An American Epidemic
“You never realize how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
One day last summer sitting in a café waiting for a friend, I saw a group of young girls outside the window apparently on the way home from school. They were laughing and smiling, clearly happy to be out of class. Suddenly two of the girls shoved another one out of the way, pushing her to the back of the group and continued on their way, soon out of sight.
The incident, although not violent, brought to mind the many articles about kids who bully their classmates, and the kids who feel tormented and ultimately simply try to be invisible. I also thought of the horrific stories of children ending their lives when they feel that is the only option.
A couple of years ago one of my granddaughters tried out for a cheer group and a few of the girls in her class began to tease her and make her uncomfortable. “You are so little, you look like a little kid.” “Geez you have a big nose and what’s with that gap between your front teeth.” Ok at first I thought kids will be kids. She is very tiny and, yes, short for her age. I think she inherited my “Roman nose” but it’s not oversized for her face. Of course I think she is darling and hey, she looks like me. The thing is that over time, the harassment got worse and soon her mom had to go the school and talk to the teachers… but it just made the girls step it up; now she’s a “snitch.”
A few months ago, a friend came to her and said, “I think you should know there was a text message being sent around that said “let’s kill her (using her name) and throw her in the trash” …and others gleefully agreed. As you might imagine it was terribly upsetting. Ok… follow directions… tell someone who can do something to stop it. Once again, her mom went to school and talked to the teacher of the class, who agreed to look into the situation and meet with her soon. The next meeting would be one of total disbelief. “I spoke with the girl that wrote that note, she admitted writing it but said she was just teasing and I suggest, “we all just move on.”
In case, you missed it, a 15 year old girl suggested killing another 15 year old and we just move on? My granddaughter now felt alone and unprotected at school. Imagine having to get up and go to school every day to face the same ridicule and threats, knowing that the teacher will simply ignore you. This teacher failed her on every level and of course she left the group.
Finally, my daughter-in-law decided to go speak to the girl’s parents, being sure a parent would be appalled by the daughter’s behavior. She knocked on the door and the girl’s father answered the door. After introducing herself she explained that she was upset that his daughter had threatened her child. She truly believed he would call her to the door to confront her and instruct her to apologize and then assure her it would never happen again. No, instead he blamed everything on my granddaughter, claiming she was mean …only his daughter had ever made this claim. Even if someone thinks you are mean…you do not threaten them with death.
Once again, this child was failed by the adults in the situation except for her faithful mom and dad. The search for help continued to no avail, not another teacher or principal or coach… just the same tired reply, “she was teasing… let’s just move on.” My granddaughter has now pulled out of all extra activities to avoid the little clique of girls choosing to make her the object of their entertainment. She tries to avoid going to the bathroom at school, because she could be isolated and alone with her tormentors. Knowing that there is no one there to protect her once she is in the school, she just wants to get done with the remaining years. My granddaughter has high hopes that life after high school will be different. Thankfully, she knows her parents believe in her and support her but what about those children who may not have that support? Are they the ones we read about found hanging in their bedroom or overdosed on pills?
This epidemic must be stopped, no excuses, just stopped. Our children’s lives and self-esteem need to be nurtured and encouraged; no child should have to endure this abuse. NO adult should turn their back on a child, both sides must be taken seriously and the situation resolved. I wondered why so much ugliness and hate takes place with some of the young people but I don’t have to look very far, decency has all but been eliminated in our daily communications, hate for those that oppose our views. Social media is a great tool in many ways but can also serve as a platform to bully when another person’s opinion differs from their own. I am shocked when I read a relatively harmless article and then read the comments; how vicious they can become, name calling and threatening at times. From the time a child is born they watch us, listen to us and mimic us… perhaps we need to stop and think what we as a society are demonstrating for the younger children. Of course, not every teacher or parent overlooks these opportunities to stand up but many of us aren’t paying attention and the lack of attention to this epidemic is costing us the lives of precious children. Would a child that was lost have been the one that cured cancer? Would the next one be able to bring world peace? We will never know… the ones that couldn’t face another day are gone but thousands still face this heartbreaking challenge every day. It is time to fight for our children… whoever they belong to… they are the future of our society.