I saw the movie "Bully" last week and I left the theatre filled with sorrow and rage. The movie was more powerful and moving than I expected. How has bullying gotten so out of hand and in some cases, deadly, and what we can do to stop it?
Bullying has been going on for years. What I've noticed these days is that bullies are becoming more cruel and brazen and victims have no recourse. Teachers are powerless, parents either don't notice or are unable to do anything and the victims are left feeling powerless, helpless and unprotected. In many cases some victims of bullying turn to suicide as their only way out. This is unacceptable.
The movie ends with a call for other children to stand up and help when they witness a bullying situation. I've heard politicians in education also ask for students to step in. The premise is that if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
Is it fair to put the burden on children to speak up and help when they see someone being bullied? I agree that it would be fantastic if that happened and I'm all for sending that message, but is it really realistic? Bullies scare me -- one can only imagine how terrifying it is to confront a bully head on. In some cases, they are carrying weapons. Bullies threaten to kill kids if they ask for help or tell anyone. We're talking about children here. Putting the onus on them is a big burden to carry and this can't be the only solution.
Over the years I've noticed teachers/school administration losing their power. Are they afraid of parents? Of being sued? When I was growing up teachers were to be feared and you thought twice about crossing them. Getting in trouble with the principal was serious business. It is inexcusable that so little is being done within the school systems to punish bullies. What I've heard from school administrations (including at my own kids' schools) and what was echoed in the movie is that "kids will be kids." These situations go way beyond that. There needs to be a strict process in place inside the school.
The focus seems to remain on victims to "suck it up" or to "make nice and try to be friends." In some situations victims are told to submit a formal complaint and meet with the bully face-to-face. That is not a viable solution in my opinion. Why can't charges be laid on bullies? Or better yet, let's create laws that hold bullies accountable. Or is zero tolerance the answer? I'm asking you because I don't know. We can't continue to lose children to suicide because adults don't know how to deal with this issue. Please go see the movie and let's solve this together.