Would you send your child off to be terrorized everyday at a local prison? Would you let them play with loaded weapons over at their friend’s house? Would you allow them to walk around with something in their pocket that could lead to their death or the death of someone around them?
Up front, most anyone would answer, “No” to all of the above questions. A person with the responsibility of caring for a child would typically have this child’s best interest in mind. They would protect them to the best of their ability, right?
The question is, as parents, community leaders, teachers, administrators and across our nation, are we doing what needs to be done to protect our children, our young people and our future?
Everyday children are going to school across our country and being terrorized by other children and this is absolutely not getting the attention it needs and deserves. Some schools are stepping up, and not only admitting there is a problem but are bringing the students together, opening communications, and learning different ways to treat this epidemic by starting with one of the most important steps, speaking up.
This is more than a “bullying” issue going on. This is something involving all age groups in schools, work places, homes, malls, online, cell phones, etc. This leaves no safe zone, no escape for those constantly being tormented. The threats become relentless. The torture and harassment is leaving our children feeling hopeless and alone.
This is not something that will go away with a few schools taking charge, a petition getting signed or a TV special hoping to speak to anyone who will listen. It will take everyone stepping up getting involved by talking to children and letting them know that being different is okay. It is also means living by example and explaining to a child that talking down to others is never okay.
Often it takes a tragic story to get the attention of national news media or action from lawmakers. In the past it has taken horrific tragedies to have schools look at what could have been done to avoid an event that has already taken place. Losing any child to constant tormenting from others is preventable and each life lost is in part the responsibility of everyone that turned a blind eye or did not do everything possible to protect our most valuable resources, every child. Many children fear going to school each day.
Understand if a child has access to a computer or the Internet via a cell phone, game system (PS2, PS3) many available MP3 devices (which have Internet access), or by simply going to a friend’s house, they are possibly being or taking part in bullying actions. The possibility is there. More than ever, the need for communication and knowledge about online activity as well as personal and online friendships is now more important than ever.
While attending school, children rely on their teachers and the school staff to protect them and parents expect the school to not only be responsible and accountable for this but also rely on this protection as well.
With the diversity of students in our schools as well as the overall social changes within our nation, it is absolutely crucial that our nation’s schools have a plan in place for many situations that can arise during a typical school day or any time of crisis.
Dealing with student harassment and ongoing bullying is something the school needs to have the support of parents, the community, local government and laws need to be in place to protect students in need of support but also giving teachers the ability to lend a hand to students in need.
While the legislation process and politics are playing out on the news, parents are talking about this at home. The debates (and their language) are making their way into our schools through our young children who become more confused. Slander and hate that is expressed at school is not something a person is born with. Hate is not a birth trait.
Bullying, and terrorizing of another is an action that the bullying student should be held responsible for. This is something the bully should receive mandatory counseling for.
Too many children are killing themselves! These losses are as tragic as a loss by any other tragedy or disease to those left behind. Most often, these suicides could have been prevented and signs are either noticed too late or had not been taken seriously in the time leading up to the time of death.
Even though there’s typically evidence leading back to the cause of their suicide, the ongoing threats and harassments, most often nothing is legally done. This can be changed if enough people will stand up and demand change.
This is made very evident in a ground breaking, Award Winning documentary “Rats and Bullies” directed by Cassidy McMillan.
Originally, the story of 14 year old Dawn-Marie Wesley was shared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. This young girl took her own life in her family home after having been continuously bullied and threatened. Like too many before her, it reached a point she felt she couldn’t take anymore.
After being shown in schools, feedback from students shows that “Rats and Bullies” validates how many students are feeling with the difficulties of being ridiculed and intimidated. There is also an eye opening part to many watching this film that although the one committing suicide appears to be ending their life, those left behind are beginning a nightmare of living without their loved one, asking questions about what they could have done differently or if it was their fault. This film brings up a lot of points to open communication within schools and communities as well as at home.
The Producer and Director of the film Cassidy McMillan hoped by making “Rats and Bullies” would help prevent any future loss of life. To this point, the significance of response in showings at schools and festivals definitely reveal not only a need for a significant increase in discussions but also an awareness that these situations are not as isolated as many believe them to be.
McMillan has been receiving emails from students saying they have changed their mind on a planned suicide, how her film has greatly affected them and has validated how they felt. She is very pleased by this outcome.
What can we do to help in the effort to eradicate bullying in our culture?
Everyone must speak out against any form of bullying. It is never okay to torment anyone, ridicule or harass either in person, via email or text. If you are a witness to bullying – Report it. Speak to an adult. If you are being the bully – STOP! Ask for help.
As a community we need to demand that our Senators and Representatives create laws that will protect victims and hold our schools fully accountable for the bullying happening while our children are in school.
Every child should feel safe heading to and from school and be focused on learning not worried about being bullied or having their life threatened. Every child should feel comfortable going to the school administrators to report a problem.
Too often, when a person isn’t directly involved with a given situation they don’t see the need to help fix a problem. I ask Cassidy McMillan why it will take everyone to fix this problem. She said, “When someone dies, we all lose someone.”
We discussed this a bit and the point is we would never know who that person would become, who they could have grown up to become. Could they have grown up to cure cancer? Could they have become president? We will never know.
Having a child with cancer and with the news of Steve Jobs just passing, that puts things into a perspective that many people can and should be able to understand. What if someone like Steve Jobs had not been around to accomplish all he did? None of us would be here if our parents weren’t around to have us.
Everyone should have the opportunity to grow up in a safe environment and this issue, unlike some diseases or natural disasters, is something that is within our grasp and ability to prevent. Let’s put an end to this terror many of our children have to face each and every day.
**To find out more about “Rats and Bullies” and where you can view this Award Winning Documentary, please visit http://ratsandbullies.com
**Visit the Facebook Page for “Rats and Bullies”.