The opinions stated in this column are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.
When it comes to bullying, there is no partisan divide. Almost all of us would agree that bullying is not acceptable anywhere and at any time; most of us would also agree that bullying is a problem in our public schools where children can be cute Р and cruel!
So I was interested to read of two responses from parents, a mother in Utah and a city mayor in California. One of these responses is troublesome and naive.
In the Utah incident, a mother was incensed that teen-age girls (including her daughter) were involved in nasty name-calling. The woman’s daughter called another girl a vulgar sexual term, whereupon the other girl tossed back an ugly racial epithet. The girls saw nothing wrong with the back-and-forth exchange. The mother, however, saw it as demeaning, and asked that the high school drill team advisor suspend both her daughter and the other girl.
The girls probably think the woman is making a proverbial mountain out of a molehill, but anyone who has walked through a high school hallway is aware that foul slurs and language are increasingly commonplace. If students don’t recognize it as a big deal, maybe the schools should take a stand and proclaim that it is.
While I understand the mother’s concern, I don’t share the approach recommended by the California city mayor. In response to a question on school bullying, he said bullied children should “grow a pair” and fight back.
That might have worked in “The Karate Kid” movie, but it’s irresponsible to place the burden on the victim rather than the bully. Furthermore, his advice tends to relieve the school and its staff of their responsibility to create a safe environment.
“Fight back”, says the mayor. Toss a punch Р or maybe plant a well-placed kick in an appropriate part of the bully’s anatomy. Unfortunately, bullies tend to be taller and larger than their victims. The Little League fullback is probably not the boy being bullied on the playground nor is the well-socialized girl who wears the “right clothes” and is invited to her classmate’s parties.
No, the children being bullied are more likely the young boy who wears glasses, the sensitive kid who can’t hit a baseball or the “plain Jane” timid girls who don’t wear the popular clothing brands or styles.
As recent history has shown, these students are not likely to react with a punch or a kick. Too often, they might build up enough resentment or enough self-loathing to break into their daddy’s gun closet andЙwell, you know the rest.
The bottom line is this: When a child is being bullied, it is the responsibility of the teacher, the coach, the principal, the religious leader or any other in-charge adult to confront the bully. That might come through a heart-to-heart with the bully’s parents, a school suspension or a not-so-friendly chat with a policeman. What shouldn’t happen is for an adult to ignore the problem or tell the children to fight it out on their own.
And if any teacher or principal or clergyman or coach it too lazy or too afraid to take control and responsibility, they should find a new profession.