Deaths from Bullying
by William Jackson, M.Edu
Consulted with Cheryl Williams, LPN
There are tragic stories of young people like 15 year old Phoebe Prince who
have taken their lives because of bullying. Even Iain Steele a 15 year old
that lived in Chicago and had a promising future in high school and
Carl Walker-Hoover 11 years old, even though he was a Boy Scout and
football player. The Springfield, Mass., young man was ruthlessly teased
and harassed. He was even active in his church, but was affected by
bullying to the point where he committed suicide. Bullying crosses race,
gender and cultural lines. Carl was African American. The list tragically
grows for teens and young people that are attempting suicide and even
tragic the ones that are successful.
Enduring the torment, embarrassment of being harassed in an atmosphere
where Phoebe should have been protected, nurtured and safe. She was a
high school student in South Hadley, Mass. Instead of expectations of a
great year in high school she was tormented verbally and online
(cyberbullying). She is not the only story; there are growing stories of
students from elementary, middle and high school who experience various
levels of bullying, harassment and torment at the amusement of others.
The most notable is that of Jeffrey Johnston, who took his life in 2004 after
being bullied. Jeffery a 15-year-old boy committed suicide after being
bullied, including Internet bullying (cyberbullying). His tragic story has
resulted in the “Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act” (Fla. Stat.
Statistics from Health Resources and Services Administration estimates
that up to 25 percent of American students are bullied and the numbers
are rising. School is supposed to be a safe haven, but according to Jonathan
Cohen, President of the Center for Social and Emotional Education
(http://schoolclimate.org/), more than 160,000 American students stay
home from school on any given day because they’re afraid of being bullied.
Jonathan Cohen, “Bullying undermines the ability for children in grades
K-12 to learn and develop in healthy ways.” Bullying has been noticed by
the American Academy of Pediatrics and will for the first time include a
section on bullying in its official policy statement on the pediatrician’s role
in preventing youth violence.
What is bullying?
Many parents do not understand the complexity of bullying. State
statutes defines bullying as systematically and chronically inflicting
physical hurt or psychological distress through teasing, social
exclusion, threats, intimidation; stalking, physical violence, theft,
sexual, religious or racial harassment, public humiliation, or
destruction of property. This includes harassment of LGBT
students who face taunting, discrimination and even death threats.
These just like any other group of young people have dreams and
aspirations of contributing to their communities, having families,
careers and enjoying life. These expectations of life are sometimes
questioned when they are bullied and tormented by those who are
ignorant to the lives of others. “From Teasing to Torment: School
Climate in America” (2010) students across the country said their
peers were most often bullied because of their appearance, but the
next top reason was because of actual or perceived sexual
orientation and gender expression.
Even some churches which claim to accept all of God’s children bully
LGBT students by creating atmospheres where young people feel
unwelcomed by verbal nuances and subliminal messages which
demean, embarrass and ostracize. The issue of bullying has grown
to where “Sesame Street” has even created a bullying prevention
program. Children as young as three years old have displayed
bullying characteristics in school and in their communities.
Laws and Acts
Because of the increases in bullying behaviors schools districts,
law enforcement and legislatures of various states have enacted
Acts and Laws as protection against these actions. Mentioned above;
the “Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act”
(Fla. Stat. section 1006.147). Debbie Johnston the mother of Jeffrey
stated, “Everybody is recognizing that bullying isn’t a rite of passage,
it’s not a part of childhood, and it doesn’t build character.”As a result
of Jefferies death the Act “Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students
Act” was created. The Act requires districts to adopt new anti-bullying
policies and spells out that those policies must address “cyberbullying”;
taunts and harassing messages delivered by computer, cell phone or
other technologies. Schools on a local level are taking serious bullying
after several unfortunate instances that were reported in local and
national media outlets of violence.
Schools are required to investigate any reports of bullying, including
cyberbullying and notify all parents to be more involved. There are
even forms that are created to report bullying, by name or anonymously.
Parents should check with school guidance counselors for more
information about intervention, prevention and proactive strategies.
The unfortunate truth is that only a small number of incidents are
reported to school officials, teachers, administrators and even parents.
Many schools have their own police force, but still there is a great
hesitancy to report cases of bullying or harassment. Students are scared
because of retribution from increased bullying and the torment of other
family members that may be drawn into these actions.
It is now a matter of life and death that students get past “snitching” and
alert parents, teachers, and even law enforcement officials.
The quote; “It takes a village to raise children” has been stated several
times by Mrs. Hillary Clinton during her bid for the Democratic
nomination in 2008. Truer words have not been spoken about raising
children in the twenty and twenty-first century. The White House in
2010 and 2011 has held a Bullying Prevention Conference for parents
and children. The Yale School of Medicine conducted analysis of the
link between childhood bullying and suicide in 37 studies from 13
countries, finding both bullies and their victims were at high risk of
contemplating suicide. All this information is interconnected to empower
families with education. Children are exposed to many challenges,
but schools should be a safe haven, a refuge from bullying, harassment,
discrimination, physical and emotional harm. The results of bullying
last a life time of emotional turmoil that parents must address. Below
are resources to aid parents in helping them to deal with bullying if their
children are exposed, experiencing or involved in bullying.
Parents need to be more informed, involved and proactive. Checking
their children’s online activities, cell phone records and talk to teachers,
guidance counselors, and administrators. The unfortunate
reality is children and teens will not tell their parents about being bullied
especially boys because they do not want to be labeled as “soft”. There is
a “code” among young people that they abide by because they feel no
one is listening to them or taking them seriously. Stated by Cheryl Williams
an LPN of over 20 years in Jacksonville, Florida and mother of three
adult men. She states that, “the underlying stress and anxiety from
bullying lasts a life time. It can lead to personality disorders, emotional
instability, drug/substance abuse, unhealthy dietary changes and to
the extreme suicidal thoughts and actions.”
Parents start listening and watching for unspoken signs of behavioral
change and emotional instability. Be proactive to the issue of bullying
and harassment, talk to your children every day about their day,
their friends, and their emotional and mental stability. Importantly
follow your instincts as a parent.
Stop Bullying Now
Interactive Cartoons for Kids
See, read, and hear the impact that bullying has had on people’s lives.
PBS Parents Information
This is an interactive quiz on bullying
Youth Violence Statistics
Sexting – A Brief Guide for Educators and Parents
Sexting Policies in Schools