School Security Isn’t Protecting Your Kids From This One Thing
As a mom who used to have her kids in public schools and pulled them out for this reason, I would like to share my opinion on the topic of bullying.
Many kids who are severely bullied in school and via social media end up harming THEMSELVES, not others. Suicide is, unfortunately, too popular of an option these days. But your child's life could be on the line in other ways.
There are many, many contributing factors that cause some kids and teens to have problems in a school environment. A lot of it has to do with social media like Snapchat and the like, along with an abundance of easy access to drugs and alcohol, and the stress of trying to fit into a social mold that just doesn't work for everyone.
I remember when my older son was entering 6th grade and I attended Back to School Night. A teacher said to the classroom full of parents that middle school was more about the social aspect than the actual learning, as kids learned to navigate around hormones, dating, and the never ending cliques that cause so much heartache and confusion as pre-teens begin the fight for popularity. (Of course, most of us know that, these days, the fight begins as early as pre-school.)
Some kids aren't lucky enough to find good friends or groups of kids that have their back. They constantly struggle against physical bullying, being shamed, embarrassed, ostracized, or sometimes even having their lives threatened. And sometimes the threats made IN school are meant for AFTER school at places where these teens hang out, leaving the victim in fear both during both the school day and after it ends, in the hours where they should otherwise feel safe, like walking home or at an after-school job, party, or sports practice.
Some of the strongest weapons used against these kids are the cruel words of others. Once spoken, a victim at a young age is likely to carry around those words as if they were a permanent, physical scar. They cannot always be successfully talked out of the low sense of self-esteem that demoralizes them when they constantly are told they are worthless, disgusting human beings.
It is heartbreaking and horrifying to witness when you are a parent and love your child so much.
I find it disgusting that there are still such mean kids in school. And that there is little to nothing being done about it. I was in those schools fighting for my kids' rights for years...and the most I would get would be a comment from administration like "We'll hold another assembly to remind the kids that bullying is wrong."
I have heard the argument that school is just a microcosm of real life and that kids need to learn to handle their own problems so that they can survive in the 'real world.' I have also heard from parents whose children killed themselves rather than suffer any longer from being forced to remain in an environment where they could be abused every day.
I have also seen too many good kids succumbing to peer pressure and taking drugs or participating in things they would NEVER do out of sheer desperation to try and fit in. I have seen guidance counselors welcome a new kid into a school and then watch as all of the cliques ignore that kid so that the only option left for the new kid to make a friend is to talk to the troublemaker that is always getting suspended simply because no one else will befriend them. This can lead to years of bad choices that will change the path of their lives forever.
I'm not saying that kids that don't fit in or who have issues/problems/illnesses have any right to harm others (or themselves) in any way. But I am saying I could see how victims of school abuse who aren't heard, believed, or properly helped could be looking for a way to fight back. It should never, ever get that out of hand.
And how about the victim that musters the strength to tell a teacher, guidance counselor, principal or parent what is happening, despite potentially being labeled a 'tattletale'? I have witnessed more than one of those victims being told by the administration or counselor that maybe they should change THEIR OWN behavior or TRY HARDER to fit in in order to avoid being bullied. In other words, the administration blames the victim, thereby discouraging them to ever again try to tell their story.
I have known parents who were told that the school has already tried everything they can to prevent the bullying and that it is impossible for them to control all the students and the environment...and then suggest to the parents of the child being bullied that they MOVE THEIR KID TO ANOTHER SCHOOL for a fresh start.
As for the parents who think their kids aren't bullies, or who think their kids are nice to everyone and would never cause harm....ask them if they have ever seen a fellow student getting teased or sitting alone in the cafeteria because no one wants to befriend them, and then ask your child if he/she has gone out of their way to become a friend to that lost kid.
Because sometimes ignoring someone can make them feel invisible and worthless. Sometimes being isolated in an environment where everyone else seems to have it so easy can lead to deep depression. Loneliness is a painful thing.
I could honestly go on about this all day long. I am advocating here not for my teens, who are doing okay (thank God) but for all of those lost souls wondering around a school hallway just praying to get through the day without being sneered at, having their phone stolen, their homework destroyed, being chosen last (with major eye rolling) for a class group project or phys. ed. team, getting laughed off the court in gym, having no one offer a seat at lunch or on the school bus, etc.
If you are the parent of a popular kid or a leader...maybe you can find a way to encourage your kid to take the braver/bolder route and accept someone who is alone and suffering into their circle and maybe provide a buffer against the storm.
If you are a teacher, try hard to notice what's not so obvious. Kids know how to cut someone down when there is no authority figure in sight or, worse, right in front of the teacher during class. They know how to sneak their phone out just in time to capture an image of their victim in an awkward moment, then save it to post online after school for the social media world to laugh at. They know how to do subversive things to throw a victim under the bus.
Teachers....quietly (and not in front of other students) offer that student a safe place to go if they reach their breaking point. Offer them a classroom that is a refuge and not a battlefield.
Parents: Don't keep sending your kids out into the middle of a war zone with no protection. Believe your kids when they are in tears and desperate for you to save them. You are the only true advocate your child has. You are the one who should take their side. Don't worry about your appearance to other parents or teachers...fight for your kid.
For all of the 'security' systems in place in schools these days to protect against gun violence, we are still sorely lacking the ability to keep kids safe from one sometimes deadly weapon. And it's got a name. Bullying.
CLICK HERE to see what Brick is doing to try and identify troubled students.