How Not To Deal With Bullies

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The news today brought yet another tragic story of a teen suicide related to bullying.  The world lost a promising young man who had seen his share of teasing—like the time he’d dyed his hair pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

But this time, he was on the other side of the equation. He was the bully. Along with two other boys, he stood accused by his elite prep school of harassing a fellow student because of that student’s sexual orientation. The school sent the boy home and pressured him to withdraw rather than face expulsion.

Some people would have us believe that this is exactly the kind of zero-tolerance policy that is needed to stop bullies. They believe that bullies are bred in the bone, and the only way to make a school safe is to punish the bullies severely, or get rid of them.

But bullying is an act, not an identity. And, as experts and educators know, the child who is bullied in the morning may turn around and bully another child in the afternoon. 

What needs to be banished from schools is the culture that nurtures exclusion and bias, not the individual child who acts upon it. Yes, we need to protect the victims and give courage to the bystanders. But we also need to figure out how to redeem those who would bully.

Whether they’re large urban public schools or small private ones, schools need to stop blaming individual students and look to themselves. It takes a village to support a bully.   

Costello is the director of Teaching Tolerance.

Comments

I believe bullying is a way

Submitted by Concerned on 2 November 2010 - 1:21pm.

I believe bullying is a way of dealing with insecurity and possibly the bully is bullied themself at home by a parent or a sibling. There may be more incidences due to the increase in stresses in our lives these days causing feeling of lack of control. And as far as what a person is bullied for, anything to a teen can be huge, from acne to race and sexually orientation (which are huge). As we get older, most of us become more confident and comfortable with ourselves and learn how to deal with small minded people. Bullies exist at all ages. Children and teens are just more
vulnerable.

I wish I understood why

Submitted by Snelliott on 2 November 2010 - 9:45am.

I wish I understood why children/teen are committing suicide and bullying each other even more in today's generation of kids/teens. It was nothing like this back in the day. Sure, there was bullying and suicide back then, but it didn't occur as much unlike today's society. Many kids pick on others for little, petty, things like their sexuality, race, gender, ect.

When you say "back in the

Submitted by Denise M. Scotland on 2 November 2010 - 12:23pm.

When you say "back in the day", exactly when are you talking about? Are you a member of a minority group? What Country/State did you grow up in? I ask because I am 50 years young and am a womyn of color and a lesbian. I endured blatant bullying and racism from the time I entered Elementary School though my Junior year in college. I encountered more subtle racism/homophobia during Graduate School. Both occurred in East Coast states (NJ & PA).
When picked on for sexuality, race and gender it sure didn't feel "little" or "petty" -- all those things are key to my identity as a human being. It is good that you'd like to understand why. Hopefully you can engage in efforts to stop bullying and racism in your own community -- you are bound to find some answers there!

IN Peace,
DMS

I'm older than you Denise and

Submitted by Mitch Beales on 3 November 2010 - 3:43pm.

I'm older than you Denise and when I was growing up in Mississippi kids were bullied not just for their race or sexual orientation but for being a "n----- lover" or a "q---- bait." I believe that the change we see today is primarily due to the fact that at least a few kids finally feel somewhat safe revealing their sexual orientation. Frankly I think that's a sign of progress.

I agree it is a sign of

Submitted by Denise M. Scotland on 5 November 2010 - 12:22pm.

I agree it is a sign of progress "that at least a few kids finally feel somewhat safe revealing their sexual orientation." And there are many more - I had a girlfriend in High School and wished she could be my Prom date -- now youth are bring their same sex partner as their date. There are many more GSA's in even rural schools. There are more youth at gay pride events and more "safe spaces" in schools where students can go. Some parents are more accepting. Some churches are opening their arms to our community. And of course, there are tons more resource/outlets available for youth who are GLBTQQ.

I was replying to Snelliott's comments: "I wish I understood why children/teen are committing suicide and bullying each other even more in today's generation of kids/teens. It was nothing like this back in the day" by stating it WAS like that back in MY day.

In terms of teen suicide due to sexual identity or perceived identity, I'd have to say to you that there isn't much progress there....the recent rash still only includes what has been reported. The reality remains that GLBT youth commit or attempt suicide far more fequently than their straight counterparts.

I can believe that kids are

Submitted by Shania on 3 November 2010 - 11:58am.

I can believe that kids are commiting suicide I was one of those who tried to escape I am only 13 and have had this experience

I agree with Cathy! If you

Submitted by Denise M. Scotland on 5 November 2010 - 12:24pm.

I agree with Cathy! If you haven't visited the websites she mentions, you really should. It is a roller coaster ride sometimes, but IT DOES GET BETTER!

Shania, Have you checked out

Submitted by Cathy on 4 November 2010 - 11:14am.

Shania, Have you checked out the It Gets Better Videos on You Tube. Or the Trevor Project? It does get better, Hang in there!

The information provided in

Submitted by Charlie on 2 November 2010 - 1:23pm.

The information provided in this article is not sufficient to form any option: To what extent did this boy bully another student due to the other student's sexuality? Was this the teen's first offense? What role did the parents play in the decision making process and what actions did the parents take outside of the school? Did the parents' actions contribute to the teens suicide? Does the school pro-actively educate their students about the school's anti-bullying policy? Just key questions to ask before any decision is made. Investigate, analyze, document, verify, question, question, question and verify again.