Friday, September 24, 2010
Bullying: The Serious Side
Out of nowhere Corbin stated to me that he does not want to go to school on Monday. Corbin has always loved school and has never asked not to go. In fact I've heard many times from him that there shouldn't be vacations (I'm going to remind him of this when he's a teenager). So I knew something was up.
It didn't take much prodding for him to spill that he's been the target of some bullying at school. Up to this point, at the old ripe age of seven, we haven't had any of these kind of struggles. Corbin has a speech articulation problem which makes him sound rather immature and it also lends a hand in his struggles with reading. Up to this point none of his peers cared. Well I guess it's a whole other ball field in second grade.
He's had a peer laugh at him while he was reading and tell him that he should be in Kindergarten. Someone wrote a note and passed it to him that said "You're stupid". Another peer told him he should be in "Level A in Rocket Math" though he's already in Level D (and quite proud of this fact).
I hate this. I hate that Corbin truly tries so hard to learn things that are difficult for him only to have someone laugh at him. I hate that he has this speech problem because he is very intelligent with an above-average IQ. I hate to think what effect these words and actions could potentially have on my sensitive little boy. I hate bullying.
This isn't my first rodeo with bullying. I've actually had a strong passion for this subject for a couple years now and have done a few different papers on the topic. My passion began when my beautiful baby sister tried to end her own life.
One night a year and a half ago I was awoken by the phone ringing. It was my sister crying hysterically that our baby sister had been life-flighted to a nearby hospital. There wasn't much details about what happened but I immediately headed out my door to make the 90 minute drive to the hospital.
I arrived to find my then 13 year old sister in a non-responsive state. She was essentially in a coma. During this time we were told many theories on why she could be in this state. One of them was the possibility of an overdose. Not a single one of us believed that could be the case. Not our Lucy. It was a full day before she started to respond to us and we started to get answers.
It was no secret that Lucy had struggled more in school than her older siblings. She had to work hard at school because of a non-verbal learning disorder she had. It took her more dedication and more time than the average student to learn new subjects. It was frustrating for her, as one would expect it to be.
What we weren't aware of was the fact that she had been the target of bullying for years. A certain group of people loved to call her a "retard", "stupid", and when those got boring decided to make rumors about her sexuality. She was excluded from certain "cliques" and made to feel like an outcast. After years of this treatment she began to believe what the other kids said about her- she felt stupid, worthless, and like there was no way her life was going to get better.
At this point she thought the only answer was to swallow a handful of over-the-counter medications found in my parents' bathroom.
Lucy's story isn't a rare story. When this happened, I thought it was rare. I'm a researcher by nature so after leaving the hospital I googled things like "teen suicide", "bullying suicide", etc. and found that this is more common than we all want to admit.
Bullying is a serious matter and it can have long-term consequences on all parties involved (the victim, the bully, the bystanders). Parents need to realize it's not just an unfortunate part of growing up and take it seriously. Schools need to make strict policies on the matter and follow the policies. Most states now have laws against bullying but not many people are aware of that.
This post started as just a "woe is me" type but I realized the potential to show the serious nature of bullying and spread a bit more awareness. A big thank you to Lucy for allowing me to share her story- I love you Lucy!
A great resource, that I also used for a presentation this past summer, is the website Stop Bullying Now! Make sure to check it out!
Posted by Heather Nelson at 9:25 PM