We all know kids can be mean at times.
It’s understandable: they are still learning ideals like respect, compassion and empathy, and it does take time to develop self-control and tact. Kids will be kids, after all. It’s not really that big of a problem, is it?
The answer is yes; it is.
Before I became The Leader’s education reporter, much of my time as a college student was actually spent in pursuit of a degree in education. I had several jobs teaching as well as performing other roles in various schools, and I was required by my coursework to spend additional time in the classroom for observation and student teaching. During this time, I was able to witness the day-to-day lives of many elementary and middle school students, and I’m afraid it wasn’t always pretty.
Regardless of the efforts of well-meaning administration and teachers, of which I was one from time to time, there were still unfortunate incidences. Feelings were hurt, friendships were severed, cliques were formed and the occasional nose was even bloodied.
It’s getting harder and harder to pass this off as “kids being kids,” as the results are growing more devastating as time passes. When such behavior is left excused and unchecked, the consequences can be extreme.
We are no longer dealing with playground pushing and shoving or stolen lunch money, a fact that often falls through the cracks with the use of the term “bullying.” The word is somewhat misleading and can be mistaken for a much more innocent idea than it has come to represent, an idea that has resulted in such extreme consequences as violence, self-harm and suicide.
Many of us remember with horrific clarity the massacre at Columbine High School in April 1999, which unfolded right before our eyes on national television. This iconic school shooting marked a new and frightening era for students across the nation, with similar violent incidents growing more and more frequent with each passing year. Bullying is the link between many of these incidents.
Parents, teachers and school administrators will be the first to admit that there is a growing problem with bullying in schools and communities. However, it’s much harder to see when it hits close to home. Often, I’ve witnessed a state of denial in parents as well as school faculty when confronted with the hard and, at times, ugly truth about the young people for whom they are responsible.
Over the next few weeks I’m writing a series of articles in The Leader’s education section that addresses the topic of bullying. I hope to provide a little insight as to what’s really going on in our local schools with our very own children and teenagers, and how this issue is affecting them. I’ll also take a look at ways we as a community can identify and prevent these kinds of bullying situations.
In this past Thursday’s article, we heard from school board officials and social workers on how bullying is defined and the different ways Tipton County schools are attempting to crack down on the issue. In the upcoming issue, we’ll get a peek directly into the lives of the students who live their daily lives on the front lines both as aggressors and as victims.
In the meantime, I implore you as parents and teachers to take a closer look at what’s really going on with your children and students, and to remember that the best thing we can do is to work hard to teach them to have respect for others and for themselves. We should never forget exactly how serious the problem can be and the dire consequences that can result.