Taking a stand against bullying
By: Lili Devaney, Founder, Parents of Bullied Kids – Elk Grove
Bullying. It has been around since, well, forever. We can all remember the mean big bully taking the smaller kid’s milk money on old shows like “Leave it to Beaver” or even “Little House on the Prairie”. It has been the storyline in many movies and books. It has become what many view as an essential part of growing up. It builds character. It helps kids deal with conflict. It helps kids learn right from wrong. It helps separate the men from the boys. When we were kids, we all dealt with bullying in different ways. I avoided my bully by using the bathroom in the office, walking home with friends, and never eating lunch alone. My husband stood up to his, which usually ended up in a fight, and then the bullies left him alone once they realized he wasn’t going to deal with it. Unless it happened on the school campus, the school would stay out of it.
Bullying today is not the same as bullying when we were kids. It has actually taken on a darker turn. Kids are meaner, wittier, and smarter. We have gone beyond “I want your milk money” and “I’m going to kick your butt”, to “I’m going to roast you on Snapchat” and “You should just go kill yourself”. Kids are posting embarrassing photos and videos of each other, they are using social media to spread gossip and speak untruths about their peers, and most of the time are not being held accountable for it. Their peers, fearing being labeled a “snitch”, usually do not report the things happening on Instagram or Snapchat, so it continues.
When an adult, like myself, has had enough and stands up for their kid, we are met with harsh criticism. In the year that I have been a vocal advocate against bullying, I’ve had to deal with my own share of bullying. I am a “helicopter parent”. I’m “raising a p**sy”. I am oversharing. I should just deal with this silently. I am embarrassing my kids and my family. I’m lying or exaggerating what really happened. I am “on a crusade and should just stop”. I should let the schools handle it all. I should just shut up and let my son deal with it on his own. I should just talk to the parents.
I have heard it all. And I’ve had enough.
How many more teens need to take their own lives? How many more Snapchat videos need to come out? How many more innocent kids need to feel shamed for standing up for themselves? How many of our kids need to live in fear of fighting back against a bully, for fear of being punished by the very people who are supposed to protect them? How many more kids have to switch schools, because the administrators do not want to deal with the bully? How many more of us need to come out publicly before more is done?
“No bully zone” banners are not working. “No phones on campus” is not working. Anti-bullying awareness month is not working. PBIS programs are not working. “Zero tolerance” is not working. Assemblies with motivational speakers are not working.
You know what will work? ACCOUNTABILITY. CONSEQUENCES. FAIRNESS. All of which is severely lacking in the Elk Grove Unified School District. School administrators are not being held accountable, they’re being promoted. Bullies aren’t being held accountable, they are being protected. Victims are getting the SAME CONSEQUENCES for defending themselves against an attack from a bully. Victims are made to feel like it is their fault, even being told they “bring it on themselves”. ZERO TOLERANCE has different definitions, depending on the school and the administrator. FAIRNESS has been thrown out the window to make room for political correctness and a glowing reputation.
If you have never had to deal with bullying with your child, consider yourself lucky. But just because it hasn’t’ happened to your kid, does not mean it is not a problem. Just because in the “good old days” you would just beat the crap out of the kid bullying you, do not assume that is what will work today. This isn’t’ a “one size fits all” kind of problem. It IS A PROBLEM, as I have received story after story of families in our district who have had to deal with it. Heartbreaking stories of kids of all races, ages, and religions, being verbally and physically assaulted, and further victimized by administrators who either blame the victim, or sweep the problem under the rug.
I do not expect to stop bullying. That is an impossible feat. What needs to change is how it is dealt with. Policy changes need to happen. Until us as parents decide to stand up and push for real change, it is going to continue. I will continue to be a vocal advocate for ALL OUR KIDS. You are not alone in this.