The new B-word: bully

Please excuse me while I climb upon my soapbox to preach my thoughts.

The subject's presence on my mind stems from seeing the movie, Bully, of course. I'd read the critiques before I went: that the administrators didn't do enough to stop it, the movie producers didn't, that the kids were acting worse for the cameras, etc. I work in a middle school and can assure you: that's really how some kids act. I was blown away when I first started at my school by the foul words floating in the halls, and despite the fact that one of the school's rules is "no curse words," have grown used to hearing language I expect to hear in a dive bar on a Friday night. The actual bullying in the movie wasn't what surprised me, it was the reaction by the administrators. If I were featured in that movie as an administrator, I'd have moved to Russia by now in embarrassment of my actions, or lack thereof. As far as the producers, or the controversy about its rating, all I can say is: I don't care. What matters is that a much ignored topic is coming to light, and it has people talking.

Similar to the rating controversy, there's a camp of people who say that kids have always been teased, suggesting today's children are too sensitive to it. To them I say again: I don't care. If it's making someone feel so bad that they want to kill themselves, or do, I maintain that we shouldn't need to do such extensive character-building in the world: let's focus on prevention, not treatment (does someone smell a nurse here?). It's like Ellen DeGeneres says: "Be kind to one another."

When teasing and making fun of fellow students has become such an issue that the police are regularly called to a middle school, and have to spend hours monitoring Facebook, or such an issue that a child may be considering taking his own life, it seems pretty clear to me that we need to learn how to live together in an increasingly crowded world. The world is getting more crowded by the minute, and if people don't start being a little nicer, and teaching their offspring to do the same, it's only going to become a more unpleasant place. There are hungry and/or starving kids in this world, perhaps closer to your own house than you realize. 

What's the solution? I don't have a clue. Awareness is probably the first step. The movie certainly made me reconsider my own reaction to when I hear something going on among students, and I know I can do more to stop it at least in my presence. And if you're wondering what that reaction has been until now, I must confess it's been turning a blind eye, trying to justify that by telling myself I'm a nurse, not an administrator. But I'm also an adult who knows better, and can't let it happen anymore in front of me. If I had kids, I'd probably be some kind of nightmare parent that forbids her kids to surf the internet unless I am standing over their shoulder: you really wouldn't believe what goes on online, on youtube, on Facebook, and elsewhere. (Another reason I can't say that today's kids are more sensitive: they have the cyberworld to bully them 24 hours a day.) Kids can be really, really mean to each other, and I suspect they may be learning some of this from home. Again, I don't know how to stop it, but knowing about it is a start. Pay attention people, it's probably happening right under your nose.

Somewhat related, if you need some reading material on the being-kind-to-one-another sermon I have just delivered, read this: An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny, by Laura Schroff. As the title gives away, a sales executive befriends a child panhandler. It might make you think twice about your usual reaction to people living on the streets.

Now I will climb off the soapbox and return you to your usual programming.


  1. Anonymous24/4/12 07:46

    The "B" word makes me sick! I was born with a small deformity to my jaw that made me look a little different than others growing up. I was called horrible names, people laughed at me and seriously pointed fingers like I was a monster in a B rated movie. Along the way I felt lonely, multiple days of sadness that I never expressed to anyone...why, because who wants more name calling if anyone found out that I had emotional issues as well. After middle school my jaw was fixed and then all of sudden I had real friends...people even said that I was so pretty...now...NOW? I didn't really change, my personality stayed the same...what mean little angry monsters! Kids are mean, they are more than mean....if there was a word that I could express how mean I would. I raised my kids that calling names, touching others when not wanted, and being hateful is extremely wrong and I would punish in the most heinous way. My youngest now comes home and talks about the "mean" girl in her class that calls names...my daughter stands up for the kids. That makes me a proud mom...why isn't our administrators doing the same...Ok, off of my soapbox! Thanks for the post...its needed!

  2. Anonymous2/5/12 11:39

    I remember one girl in my middle school in the 70's who befriended me on my first day there mid school year. It didn't take long to discover the entire school hated her (and quickly me by association). I have long wondered WHY HER? She told outlandish lies but I met many others through school and life that did likewise and didn't get that treatment. I've wondered many times whatever happened to her. And I still feel shame about how quickly I abandoned her and joined the haters. Maybe that would be part of the "prevention", convincing kids that it's ok to like or even just tolerate someone that is hated by one or a crowd. Tolerence for difference.