Much media attention has been given to the bullying epidemic in our schools. Students of grade school, junior high and high school have taken their own lives as the result of being victims of predatory bullies. The search is on as to what to do and how to curb or eliminate bullying altogether in our schools all across the country. No apparent solutions have surfaced thus far but the cry remains, ‘something must be done.’
What does not seem to be widely understood is there are more participants in a bullying scenario than the bully and the victim. Identifying them first, then we can begin to address how much needed change can be implemented. There is much to do and can be done to turn the tide of this evil, dastardly behavior.
Bullies can be male or female and they come in all shapes and sizes, from every culture, varying economic status, and can be found in various stages of the bullying process. A bully is not grown overnight but has been evolving over a period of years. They have been left unchecked and allowed to flourish and in some cases, they can become very dangerous accelerating to the point of doing actual physical violence to their victim. A bully is a living walking predator.
There are no hard and fast rules as to what makes a bully do what they do or what makes them tick. However, we can be sure that generally a bully is sad, lonely, confused, insecure, and very angry. Most likely they see themselves as ’a nothing, a nobody, going nowhere’. They haven’t, for the most part, really excelled in anything and have no achievements as their claim to fame. It seems they have received no kind of affirmation from their family, the community, or school that they have worth and value. In short, they do not sense they are loved by anyone.
A bully wants to be somebody, be accepted, acknowledged as existing, and bullying a victim becomes a venue to release their anger. They draw attention to themselves even if it is negative. At least someone notices them now. Having power over another gives them a rush and makes them feel important.
The Bully’s Following – His So-Called Friends
Perceived as being strong and powerful, some students gravitate to a bully. They sort of stand behind or beside the bully, participating in the dirty deed in one way or another. A showing of his so-called friends lends to the idea that this group is a formidable force which strongly discourages the victim from attempting any defensive action.
These students suffer from very similar inner problems as the bully but have not quite the macho to be the bully. If the bully gets in trouble or in any way is kept from acting, these so-called friends run for the hills. They no longer want to be associated with the bully and generally just fade back into the student body. So-called friends aren’t real friends at all and since the bully has been dethroned, they don’t want to be any part of a failure.
The Targeted Victims
Victims of bullies become targets sometimes for no rhyme or reason. They have not done anything necessarily that has enraged the bully. Assuredly they are perceived as weaker and probably would not be able to offer much resistance or have the ability to muster their friends to withstand the bully’s attack.
Kids targeted may be shy, a geek, a scholar, fat or too short, wrong color, different culture or nationality, for the bully any reason will do. When the bully is successful the first time they attack, a green light flashes for further acts. Often times the bully will seek them out at various places, the school, social functions, in the community, on the internet, or the bus.
Damages done to the victim are almost immeasurable even if no physical violence is involved. They begin to feel unworthy and may not tell their parents what is happening. As we know, some suicides have been determined to be the direct result of being bullied on a regular consistent basis. What a waste of life! A real tragedy for any family.
The Onlookers – Passive or Semi-Active
Whenever the bully begins his tirade on the victim, he is usually with a couple of his so-called friends. Soon a crowd of students seem to congregate to watch. Some will just stand by, watching in silence. Others may laugh or giggle a little. Certainly they do not want to draw too much attention to themselves so as not to become a new target for the bully. But they do want to know what is going on and must get some sort of pleasure out of being there, even if it is one of disgust.
The Passers By
Other students see and here a little but pass by, not wanting any involvement at all. These students scurry to wherever they need to be. It is if they put blinders on and act as if they saw and heard nothing. They just want to be left alone and stay as far away as possible of all trouble.
Principals, Teachers and Parents
Unless the bullying just happened for the first time, someone on the school staff has heard and knows that it is going on. Such news travels fast and sooner or later somebody knows all about it, who is being bullied and who the bully and his cohorts are.
Parents hear from their kids about bullying episodes, generally getting an earful of every sordid detail. Then there are the parents who suspect or have an inkling that their child is a bit aggressive but in an abusive sort of way. They see and hear how they treat their friends and know that it is not right. Perhaps it is their child who is either a bully or a developing one.
It must be noted that not every teacher, or student, or parent is aware of the bullying. Some schools are simply too big. There are students who are not ever in the same proximity of the bullying episode and not all kids tell their parents what really happens at school. But the real point is there is some in every group that are aware or have knowledge of the bullying and do nothing!
Edmund Burke stated. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Seems nothing is what we really have done.
What Can We Do To Turn The Tide?
1. Begin immediately re-educating our youth that when someone is being bullied that some level of involvement should be undertaken. Students must learn that the real motive of telling someone on the staff is to protect a fellow student from harm and that they are not being a snitch. We must make it clear that not to do so is the same as giving their permission to the bully for what is being done.
2. We must stop making excuses for bad behavior. All of us have at least heard someone say ‘they are just going through a bad stage right now’ or ’they will outgrow this stage’ or ’they really didn’t mean any harm’. Sometimes it is said. ’boys will be boys’ or ’my kid would never do that’ or “I love my kids and it is my duty to protect them’. Addressing the bad behavior each and every time will go a long way in instilling in our youth that they are to respect and treat others appropriately.
3. There must be consequences, not excuses, for bad behavior. We can no longer turn a blind eye hoping they will outgrow something and grow up to be great outstanding citizens. Bullies can only thrive because all along the way they have not suffered any of the consequences they should have experienced for bullying other students.
4. Nothing just goes away on its own and students, principals, teachers, and parents must become involved to stop the evil in its tracks. When we hear of or see someone being victimized, we must intervene and dole out the proper punishment for their bad behavior.
Following up with victims and their parents, we must seek ways to rebuild the child’s self-esteem and we should continue watching over them to keep them safe from any repercussions.
Certainly once it has been ascertained someone is a bully, they should be monitored more closely so that they have little room to bully someone else, at least on school property. Parents must be informed and provided with the ‘proof’, so to speak, of the guilt of their child. Enlisting their help in a joint effort to help the healing of the bully. Perhaps counseling is needed but denying they have no problems is no help at all.
5. We can implement a mentoring program to help in the transition from one school to another and for students who are new to the district. Change can be sometimes overwhelming for young people and help from their peers can aid in the adjustments. They would be in a position to stave off the actions of the bully on a newcomer and could immediately report one to the staff.
6. Although bringing in the law might be a last resort, we should not rule it out. The resident bully may be too unruly to handle in any other way. Perhaps the bully doesn’t have much of a home life or parents concerned enough to help their child, then Social Services should be called. All possible resources should be exhausted to get the bully the necessary help.
None of the above suggestions will be an easy road. It means a lot of extra work and effort for everyone. Changes will not necessarily come easily but we cannot stop trying. This is an investment that we must put an all out effort in. Lives are at stake and futures hang in the balance. There are a lot of good people, they are in the majority and can stop the evil of bullying. Let’s not be numbered among the good people who do nothing.