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Letters to the Editor

Cruel bullying

April 17, 2010

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To the editor:

I read with great sadness the story of Phoebe Prince, the Massachusetts teen who hanged herself after being subjected to a torrent of cruel bullying. It dredged up my own memories of being bullied as a youth. I like to think that bullying made me a better person. I befriend the friendless. I stick up for people who are being picked on. I taught my daughter to treat everyone with kindness, and she is a beautiful person.

No one should tolerate bullying. It makes me sad to know that there are people who can be so cruel. How can we make it stop? I think more parental involvement in their kids’ lives. Teaching kids, by example and by word, that kindness and good moral values are important.

When I was a kid, I used to fantasize about different ways to kill myself. I decided to walk onto a railroad track when a train was coming. I didn’t go through with it because of the kindness of a teacher and my parents.

Comments

ShePrecedes 3 years, 12 months ago

What about the schools that bully their students? "A suburban school district secretly captured at least 56,000 webcam photographs and screen shots from laptops issued to high school students, its lawyer acknowledged Monday."

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gccs14r 3 years, 12 months ago

I can't believe that behavior that would be cause for termination in the workplace and subject to a restraining order &/or jail time if it happened away from work is tolerated and sometimes encouraged in the schools. People wonder why school shootings happen, but with the prevalence of bullying, it's a wonder they don't happen more often.

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whats_going_on 3 years, 12 months ago

Honestly, I think a lot of schools are scared of the parents; they can be just as much of a bully to the district, especially if they have money and power in the town, so they don't do anything to stop it. That or they are scared of the kids themselves, which wouldn't surprise me either.

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LoveThsLife 3 years, 12 months ago

I think prosecutor needs to file criminal charges against school administrators for ignoring the bullying. I was reading another article and it was common knowledge amongst the school STAFF what was going on. The day the girl was killed a teacher overheard her being taunted in a library and did nothing. I find that ridiculous. I recently read a statement from a mother of one of the bullies...she blamed everything on the victim! Absolutely ridiculous.

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ShePrecedes 3 years, 12 months ago

There are some really serious bullies posting to the ljworld forums. And they are not ousted from the forums for their bullying, but I bet their ego is dubiously expanded by it.

Makes me think that the forum bullies must be a part of ljworld in some manner or another. Fit in with the simon slant theory.

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somedude20 3 years, 12 months ago

"Takes more than combat gear to make a man Takes more than a license for a gun Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can A gentleman will walk but never run

If, "Manners maketh man" as someone said Then he's the hero of the day It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile Be yourself no matter what they say"

Englishman in New York- Sting

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powershopper 3 years, 12 months ago

Growing up I was both the subject and instigator of bullying. I would suspect a majority of us have been on both sides of this fence. Most of my experiences occured in elementary school and a few were in junior high and my sophomore year of high school (between my sophomore and junior year I gained about 70 pounds). The unfortunate fact of the matter is bullying happens. Kids have the capacity to be mean, cruel concrete thinkers unable to completely understand the consequences of their actions. I grew up okay. Most of those I know who bullied others turned out to be decent human beings. For the most part, those I knew who were bullied turned out okay as well.

While I think it is horrible that Phoebe Prince committed suicide I find it unfortunate that her "bullies" are the ones getting the lions share of the blame and will be the ones facing prosecution. My next door neighbor was bullied consistently for a number of years by myself, other kids in the neighborhood, and his classmates. At my ten year high school reunion I had a great conversation with him in which I reconciled, learned he had an advanced degree in engineering from a great university, a great career, and was happily married with Children. He turned out just fine. In the coverage of Phoebe's suicide I have seen very little, if anything, mentioned about other potential reasons for her suicide. Did she have a history of depression, were there problems at home, etc.

How sad that we have become a culture of blame in which personal accountability is no longer part of the equation. Yes. She was bullied and that is horrible. But, no, nobody forced her to take her own life.

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Deja Coffin 3 years, 12 months ago

My oldest daughter is only 5 so we haven't had a lot of experience... if any in the bullying department yet, thank goodness. Knowing that these behaviors in children can start at an early age we focus more on her being a good role model to other kids then defense against bullies. One thing we always tell her is that if she's playing that everyone is allowed to play but everyone doesn't have to play. It helps her to know that it's important to include everyone and not leave someone out but know that sometimes other kids don't want to do the same thing you're doing. We also encourage her to tell her preschool teacher thank you each day before she leaves school. At first I'd tell her to do it but now she does it on her own. I know it's not a big deal but I feel like it's the little things we teach our kids that will shape them into the teenagers and adults that they become. I may not be able to stop other kids from becoming bullies but I just hope as parents we can show our children that bullying isn't the answer.

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rtwngr 3 years, 12 months ago

I taught my children that we are not victims in our family. We engage administration and staff first. If my children were not able to resolve the issue then their mother or I would step in. My children, at every step of the process, had my permission to resist with whatever force they deemed necessary. Physical violence was always understood to be the last resort. It was never, however, removed from the list of possibilities.

Bullies will perceive kindness as weakness. There will always be those in our society that feel the need to bully in order that they may feel better about themselves. Resistance to this behavior is absolutely necessary.

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jaywalker 3 years, 12 months ago

The Prince case is tragic and normally I'm not quick to blame others around an incident. However, from what I've heard thus far some teachers and administrators better be havin' a hard time gettin' to sleep after allowing that to go on under their noses.

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Christine Anderson 3 years, 12 months ago

Well put. It is true bullying happens in private schools, too. I have thought about the virtual school option for my younger boy if problems develop after he starts Jr. High. I would not be able to give my autistic boy the specialized instruction he needs. If I did end up schooling my younger son at home in the future, I'd have one hell of a fight on my hands, from the other parenting party with whom I share custody. He would be the type to tell our son, "You're a guy-suck it up." Right.

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pumpkinpatch 3 years, 12 months ago

We had my daughter enrolled in a catholic school, where she was bullied. My husband and I contacted the teacher about the boy that would kick, hit and call her names, we were told 'Oh that is just his personality'. We pulled her out and now home school her. The best thing we could have ever done for her. Not all bulling is done in public schools.

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Christine Anderson 3 years, 12 months ago

I was a bully in high school. I once tricked a mentally disabled girl into stealing fruit from FHA orders. Yes, disgusting. This week, I found another former classmate on Facebook whom I was very mean to in Chorus. I sent her a message asking her forgiveness. I just hope I didn't cause more damage by apologizing. Why did I bully? I think it was because I felt so worthless myself. No, it absolutely did NOT make it okay. I was wrong, plain and simple.

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Christine Anderson 3 years, 12 months ago

I have to say I am so frightened for my sons. Right now, they are 4th and 5th graders at Prairie Park, and if bullying occurs there, the teachers and Mr. Barnhardt shut it down right fast and quick. I am scared of when they move on to Jr. HIgh. My older boy is my autistic fella, and very big for his age. He does understand everything that is said. He is surrounded by paras at all times, so it would be harder for a bully to directly bother him. If my younger boys hears someone else say something unkind about his brother, he lets them have it verbally. Thankfully, this does not happen very often where they are now. I'm fearful for my younger boy. He's small for his age, and a sweet, compassionate personality. He gets upset when he sees another student being picked on, and yes, he tells a staff member immediately. I don't usually share disturbing news items with him, but I did talk with him about Phoebe Prince. Still very scared, but I hope he will believe that it's best to come to me, a teacher, etc. long before he ever feels like doing that.

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edjayhawk 3 years, 12 months ago

barrypenders (anonymous) says… Big Government Public Schrools are the best place to get away with 'Bullying'. With Trainers busy thinking about and doing the kids, concerned with their Big Union Pay and all around 'Initentiveness', 'Bullying' flourishes.

Wow! You really are paranoid.

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workinghard 3 years, 12 months ago

Your comments all bring back memories of trying to get my kids through school. It is a real problem. One thing that did help was threatening the parents with a lawsuit. If it means it would cost them money they somehow find a way to control their kid. Also pressing charges and sending the police to the school also gets the parents and the schools attention. Seriously, if it is physical, press charges with the police, don't mess with the school.

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barrypenders 3 years, 12 months ago

Big Government Public Schrools are the best place to get away with 'Bullying'. With Trainers busy thinking about and doing the kids, concerned with their Big Union Pay and all around 'Initentiveness', 'Bullying' flourishes.

It is Sad that impressionalble 'Foreign' students, especially females, venture to this country buffaloed into thinking that 'America' is a nice place to grow up.

Stimulus, Big Government Schrools, and Posercare live unprecedented

Darwin bless us

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Glen Moore 3 years, 12 months ago

My daughter whom is in 3rd grade had a boy picking on her in class, calling her names and such. This was a topic of conversation during a parent teacher conference in which the teaher said she would move the boy to a different pod. She didn't and one day another boy whom sits in the same pod (pod of 5) seen the boy picking on my daughter and pushed the other boy down at recess telling him to stop. The other boy got in trouble. The teacher failed to remove the boy from the pod still. One day my daughter brings home a note from the bully making fun of her. I looked the boy up in the school directory and called the parents to describe the situation to the dad whom had a good laugh and hung up on me. So I went to his house with my daughter, knocked on the door and his dad answered. I said "hi $@face this stops today or I will become the bully and I'm not very nice as a bully" along with other statements (I'm 6'1 210 he was 5'8 140) guess what, the lill boy is just as nice as can be :) (Dads can sometimes be the hero).

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 12 months ago

I find it amazing that not a single teacher has responded to this article in this forum. Where are they? Where is there voice?

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bliddel 3 years, 12 months ago

I was bullied from 1965 through 1971. School officials usually called me a tattle-tale, and managed to never see the attacks. My own mother always believed I had brought attacks upon myself. Once, I was severely beaten with my own baseball bat. In elementary school, I tried to always carry a bookbag full of books, which I would swing to keep attackers at bay. I believe what finally stopped it (in high school) was three things: #1. I began carrying a 4" locking penknife that I could quickly flick open with one hand. #2, I made it very public that anyone who started a physical fight with me would find themselves in a fight to the death, and #3. I genuinely meant what I said. Fortunately, I was never attacked again.

So, no, I'm not at all impressed with public schools, or police, and yes, something drastic needs to be done about bullying.

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Jaylee 3 years, 12 months ago

Nope. I still agree with myself. You don't kill yourself for other people They were unhappy with themselves and multiple things in their lives.

Getting bullied on the way to the dance made him kill himself? Why would he even go to the dance if he was that unhappy about the people he'd have to be around? So many circumstances that none of us will ever truly know could have been the reason(s). This is almost getting silly.

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tomatogrower 3 years, 12 months ago

I heard a story on CNN about a school who compiled a bullies list and was trying to do something about the kids who bullied. The kid even admits to having bullied kids. Now he is being bullied for being on the list, and his mother, who was never concerned about bullies before wants the teacher disciplined and the principal fired. Maybe she should have raised a nicer kid in the first place. I can't remember where this kid lived.

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Mike Ford 3 years, 12 months ago

the subelka kid I mentioned earlier was bullied by his McLouth classmates because he was poor. They made fun of him going to a junior high dance. He hung himself. the kids bullied him into it. I survived a junior high suicide attempt 28 years ago brought on by bullying in Manhattan, Ks. Some of the kids that taunted me then are different as adults now. Still they knew no conscience as these massachucetts kids know no conscience now.

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Jaylee 3 years, 12 months ago

Dena, it sounds like you're trying to say it WAS these children's fault this girl killed herself?

Bullying cannot have been the cause for this girl killing herself in my opinion. It may have been a contributing factor in her lack of self-respect or general sadness, but not a reason to kill oneself.

All the tidbits you added about the nasty or even vindictive nature surrounding the bullying are great points supporting my argument that these were kids AT THEIR WORST, but I refuse to believe that they alone coerced the girl to hang herself.

Aside from being heartbroken or considering yourself a messenger of God(etc.), I can't think of situations where people kill themselves because of someone else, even if told to.

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denak 3 years, 12 months ago

No, I don't think it was a simple matter of "this girl had issues." Perhaps she did. Maybe they knew she was insecure, a new immigrant, and wanted to fit in. Maybe it was because she had "issues" that they targeted her.

From what I am to understand, after she killed herself, one of the girls wrote "mission accomplished" on the dead girl's Facebook wall.

According to police, many of the 9 boys and girls show absolutely no remorse for what they did and the police and DA obviously think it was more than just a little bullying, because their charges range from everything from criminal harrasment, various civil rights violations, to stalking and statutory rape.

So, not only do I think these teens need to be held accountable, I think the school (school district) needs to be held responsible because there is overwhelming documented evidence that the school knew about the bullying (most of it on school grounds and in full view of teachers) and who did nothing to stop it.

Dena

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Jaylee 3 years, 12 months ago

THHHHHHHHHHHHANK YOU artheart!! This girl had issues other than some mean boys or girls at school.

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Amy Heeter 3 years, 12 months ago

Every time a kid kills themselves these days it is blamed on bullies. A lot of kids are picked on and don't kill themselves. There are other issues in most cases.

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Jaylee 3 years, 12 months ago

Thinking back, I done some bad things defending myself. Maybe had held every time that person had bullied me til that breaking point, then unleashed it all at once? Who knows? All the instances I can think of were between 3rd grade and maybe 17 or so years old, but I feel like I was always the kinder subject in any argument. Certainly least likely to strike, but certainly wasn't about to get beat down. I did walk away from a few sucker punches. Ramble ramble ramble.... this girl needed some friends or counseling or something? Just a guess, but I bet she would have done it for some other reason(s) in the future.

What I'm saying is, I don't think it is the bully's faults, as messed up as it sounds. This girl killed herself because she wanted to kill herself.

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Tom Shewmon 3 years, 12 months ago

Defending yourself is a primal, animal instinct.....we are an animal.

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Kathy Getto 3 years, 12 months ago

You make good points, denak. Witness the frequent pack mentality of this board . Our children learn through modeling and repetition. There is much that can be done through example. We need to teach our children how to treat others and the best way to do this is by setting examples, even in the cyber world. The children are watching us even when we don't think they are - what do they see?

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Bob Kraxner 3 years, 12 months ago

It isn't entirely the kids fault. The thing for the parent to do is find out where the kid lives, go to the home and confront the parent about the problem, with both kids present, then, if it happens a second time after the warning, invite the both of them over for dinner, poison them both by putting rat poisoning in their meal, then feed them both into a tree chipper to destroy the evidence.

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Mike Ford 3 years, 12 months ago

Tonganoxie is where the school district settled for a big chunk of money with a kid, I think Theno was his last name for being bullied out of school. There's something called the 14th amendment which gaurantees equal access and protection for a public school education under federal law. That kid won on the premise that his fourteenth amendment rights were violated at tonganoxie. A sibling and I were both bullied at McLouth. Like this girl my sibling had to deal with 7 or 8 kids bullying stealing and threatening and call pranking 24/7 before caller ID. Cowards roll in groups in small towns. After we left, a kid by the name of Subelka was bullied into hanging himself. Wonderful place, really?

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acg 3 years, 12 months ago

I know some of it comes from class/money distinction. When I was in school if your jeans didn't say Guess you weren't cool and the other girls let you know. Maybe it's high time we put them all in uniforms and take away some of the reasons they have to belittle one another. Then we need to teach them that its not okay to find someone's fault or flaw and berate them about it constantly. I just don't know how one would do that. Is it human nature to be mean to one another? I see it in little ones, too, when we go to the playground or my 4 year old has slumber parties. It seems someone is always getting alienated or picked on by everyone else. I would be interested in hearing from anyone with a psych background. Is this our nature?

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Tom Shewmon 3 years, 12 months ago

"Girls can be so much more cruel than boys." -acg

This is very true , acg. I'm glad I had boys and not any girls (for kids).

A guy I used to work with had a daughter who was picked on by a group of girls. One day one of them dumped a milkshake on her head in the cafeteria. The milkshake-dumper girl was hauled off in an ambulance----true story. The milkshake dumpee-girl beat her within an inch of her life. Fighting has never been my nature and/or bullying. I know I'll catch H-E double hockey sticks for that comment.

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g_rock 3 years, 12 months ago

You know what though? A lot of kids won't tell parents and teachers what is going on if they are being bullied. They are embarrassed. They think it will make it worse. They keep it to themselves. I know this is worse for the kids. But how can you stop something that the educators and parents know little about? I guess the solution is preventative education and programs in the schools. But that may just widen the scope at the same time. This is such a hard issue to deal with on all sides.

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acg 3 years, 12 months ago

Sometimes the parents can't do much at all. Case in point, my best friend lives in Tongie. She has a daugther that goes to middle school out there and is being constantly harrassed and threatened by a hateful group of girls. They even went so far as to threaten her life repeatedly on her facebook page. Her mom called the school, who did nothing. Then she called the bully's parents, who trivialized the situation with "kids will be kids" and finally she's had to file criminal complain charges because it wouldn't stop. So far, the DA hasn't decided if "the situation even warrants their involvement". So what's a person to do? The school can't stop it, the bully's parents won't stop it and the law doesn't know if they should get involved. I told her daughter to corner the chick one day after school and beat the holy living crap right out of her and then she'd learn. I know it's not the most mature of advice but it worked for me. Every time one of those snooty b***es bothered me in school I would punch them in the mouth and/or set their pom poms on fire. They all learned real quick to give me a wide berth.

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eric1889 3 years, 12 months ago

Schools are doing things to help prevent bullying. Most have character ed classes that deal with the issue. Most even separate the classes by gender, because girls and boys do bully in different ways. Many question is when are parents going to do more to prevent this sort of bullying?

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jafs 3 years, 12 months ago

Why aren't the schools doing more to prevent this sort of bullying?

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 12 months ago

Public school staff should have no qualms about calling in parents with their children and dealing with this in no uncertain terms.

We had a friend who would NOT let his son strike back. The young child was small for his age but a taekwondo black belt. The father,also a black belt, did not want to violate the discipline.

HOWEVER the father decided to address the issue with school officials. The matter was resolved.

Obviously I believe school officials and parents should resolve the matter. When the matter reaches the point to where a child feels the need to strike back the stress involved prior to reaching the point of return violence is unhealthy.

I say parents and school officials should nip it in the bud pronto.

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acg 3 years, 12 months ago

The girl is Mass was bullied horribly and there were a few boys in on that but it was directed by a group of awful girls. Boys do bully but they do it in a different way. They'll "test" as Tom talks about but they (most of the time) lose interest and move on to something/someone else. Girls can be so much more cruel than boys. First of all, we know how to attack someone emotionally, which is so much worse that attacking them physically. We are more manipulative than the male gender, so I can just see those hateful little b's talking those two guys into doing what they wanted them do to do that poor girl with hardly any effort. Teenaged girls are already a bundle of emotions and u throw in constant torment and its a recipe for disaster. If that sort of stuff happens to my kids when they get older I'm going to teach them that you don't get mad, you get even!!

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edjayhawk 3 years, 12 months ago

I never had kids but its a lot worse then when I was growing up. You also now have self-mutilation and most recently kids burning themselves.

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independant1 3 years, 12 months ago

Yup growing up has it's speed bumps. The pecking order especially at the H.S. level is extremly cruel.

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rooster 3 years, 12 months ago

My kids are taught to mind themselves and avoid confrontation.

If all else fails though, my kids have every right to throw blows if any harassment persists.

On a final note, I believe that the parents of these kids should be held criminally responsible for their kids actions, to a degree.

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Tom Shewmon 3 years, 12 months ago

And it's horrible rbwaa. Your point is well taken! This story makes me sick to my stomach. I hope the adults involved are forced to find a new career. They obviously are not good at the one they're in. Chances are, some boys like cowboy's or mine would've put a stop to it, but that did not happen in this case.

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rbwaa 3 years, 12 months ago

Your examples describe one bully against one other person. The girl in Massachusetts was bullied by a multitude of individuals who kept up the harrassment for days, possibly weeks, and for which there was no adult intervention. It was impossible for her to defend herself like your sons did.

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Tom Shewmon 3 years, 12 months ago

Cowboy, good job on that! I talked with the principal and ass't principal too, trying to get the suspension lifted on my son and they said they had a "zero tolerance policy". It was caught (even though at a distance and alot of kids standing around) on camera and there were witnesses---lots of witnesses. I got a day shaved off and I let it go---they were going to make it a three day suspension. The same as with your son, this other kid had a history of being a bully----even to his girlfriend which was well known amongst the kids.

Back in the mid 70's when I was a freshman and a small kid, since I was a year younger than all my classmates, there were about 3-4 seniors who loved to mess with me in PE. But back then, you got what you got and that was the end of story.

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cowboy 3 years, 12 months ago

Had the same thing with my boy , he finally cold cocked him one day and got suspended , I went to the vice principal and laid into him as they well knew this kid had a Hx of harrassing kids and got the suspension lifted immediately for my boy.

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Tom Shewmon 3 years, 12 months ago

My (now senior who can bench press 335 lbs.) was bullied when he first started at Basehor-Linwood after we got custody a couple years ago. It was actually one of his football team mates who tried to "test" him. Well, the first attempt by this kid, my son merely pushed him away, knowing the consequences of an all out fight. The second time the kid came at him, the kid ended up head first in a locker bank with a gash on his forehead. They both were suspended for two days. That's how you handle a bully.

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