By Emma Jordan
Waianae High School-ENG 100
Instructor Danny Wyatt
Leeward Community College-Wai’anae
[Note from the instructor: The assignment was for students to write a research paper using their three previous essays as a basis. The topic is “Bullying,” and it started with a video on bullying I showed to the class. They then wrote a cause/effect essay concentrating on the effects of bullying. The second essay was to examine why people (kids) bully one another — looking at the process that kids go through when they become bullies. The final paper was a persuasive essay on what should be done to address this issue: put all three together, cite them, develop the cited idea, and “voila” they have a research paper (more or less). -Danny Wyatt]
According the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System in 2011, 20% of high schoolers were being bullied (“Risk Factors”). That means that one fifth or one of five of all students have to deal with the side effects of being bullied. Often times, parents confuse schoolyard teasing and outright bullying. In the Charlotte Observer, John Rosemond defines bullying as “repeated, aggressive behavior among school-age children that involves a power imbalance” (Rosemond). Many people want to completely stop bullying, but it can never be fully eradicated, only reduced.
According to the Declaration of Independence, people are guaranteed the right to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This right is being hijacked from bully victims, 90% of whom suffer negative side effects (“Alarming Bullying Statistics in the USA”). In short, bullying causes victims to become miserable by depriving them of their happiness. If there are still skeptics, staggering bullying statistics, characteristics of bullies and their victims, and actions taken to address this issue shows the magnitude of this ever increasing problem.
Statistics offer factual evidence into the rising problem. Two hundred eighty two thousand students in America alone are bullied each month and bullycide rates have grown 50% in the last thirty years (“Bullying Statistic 2010”). If these numbers continue to rise, more and more students will be subjected to the wrath of bullies. Lasting effects from bullying can also become a problem for victims later on it life. Mike Sarkany was bullied as a child and slowly disengaged himself from his peers. Almost fifty years later, he lives alone and doesn’t like interacting with others because he is “still wary of being treated cruelly and feels he never learned how to deal with it” (Landau). According to Rana Sampson, director of development at the San Diego Center for Children, Sarkany’s reaction could get worse and manifest into “anxiety and insomnia” (Landau). Instances like this prove that childhood bullying doesn’t go away when victims leave school; it affects them well into adulthood.
Bullies themselves are also victims in the endless cycle of bullying. In 2010, 54% of students who witnessed physical abuse at home are more likely to become bullies (“Alarming Bullying Statistics…”). That means over half of bullies in America are established at home where the root of the problem lies. Deplorable home lives need to be improved to reduce bullying in schools. Bullying often starts with potential victims standing out by their social differences. In high school and middle school, being sociable is a huge aspect to being accepted by peers. If someone is awkward and shy, they are easy targets for bullies. The documentary Bully follows several teenagers that are bully victims, and one of the first people the audience meets is Alex (Bully). Alex is bullied for being socially awkward, something he can’t help due to his Asperger’s syndrome. This syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder, or PDD, which effects how people act in social situations. Alex is consistently bullied both verbally and physically because he acts differently. This is just one example of social differences leading to bullying, yet it happens every day in middle and high schools.
Perhaps a more obvious target for bullies is people who stand out because of their ethnic differences. The instant bullies see someone who looks different from them and the rest of the school, it puts a big target on that person’s back. Usually, Caucasians are not the prime target for bullies because they are not considered a minority. In Hawaii, however, white people usually don’t live in the more rural parts of Oahu and look different form the locals. Verbal taunts follow them, pointing out their white skin and the way they talk. There is also a “kill haole day” which is when students gang together and physically beat up a pre-picked white person. Although the bullies don’t actually kill the victim, they severely hurt them. Ethnic differences may never be fully solved, however, educating students on the cultural differences with each person may help to reduce it.
Furthermore, differences in sexual preferences have caused bullies to torment those they consider ‘inferior’ because they aren’t heterosexual. Bullies don’t only target victims that are gay or lesbian, they also target people who are associated with gays or lesbians. For instance, Damien McGee-Backes isn’t gay, but his two dads are. Immediately upon entering fifth grade at a new school, “the bullying started right away” (Hawkins). Damien has been physically, mentally and emotionally abused for years and although his parents complained to the school board, they have received no assistance. That’s when they realized they couldn’t rely on the school board to help stop the bullying. Unfortunately, like thousands of other victims, Damien has yet to stop his tormentors.
Equally as bullied is transgender students. Sixteen year old, Marina High School student, Cassidy Lynn Campbell was born Lance Campbell, yet she “ always felt like a girl” (Murphy). She was recently crowned Homecoming Queen, and what should have been a joyous time for her was crushed because her some of her classmates bullied her after her crowning victory. Although her peers were the ones that voted her Homecoming Queen, other student’s harsh words greatly affected her. In a YouTube video created shortly after homecoming, Cassidy said, “I’m tired of life” (Murphy). Put-downs and insults have broken her down and she is just one of thousand transgender students bullied for being different.
On the other hand, bullies often get abused at home themselves. Being abused or seeing abuse between parents can make the bully feel powerless and less in control of their lives (Sognonvi). This sense of powerlessness can lead them to lash out at their peers to try and gain control of any situation in their life. In this way, bullying becomes an endless cycle. From abuse at home to abuse at school, the bullies are just looking for power and acceptance among peers. Sadly, the go about it the wrong way. Along with abusive homes, some teenagers have to deal with neglect which can cause them to want attention. Unfortunately, seeking this attention can sometimes cause the teenager to become a bully. Whether it be abusive or neglected homes, bullies often are the result of their lamentable home life.
In fact, studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between violence at home and bullies. To help reduce bullying, the American Psychological Association advises parents to monitor the television and video games their children watch (“Raising Children to Resist…”). The media depicts violence as part of a glamorous lifestyle and teenagers are exposed to this on a daily basis. Furthermore, parents need to lead by example. Children are prone to imitate their parent’s actions and reactions, so parents need to reduce the violence in their own home first. Although the root of the problem can be identified, not much has been done to address the problem to help reduce bullying. If no one catches the bullying in time, however, the attacks can escalate.
Bolstered by not getting reprimanded, bullies often torment their victims even more. Whether that be more frequent attacks, or the attacks themselves get worse, the bullying can greatly increase. Now that both the victim and the bully know nothing gets done about the bullying, it festers and grows into something even worse than it already was. For instance, one teenager followed in the documentary Bully, is Kelby from Oklahoma who is bullied for being trans-sexual and lesbian. She and her family are verbally harassed daily. Her tormenting worsened when a group of high school students tried to run her over in their minivan. That’s when her father offered to the move the family to stop the torment (Bully). This escalation is just one instance of bullying becoming worse over time if nothing gets done about it. Unfortunately, many times students like Kelby don’t tell any authority figure about the bullying.
A main problem that hinders reducing bullying is lack of action. When a student or parent tells a teacher or principal about a bullying incident, they are often met with empty promises. In the case of Alex, his parents told the school principal that Alex is bullied consistently on the bus ride to and from school. The principal claims that she had been on that bus route and the children were “as good as gold” (Bully). However, footage from the bus proved that Alex was pushed, choked, shoved and verbally abused. Although the bullies on that bus can’t all blame a wretched home life for their actions, over half of students in America can (“Alarming Bullying Statistics…”). To solve this increasing levels of bullying, the root of the problem needs to be addressed; the bullies home life.
Besides notifying authority, which is rare, victims often bottle up their feelings and tell no one about what they have to go through. This reaction often leads to emotional strain when the victim gets older and older (Pappas). A huge minority that are often bullied in high school are the gay and lesbian students. In a 2009 survey, “62.4 percent of bullied gay and lesbian teens did not report the harassment to school officials” and a third of students who did report the abuse said that nothing was done to stop it (Pappas). Even victim’s friends may not tell anyone about the bullying because they feel that their friend, might not want to draw attention to themselves or become the target for even more bullying. Sadly, bully victims usually never tell anyone about their abuse because they fear retribution by their attackers.
Whether the victims tell authority figures about their abuse or not, the worst reaction is when the victim becomes the attacker in a homicidal incident. Victims can only take so much until they reach their boiling point and decide to take it out on their fellow peers. The now infamous Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting forced officials to look into the motives behind shooter twenty year old Adam Lanza’s rampage. When Lanza attended Sandy Hook as a student himself, he was bullied so much that his mother often came to school with him to make sure that no one would bully him (Lysiak). Adam was also considered the quiet one that wouldn’t ever stand up for himself, making him an easier target. Although Adam Lanza’s reaction occurred years later, it shows the mental strain put on bully victims.
Specifically in Hawaii, bullying is a serious issue that state senators and educators are trying to reduce. According to the Honolulu “Civil Beat”, in 2012, a meeting with Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland helped shed light on a possible solution to this ever increasing problem. Education specialist, Jean Nakasato, introduced a new “student support system” focusing on “academic and behavioral development” (Eagle). Nakasato’s plan is to require schools to have annual anti-bullying presentations along with an early warning system. Although these initiatives may help to reduce bullying, past anti-bullying presentations prove futile. Often times, students tune out the presentation, having had the same one the year before. Ultimately, anti-bullying presentations often fall on deaf ears and having no real effect on the bullies. If Nakasato’s initiative proves effective, bullying in Hawaii can be greatly reduced.
Clearly, bullying is a serious issue that needs to be reduced. The bullying process starts from the second bullies target a person for being different and the bullies home life is less than decent. From there it flows to the actual bullying, the reaction to the bullying, the escalation of bullying and finally to the bullying peak. This process can happen quickly, or it can expand of months or even years of torment. Adam Lanza’s massacre of the Sandy Hook students and Tyler, who killed himself rather than continue being bullied, are both prime examples of the terrible effect bullying has on everyone involved. Bullying is very wide-spread and, therefore, hard to stop. Violence in home lives, however, is a good place to start to try and reduce bullying.
Research shows the devastating effects of bullying on media outlets like the news every day. Society needs to realize the gravity of the problem and the need to reduce it. In the last thirty years, “bullycide” rates have increased 50% (Bullying Statistics 2010). This alarming statistic shows the urgency with which people need to address bullying. The Center for Disease Control or CDC, “established links between bullying, being a bully victim and a child’s home life” (Waldron). Multiple studies from the CDC have found that the home life is a major contributor in bullying. The issue of “home grown” bullies needs to be a focus for parents and teachers in order to reduce bullying.
As the Center for Disease Control has researched, there is a direct correlation between bullies and their shameful home lives. Furthermore, as Alex and countless others have proven, the threat of bullies lingers over the victims. Bullying can never be fully abolished, only reduced. However, if we go to the homes of the bullies, we may be able to make a significant dent in the ever growing bullying problem. Stopping children from watching violent television and video games can greatly decrease the amount of violence in their lives. Educating parents is another great way to curtail violence in homes. Children learn by example, so parents need to be aware of how they are portraying themselves to their children. If home lives are improved, that is one step further form reducing the threat of bullying in our society today.
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