Big Kid Bullies Little Kid 

A recent survey by the Josephson Institute of Ethics indicates that half of the U.S. student population bullies and the other half are bullied.  Or maybe it’s the same half: Part of the day we get bullied and the rest of the day we strike back, doing the bullying ourselves. And everybody else is either clueless or refuses to get involved.   

I have to admit that I was probably more the bully than the victim thirty years ago when I was in high school.  I did two things I deeply regret.  Providentially, I just came across a contact that will give me, Lord willing, an opportunity to rectify at least one of them before I die.

In one case, I sat by while classmates called a socially backward female student a name so dehumanizing I can’t repeat it here, nor think of it without crying.  I never called her that name.   But I didn’t befriend her, nor did I stand up to defend her.  I have regretted it for decades.  I’ve not been able to locate her, if she is still alive.  But if you attended Meadowbrook High School in Byesville, Ohio back in the late 1970s, you know who you are.  And I am sorry.  Please forgive me.

In the other case, a friend or two of mine and I took a poor classmate and neighbor of mine out for a car-ride in the country.  When he got out of the car to relieve himself, we left him, several miles from home.  It wasn’t “pre-meditated”, as if that would have made a difference to Marty. But I feared all afternoon that something bad might have happened to him and was happy to see him home safe a few hours later.   But that wasn’t real repentance on my part.   That didn’t come until later.  I hope soon to ask Marty to forgive me.

The Solution.

I don’t claim to have all the answers.  But I don’t think the current plan of the Barack Obama administration and the Department of Education is the right way to go.  As usual, instead of getting at the root problem, they are trying to win points with one key constituency: The GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered) community.

Half the students being bullied proves that this has little to do with the sexual behaviors of other students. Granted; if a male students shows up in a dress, some students might snicker or make snide remarks. Or if a male student is asked to go on a date by another male student he might be offended, especially if the first student believes such behavior is morally wrong.

Do-gooders have reacted the way I did one of the few times when I was the victim of intimidation.   It all took place at my elementary school.  Somehow (just being me, I suppose), I had managed to anger two entire classrooms full of sixth-graders who surrounded me on the playground. I was so scared I suddenly just started swinging wildly.  Sadly, I only landed one punch – on Billy Dix.  Did I remember to tell you that Billy had come to defend me?  I use his real name because I want him to know how deep my regret goes, even 37 years later. Sorry, Billy.

The reason so many people fit the role of perpetrator and victim is simple.  Almost any trait or characteristic can be a source of angst in schools:  Being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses, having pimples, using a funny accent, being shy or outgoing, being too smart or not too smart; as well as dressing inappropriately or inappropriately wearing a dress.

Only one or two blacks attended rural Meadowbrook High School while I was there.  They were not bullied.  As far as I know, no one ever self-identified by his or her sexual preferences, though a minor uproar occurred when two female students came to the prom together dressed in tuxedos. I say minor, because they were not bullied; they were two of the most liked students in our class.  They even got their tux picture in the yearbook!

Part of the problem with the big governmental solution is that the terms bullying and harassment are interchanged, as well as the fact that no distinction is made between the expression of ones opinion on a moral matter and genuine harassment.  Wearing “pro-homosexual” shirts is encouraged, but wearing the opposite opinion is considered a violation of civil rights.  Government tends to exaggerate a problem or take advantage of high profile cases to implement its social agenda. 

Recently a column implied that suicides are generally caused by bullying:

“In one month, three teenagers killed themselves. These suicides had one frightening thing in common—bullying.”

He is referring to Tyler Clementi from Rutgers, Phoebe Prince, and Seth Walsh. That is very misleading. There are 3000 suicides a year committed by those between the ages of 15-24.  That is ten a day. The writer picked three high-profile cases to ratify his agenda.

Schools should punish harassment and bullying.  But it doesn’t take $400 million more in tax dollars, and a bullying attitude by the federal government, to get the job done.  And some victims should not be more equal than others.  We sometimes defend bullies because bullies are us. But when we start suggesting that those who shoot up schools are actually victims, as so many news articles tend to do, we have opened the door to justifying even more violence in schools.  Punish all genuine perpetrators, like me.   But leave the psycho-babble at home.  I didn’t really bully because I was bullied, I bullied because the heart is deceitful above all things, and who can know it?  And it certainly wasn’t anybody’s fault but mine: not the school’s and not my parent’s.

7 comments
  1. David, it is wonderful that you take responsibility for what you have done, there is pride in that. However, identifying some you turn an commit violence of their own as victims of bullying does not grand absolve them of their acts, it attempts to identfy the cause. Any violence must be met with appropriate punishment but to wait until the vicitm of bullying snaps and commits violence of their own is not an appropriate approach. Punish all offenders for their actions, but attempt to create an environment that reduces the likelihood of making more offenders. In a word, soceity must own up to their contribution to the negative environment and make changes!

    1. I agree that we need not wait until a person who is bullied responds with violence. I believe intervention by parents or teachers can help ward off escalation. But I actually sense a trend in becoming more “understanding” of the perpetrator. This is as bad as justifying violence on the part of the victim who has truly now become the super-bully with the gun. And when victims become perps, they end doing like me, striking out at anybody who gets in the way, even those who would be friend.

      I think we agree far more than we disagree.

    2. I agree that we need not wait until a person who is bullied responds with violence. I believe intervention by parents or teachers can help ward off escalation. But I actually sense a trend in becoming more “understanding” of the perpetrator. This is as bad as justifying violence on the part of the victim who has truly now become the super-bully with the gun. And when victims become perps, they end doing like me, striking out at anybody who gets in the way, even those who would be friend.

      I think we agree far more than we disagree.

      1. david, I agree I think we do agree more than disagree. What I am trying to point out is that we, as a soceity, tend to jump on the punishment aspect of violence and then forget, or rather conveniently ignore, the factors that lead to that violence. Whether we does this because it smacks too much of “witch hunting” or, probably closer to the truth, we fear that our own actions and attitudes were a contributing factor I am not sure. Too often the actions of those in authority, the Anti-Bullying message from the DOE is an example, are usually to little to late and seldom address the whole spectrum of issues that do need to be addressed. But even having said that, SOMETHING must be done. I have been witness to far too much harassment and bullying targeting the glbti youth to accept simple solutions, or half hearted ones.

        Frankly I am, at times, at a loss as to the scope of things that need to be done.

  2. I was moved by your candor. Several years ago I heard a powerful song called “I’m Sorry” by David Kauffman. It was played on Contemporary Christian radio. It reminded me of how I had treated a young girl on my school bus—which flooded me with regret. You can hear the song at his website:

    http://www.goodforthesoulmusic.com/index.htm

    Thanks again for the eye-opening, refreshing article. I know it came from the heart.

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