Writer’s Name: Nanette M. Buchanan
Title: This is a reason to fight.
My grandmother had a saying, “Pick and choose your battles; you may find it will be better to fight another day.” Throughout my life these words have been my answer to many senseless confrontations. The way my grandmother handled confrontations seemed funny as I grew older, and I find myself today asking too often, “Why didn’t they walk away?” The bible says, “Turn the other cheek.” I don’t believe anyone today, when confronted with a bully, thinks about turning the other cheek.
Bullying has become major. Children are put out of school, employees who create a hostile working environment are suspended or fired, and the fight back attitude has been put in place. As a child, my popularity and social environment would give one the impression that I had more friends than enemies. There were those who may have been jealous about my talents, about my ability to maintain an above level grade in school, or an appealing personality. I never was bullied. I, just as others, learned early that if you didn’t stop a bully their antics would continue. Step to them with reason and if it turned into a fight, you pick your battle. In my group of friends we had a few that cried when they were the blunt of a joke. There were those who never spoke up and agreed with everyone and everything, scared they would become an outcast. Not many of my generation had to fight off bullies. We were confident and it showed; we were close and people knew it.
As the years passed on, I worried how my children would fare in school by themselves. I worried like all parents, praying that my children enjoyed school, their classmates, and the activities they participated in. I watched for the signs. I questioned, were they intimidated? Were there any problems with anyone? I gave them the same words my grandmother gave me. Throughout their childhood they too were confident and they too avoided the bullies.
Reading and watching the news, I will admit that I never thought that the actions of a bully would warrant policing and a campaign. Bullies no longer make contorted faces, teasing the girls or taunt the quiet boy. The acts have become violent. The ultimate punishment has been prison. The National Crime Prevention Council states, “Bullying has become a tidal wave of epic proportions. Although bullying was once considered a rite of passage, parents, educators, and community leaders now see bullying as a devastating form of abuse that can have long-term effects on youthful victims, robbing them of self-esteem, isolating them from their peers, causing them to drop out of school, and even prompting health problems and suicide.
A recent study by the Family and Work Institute reported that one-third of youth are bullied at least once a month, while others say six out of 10 American teens witness bullying at least once a day. Witnessing bullying can be harmful, too, as it may make the witness feel helpless - or that he or she is the next target.
Children who are bullied are often singled out because of a perceived difference between them and others, whether because of appearance (size, weight, or clothes), intellect, or, increasingly, ethnic or religious affiliation and sexual orientation. Bullying can be a gateway behavior, teaching the perpetrator that threats and aggression are acceptable even in adulthood. In one study by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, nearly 60 percent of boys whom researchers classified as bullies in grades six to nine were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24, while 40 percent had three or more convictions.”
The behavior of the bully has not changed, the violent acts have. Bullies terrorize their homes, schools, communities and the lives of many. It has a snowball effect on the education of our youth and on the safety of the schools and the neighborhoods. To question our children daily is no longer an effective way to diminish the acts of the bully. Gangs are recruiting youth in Middle Schools across the country, their method - bully tactics. The bully’s threat becomes a fear forcing the victim to either fight back or succumb to the violence.
Exposing the bully is not always the best answer for the victim. Retaliation is often the choice. We must confront the matter, but first we must understand the facts.
Make Beats not Beat Downs reports:
The numbers continue to rise every month..
- It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Source: National Education Association.
- American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims. Dan Olweus, National School Safety Center.
- 1 in 7 Students in Grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying.
- 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
- 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school.
- 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
- 1 out of 20 students has seen a student with a gun at school.
- 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.
- Those in the lower grades reported being in twice as many fights as those in the higher grades. However, there is a lower rate of serious violent crimes in the elementary level than in the middle or high schools.
- 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying
- Among students, homicide perpetrators were more than twice as likely as homicide victims to have been bullied by peers.
- Bullying statistics say revenge is the strongest motivation for school shootings.
- 87% of students said shootings are motivated by a desire to “get back at those who have hurt them.”
- 86% of students said, “other kids picking on them, making fun of them or bullying them” causes teenagers to turn to lethal violence in the schools.
- 61% of students said students shoot others because they have been victims of physical abuse at home.
- 54% of students said witnessing physical abuse at home can lead to violence in school.
- According to bullying statistics, 1 out of every 10 students who drops out of school does so because of repeated bullying.
- Harassment and bullying have been linked to 75% of school-shooting incidents.
Suicide remains among the leading causes of death of children under 14. And in most cases, the young people die from hanging. (AAS)
A new review of studies from 13 countries found signs of an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied, and suicide. (Yale School of Medicine)
Suicide rates among children between the ages of 10 & 14 are very low, but are "creeping up." (Ann Haas, Director of the Suicide Prevention Project at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
The suicide rate among young male adults in Massachusetts rose 28 percent in 2007. However, that does not reflect deaths among teenagers and students Carl's age. (Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health, in a report released April 8, 2009)
Since 2002, at least 15 schoolchildren ages 11 to 14 have committed suicide in Massachusetts. Three of them were Carl's age. ("Constantly Bulled, He Ends His Life at Age 11," by Milton J. Valencia. The Boston Globe, April 20, 2009)
Suicide rates among 10 to 14-year-olds have grown more than 50 percent over the last three decades. (The American Association of Suicidology, AAS)
In 2005 (the last year nationwide stats were available), 270 children in the 10-14 age group killed themselves. (AAS)
Bullying can take many forms but it usually includes the following types of behavior:
• Physical – hitting, kicking, pinching, punching, scratching, spitting or any other form of physical attack. Damage to or taking someone else’s belongings may also constitute as physical bullying.
• Verbal – name calling, insulting, making racist, sexist or homophobic jokes, remarks or teasing, using sexually suggestive or abusive language, offensive remarks
• Indirect – spreading nasty stories about someone, exclusion from social groups, being made the subject of malicious rumours, sending abusive mail, and email and text messages (cyber bullying).
• Cyber Bullying - any type of bullying that is carried out by electronic medium. There are 7 types including:
1. Text message bullying
2. Picture/video clip bullying via mobile phone cameras
3. Phone call bullying via mobile phones
4. E-mail bullying
5. Chat-room bullying
6. Bullying through instant messaging (IM)
7. Bullying via websites
These statistics and other internet sources, campaigns, and support groups give us a reason to fight. No one should live in fear and the bully in the third grade today could be a murderer years from now. It is our job to watch for these signs, listen to our youth and what they struggle with in their friendships. Pick the battle. This is a reason to fight.