There was a point in time when the teasing children were subject to was thought to be harmless and character building. At that time, we didn’t think of these children as victims, or their bullies as monsters. Instead, we thought that they were preparing our children for the harsh real world.
In March 2011, President Obama said, “our nation must dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up.”
However, I would go further and say that we must stop blaming the victim.
Although, it may be hard to believe how many people actually do this, the number spikes when the victim is someone who the public believes are capable of defending themselves. This is seen when adults become the victim, as seen with teachers who are “cyberbaited,” or more famously the case of bullied bus monitor Karen Klein from Greece, New York.
After seeing the sad video on Youtube, which made national headlines, I decided to pose this question to local residents: whose fault was it that she was bullied? Were the students wrong to treat anybody, much less an elderly, lady this way, or was she for allowing them to do so?
I asked teachers, friends, and other students who witness daily the cruel behavior of students. I also asked older residents and parents for their input.
I thought the responses would be, for the most part, the same: although, Klein should have exercised her authority, the students should not have felt the right to test her that way. However, very few agreed with this. Some thought Klein’s treatment was deserved because she did not do her job in maintaining order on the bus. Others thought that regardless of Klein’s responsibilities, the students should not have spoken to her that way. However, on both sides, many thought past the immediate subjects to the parents and the school district, arguing that neither did their job to prevent this from happening.
The only common thread in all of the responses was that there is an overwhelming uncertainty in how to handle bullying cases that result in deterring future bullying and simultaneously compensating the victim.
Because bullying has mutated into so many forms it is very hard not only to identify it as bullying, but also to combat it. Recent technological advances, allowed bullying to move past the school’s boundaries and take place after school’s hours. We moved away from physical bullying and into the emotional and psychological teasing that led to more bullying-related suicides than ever before. Finally, the audience is not the same. Adults and handicapped people are made fun of now. No one can fly under the radar of a bully anymore. How do we fight against something that easily mutates into the next necessary form to survive?
I won’t pretend to know the answer. However, I will just say, that the social climate towards bullying needs to be warmer. That doesn’t mean that we embrace completely the victim while ostracizing the bully. I simply mean that bullying a bully doesn’t always reform them and oodles of money don’t help all victims. Additionally, our tendency to blame the victim may lead others to not feel comfortable coming forward.
Bullying does not need to be a part of our lives anymore. In an increasingly diverse nation, we must learn to accept those differences or allow them to wilt under our critical eyes and lose a flower that may blossom this nation into a beautiful garden.
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Talkback: What do you think of the story of Karen Klein? Share your thoughts or ideas on bullying.
P.S. A new cyber-bullying law has just been signed into effect in Monroe County. Read about it here. What do you think of the law?