need to be taken seriously.
I have talked with both of my daughters about this program, and actually every time an incident occurs. I get the emails from both schools when there was a perceived threat, and I discuss with the girls their feelings about what happened, and how it is being handled. They both know about the “Safe” program, though I respect their privacies not to ask if they have ever used it. Though they do admit to knowing some who have. But I do believe that both would do the right thing if they were faced with knowing a potential harm.
It will be another post, but parents need to be more involved when concerns are raised. We also need to do more to deal with emotional needs of our students. And though I recognize that legally, school districts are often restricted in information that can be made public, there is more that can and needs to be done to keep the spotlight on a zero tolerance in accepting any violence against themselves or other students.
Please in almost fifty years, we should have made more progress in dealing with violence in our schools, than just giving a “safe” way to tattle on another student. Bullying in school was never a phase. It was a symptom of a bigger problem, and it is still happening today. Knowing the problem is not enough to make it go away. Decades later, we know this.