The University of Utah held a conference on bullying this week at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center for Community Caring. You can read about it here. You might believe they addressed just school bullying. That is not so. Susan Swearer, a keynote speaker, noted, “This is not just a kid issue, it is not an adult issue. It is a community issue.” I concur with this completely.
Society, as a whole needs to change; adults need to set better examples. Values need to be adjusted and positive behavior needs to be rewarded. All too frequently this is not the case. We see it everywhere. Our politicians give us the most public display of bullying in the United States every election with all of the mudslinging.
I do have one concern with something Swearer said that I think might cause her words to have less power. She noted that the victims of bullying who commit suicide, “have a vulnerability” and she referred to bullying as “the tipping point.” I have a problem with this one. She seems to be giving the bullies an out for their mean behavior.
Swearer also made another good point that I have been trying to make; we need to stop vilifying the bully and realize that regular people are bullies too. We need to correct the bully’s behavior not become the bully. What do you think?
You are right to be HORRIFIED by the excuses used. We all are responsible for our actions or at least we should be, and meanness should never be okay.
Phil, I thought immediately of the Phoebe Prince case as well. I was HORRIFIED by Emily Bazelon’s articles in Slate arguing that the bullies weren’t really responsible because Phoebe was vulnerable and unstable to begin with…and because supposedly her actions (perceived boyfriend-stealing) were upsetting to *them.* Fortunately, the argument doesn’t fly legally…I think it’s known as the broken eggshells principle, that you chose your own victim, vulnerabilities and all; vulnerabilities that a perpetrator didn’t know about do not mitigate responsibility for the outcome of his actions.
Agreed, Sue! We had the famous Phoebe Prince case here in Massachusetts where a young high school girl was bullied to the point of committing suicide. Six teens were indicted and plea bargained out to criminal harassment. Their lawyers and some people in town explained away her suicide by exploiting supposed problems she had…the exploitation of the victim’s vulnerability was an attempt to mitigate the heinous nature of the bullying. One bully was recently on national TV explaining she didn’t bully, she merely stuck up for a friend although she plead out to criminal harassment…like we were supposed to feel sorry for her.
In my thirty years as a high school principal, I have come to view bullying as simply a heinous act where the perp acts out a “perceived” superiority over the target. In many cases, this “perceived” superiority was learned at home and even reinforced by parents. Bullying in schools is rampant because of an unspoken code of silence…the greatest sin is to be narc. Somehow schools need to develop zero tolerance and teach the many to stand up for the few…because it’s the right thing to do. The culture of a school must change before bullying is abated! The culture is a function of every member of that community…standing together is a pretty rare phenomenon. I am glad you bring this topic to the fore.
Yes, I am very familiar with Phoebe Prince’s case and the outcome. I was happy that one of the girls met with the mother to apologize. It is unfortunate that the other girl is still being so vocal and not accepting responsibility for her actions. I agree that it is more than likely a reflection of her home life.
I too think getting the bystanders more involved is key to real change in our schools. Dateline did a segment on bullying back in March and they addressed the importance of the adults setting a good example along with how just one person speaking up can make a difference.