By Shirleen M. Robins Matthews
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]
There are many school aged children that experience bullying statistics show that 30 percent or 5.7 million middle to high school students are affected by bullying or other aggression according to a U.S. National study (“bullying”). These are cases that are reported imagine the victims that have not come forward because of fear that they will be bullied again. The same research has shown that bullies suffer from mental problems or may have low self-esteem, empathy or elevated levels of anxiety, depression or anger. Bullying has become a complex problem with many children experiencing feelings of depression, and at times so alone with no one to share their problems. The word bully used as a verb, means, “to intimidate by an overbearing swaggering demeanor or by threats.” When used as an adjective, bullying means “to be overbearing, blustering” (“Bullying”).
In the article, “School Bullies: …,” the author argues that bullies don’t even know that they are bullies because it’s so engrained in their lives as normal as breathing air. He also states that being a “bully” is a skill that is taught (Kropar). Their home life is filled with anger and agitation, a perfect breeding ground to learn this skill. There are many reasons that cause children to become bullies such as: the environment, their financial status, their mental health or physical appearance. Children who are bullied at first try ignore it hoping that it will go away. After repeated episodes of bullying happens to the victim, they seek help from their parents who turn to the school administrators, who fail to solve the bully problem because they are not equipped with the necessary tools to help these victims.
Such is the case of Tyler, in the documentary video “Bully…” who was a good kid, couldn’t stand loud noises, set apart, a loner, he didn’t like being around crowds of people. He wasn’t athletic so no one wanted him on their team. Tyler was verbally and physically bullied by his school mates from elementary school, middle and unto high school, it seemed there was a target on his back. The bullying became even more brutal, the perpetrators knocked him around, shoved his head in the locker, had his books knocked off his desk, he was harassed and endured mental abuse. Tyler was constantly told by the bullies that he was worthless. His parents reached out to the school authorities, the police department and other city officials with hopes of some kind of support for their son. His father said, Tyler came home crying on many occasions until he couldn’t cry anymore, fell into depression and sadly succumbed to suicide. His younger brother had found Tyler’s body hanging in the closet of his room, dead in his own home. His parents are left behind trying to find answers by calling a town meeting to address the problem of bullying in the school. Tyler’s bedroom is now used as the headquarters for a project to help those who are victims of bullying. What could have been done to prevent this tragedy from happening? Right now, it’s too late for Tyler, but his parents are determined to help other children who have experienced bullying by being available by email or phone as an uplifting encouragement to those in need.
Families that suffer financially are targets for bullies or become bullies themselves. Bullies often come from single parent homes. Many parents don’t have enough education and are only able to work at lower paying jobs, some must hold down two jobs and live in substandard facilities. They are doing the best that they can to support their children, but it’s not enough for a teenager. Such is the case of Kim whose birthday was coming up and asked her mother to buy her a game system. Her mother only had enough to pay the rent and buy food for the family. Her mother told her that she didn’t have the money to buy it. Kim, tired of not having what the other kids have, became violent in school and bullied other students in school. Finally, Kim’s bullying behavior was bought to the attention of schools administrators by her victims and their families. Her mother was notified and called to meet with the teachers, and other school administration to address Kim’s bullying behavior.
In another situation, Jerry’s parents used illegal drugs daily and they could care less about Jerry or his wellbeing. Jerry has to fend for himself and he does it the best way he knows. As a result of the neglect at home, he starts to bully other kids at school. He beats them, takes their money and possessions by force, and doesn’t care what the consequences are. School authorities are notified because of the reported abuse Jerry has afflicted on other children. His parents are approached by the police, they are found to be unfit and Jerry is taken away from his parents and placed in a foster home. Fortunately for Jerry, the foster parents are very loving and attentive to his needs and Jerry’s behavior drastically changes for the better. It was evident that Jerry took what he thought he wanted from others, when in reality all he needed was the love and support of his parents.
Children who look and act differently, suffer from mental problems, or have a physical disorder, sadly get bullied and take a lot of abuse. The frustration may bring them to the point of no return and may result in the victim becoming the bully. For example, in the documentary “Bully”, Alex, whose appearance alone makes him a target for bullies, has a form of autism called mild Asperger’s Syndrome and the bullies call him Fishface. On the bus, the many bullies attacked him from all sides, they kicked, punched, choked, hit him in the head, and threatened him on a daily basis, in school he wandered around aimlessly, while standing in the lunch line other said nothing happened when students took his food. The video shows Alex’s mom worrying because he doesn’t share with her what is happening to him. The principal is lost and doesn’t know what to do. His parents try to help but, during a conversation with his dad, Alex was blamed for not standing up to the bullies. Because of his lack of fighting back, it may affect his sister who will be attending his school soon because they are worried she might be bullied too. It’s a losing battle for Alex being bombarded at every corner by the bullies and now his parents blame him for the situation that he has no control over. Eventually, Alex has enough of being bullied and wants to be the bully himself, which would ultimately perpetuate the cycle of bullying.
Do children that live here in Hawaii get bullied? That is a good question. Apparently bullying news travels worldwide. Recently, here in Hawaii a case of alleged cyber-bullying by a member of the cheerleading squad at McKinley High School became known worldwide. The article, “Cheerleaders accused….” appeared in British paper The Daily Mail, notes that parents of the cheerleading squad were outraged and complained that the team, who were not allowed to practice or fundraise, are still responsible for the cost of the uniforms. What about the victim of the alleged cyber-bullying? One of the cheerleaders told the TV station no form of bullying happened. Parents of the cheerleaders remarked that other sports teams had not been reprimanded for bullying, so why, should our cheerleaders be singled out. The Department of Education is investigating the claims of cyber-bullying and will make a decision on who will be punished for the cyber-bullying incident (“Cheerleaders”). This is an example of people trying to sweep the problem under the rug. The problem of cyber-bullying is prevalent among the younger generation because of the easy access to electronics devices.
In addition, Curtis Kropar, a longtime Honolulu resident and executive director of Hawaiian Hope, a technology-based nonprofit organization, writes in the article, “School Bullies: We Have…” states that Hawaii is full of bullies. According to his article, bullying can be found at every level of our beautiful state. Every child that bullies has parents that are bullies themselves and they don’t even realize it because it’s a lifestyle that they grew up with and has been thought to be normal. Kropar, wants the readers to choose between a life filled with violence or to promote a life of harmony.
Yet, another report of suicide by a gay teenager makes the news in Hawaii because the family originated here (Sakahara). Recently, Brandon’s family moved to El Paso Texas, and all he wanted to do is to fit in, but, because people could not accept Brandon, he ended his life by taking a fatal amount of pills. This was a result of repeated threats to himself and his family by fellow students at his El Paso Texas high school. As his family grieves and prepares for an emotional goodbye, while hoping to raise awareness against frequent bullying. Texas Congressman Silvestre Reyes sent a letter to Brandon’s family, pledging to use his story to force better rules against bullying and perhaps make safe zones in schools.
Sadly these examples warrant some kind of action on the part of those in authority. Has society taken a back seat with bullies and bullying victims? An article, “School Bullies: Hawaii …,” states that in October 2011, a $1 million, “peaceful schools” campaign, was launched with six public service announcements featuring students, athletes and schools officials speaking out against bullying. The program expectations were: annual training, routine monitoring of student behavior data, and the development of a confidential reporting system (Eagle). But according to the writer, it’s unclear what aspects have been implemented or how effective they have been. The board’s first annual report to the governor this year doesn’t mention bullying once. Somebody dropped the ball; where did the money that was given specifically for this campaign go? A 2009 Department of Education survey found that 51 percent of students felt bullied and 63 percent agree it’s a problem (Eagle). The writer gives an account of representatives that want lawmakers to address the bullying problem. Bill called HB688 is a “good first step” says, Rep. Angus McKelvey because it’s a renewed effort to pass a bill to address bullying. He also mentioned that a report be required to tell the Legislature of what progress has been made by the DOE.
What if your child is the bully? Some parents don’t care as long as their child doesn’t get hurt. Let someone else worry about it. People have a different perception of bullying, some parents say it’s just a phase, something they have to overcome themselves. But other parents take it very serious and their reaction is that they are very surprised and shocked that their child was the bad one. As reported by Treena Shapiro, a Honolulu-based freelance writer and editor, she has worked previously for the Honolulu Advertiser, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Associated Press. In the article, “When your kid is the bully”, Shapiro gives several examples of parents that don’t know to look for help until their child gets into trouble. One mother from Makiki, whose son, a fifth grader, apparently coerced classmates out of their gift cards to play online video games, took action by taking his computer privileges away and was shocked to find the kind of language used between her son and his friends on Facebook. She sat him down and talked about empathy and compassion for others, not one word was spoken by him, but she knew he was listening. She remained diligent in monitoring his computer activity and let him back on Facebook only if he friended her. She hopes he’ll outgrow the bullying stage. This parent accepted that her child was wrong and dealt with the problem, four years past without any problems with other kids in school at least none that was reported to the office. Another example, a 10 year old daughter of a Kaneohe mother, dealt with bullies teasing her about her appearance since first grade. Her perpetrator’s mother led the afterschool program and threatened to go to her mom if she was told on for bullying. The problem didn’t go away even though the bullies parents were notified, all the authorities did was to talk to the bullies, but nothing else was done. This 10 year old still sees a psychiatrist and three years later, still struggles with being teased, but handles it better. Shapiro, offers to her readers numerous organizations: The Bully Project, PACER Center and Education.com, that offer advice for parents trying to stop their children from bullying others. She also gives parents some tips which include staying involved in your children’s lives, teaching positive behaviors like empathy, compassion and respect, facing the problem head-on, and if necessary, seeking professional help (Shapiro). Many people feel helpless when their child bullies or are bullied, so these organizations can educate parents who are seeking answers to preventing bullying.
The problem of bullying continues to plague many children and families. There are all kinds of bullying that happen on school playgrounds, in classrooms, at the workplace, driving on the roadways, or electronically by cyber-bullying, sending sexual pictures with captions without that person’s knowledge or consent. Bullying is a complex problem that is not easily remedied. Many children and adults who are bullied never get the attention that they need to help them overcome the feelings of utter despair that leads them to suicide. But, there is hope as mentioned earlier, there are organizations willing to help counsel families with this problem of bullying.
One answer to this problem could be time spent with these children that are bullies and those that are bullied. Quality family time spent going to the beach, or play time at the park, and yet again just sitting facing each other and talking about what happened in school. Children need a nurturing and stable home life which is a missing factor in many of today’s busy lifestyles.
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“Bully”: PG-13 Version. Dir. Lee Hersh. Weinstein Co. & Where We Live Films. 2012 DVD
“Bullying.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. 2013. Web. 19 Oct.
Casebeer, Cindy M. “School Bullying: Why Quick Fixes Do Not Prevent School Failure.
“Preventing School Failure, 56, 3pp. 165-171 Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 Nov. 2013
“Cheerleaders accused of cyber-bullying at Hawaii high school complain that THEY are being treated unfairly.” Daily Mail Reporter 12 Nov. 2013. The Daily Mail (UK). Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
Eagle, Nathan. “School Bullies: Hawaii Still Struggling To Help Tormented Kids.” Honolulu Civil Beat. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.
Kropar, Curtis. “School Bullies: We Have No One To Blame But Ourselves.” This Community Voice 2 Aug. 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.
Sakahara, Tim. “Gay teen’s suicide prompts action against bullying.” Hawaii News Now 22 June 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.
Shapiro, Treena. “When your kid is the bully” Honolulu Magazine Apr. 2013 Web. 20 Nov. 2013.