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Let's work together against bullying and help bring the teen suicide rate down to zero

Posts Tagged ‘anti-bullying awareness

Nigel Hardy, 13, Bully-related Suicide

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Even though you haven’t been reading about them here over the past month, the teen suicides – LGBT and straight, alike – have been steadily mounting.  And, even now, with the news of the Boston Marathon bombing dominating the news (and, rightfully so), the teen suicides continue.  What really gets under my skin is how little attention these tragic events get even as the death toll continues to climb. I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again and again:  it’s as if these young people’s lives are expendable.  They.  Are.  Not.nigel hardyYesterday, April 15th, 13-year-old Nigel Hardy was reported missing after being suspended from school for defending himself in school against bullies.  Seeing that news circulate on facebook made me nervous, at best.  Fear of the worst set in quickly.  Word spread very quickly in Palmdale, where he lived and went to school.  His father found a suicide note in his bedroom Monday morning and then noticed his handgun was missing.  The school Nigel attended, Hillview Middle School, was placed on “heightened awareness”, basically lockdown.  Monday night, Nigel was found.  Shortly after, he was pronounced dead at an Antelope Valley hospital.

Nigel, who turned 13 only last Thursday, April 11th, was a cheerleader at his middle school.  Apparently, that led to his being bullied. Various news reports say that he had gotten in a fight with his bully, or bullies, and that led to him being suspended.  He became despondent over that.  Now, he’s gone.Nigel Hardy2Where does this end?  When do we seriously and honestly reach the point where we’ve seen enough carnage and devastation that comes with these teen suicides and their aftermath?  When do we stop making excuses for the ones responsible for pushing these young people to the edge and start holding them accountable?  When is enough truly enough?  I don’t think anyone can answer that, and that’s what has become overwhelmingly frustrating for me.  No one has any answers!!  No one has any solutions!!  And, to add insult to injury, our government officials are paying attention to any- and everything but the fact that bullying and the related teen suicides have reached epidemic proportions.  Instead, we’re continuously dished the same, tired rhetorical responses.  We’re still getting the “boys will be boys”, “kids will be kids” spiel that we’ve been hearing for far too long, now.  Nigel’s suicide is not the first one where the person(s) involved in the bullying are known.  What is being done about the fact that their actions cost another teenager his life!!??

Here in Maryland last year, there was a horrific traffic accident involving four young people who were best of friends.  They’d been partying, and the driver certainly should not have been driving.  Three of them died in the accident.  The driver survived.  He’s now serving a lengthy prison sentence for his actions.  Why?  Because his actions led to the deaths of his three friends. He was held accountable.  These young people who terrorize their schoolmates, or sometimes even strangers online!, to the point where the victim ends their lives get nothing!  There is zero accountability!!  And, that, as much as anything, is a major part of the problem.  As long as they know they can continue to do this without any risk of repercussion, they will continue.  Not only that, but their actions will continue to escalate.  It’s really just that simple.

Sure, there are those who believe that the best way to deal with this is to also “treat” the bully(s).  As one person on the facebook blog page commented last week:

Bullies have a Reason for the way the act so I felt sorry for them

We agreed, ahem, to disagree.  I do understand that these menaces have issues going on in their own lives that causes them to do the things they do.  In many, if not most!, cases, it’s a very bad living condition at home.  That’s a whole different issue for another time.  And, I’m all for getting them the help they need to become better, more productive, and less menacing people.  That is, when there isn’t a death attached to their name and their actions.  Understand this:  it is 2013.  The “Information Age” is maturing.  There is 100% absolutely NO WAY that Nigel Hardy’s bullies didn’t know that there are teens committing suicide NEARLY EVERYDAY!!, and bullying is often the root of it!!  NO.  WAY.  They KNOW this is happening!  It’s impossible for them to NOT know.  Period.  Accept that.  It’s impossible for these kids to NOT know that their actions could very well lead to yet another suicide.  We’ve MUST understand and accept this reality!  And, the reason why it’s so vital that we, as adults, come to this understanding of what really going on is because, once we accept the reality that they KNOW what they’re doing could very well lead to yet another suicide, we can accept the reality that they absolutely must be held accountable for their actions.  Anything less than that, and we’re only fooling ourselves.  These young people are telling us, as loudly as they can, that they don’t care if their victim kills themselves!!  In some cases, they even TELL the victim to “go kill yourself”, “nobody would care if you died”, and worse.  How can we NOT hold them accountable for their actions!  How can we even dream of coddling the perpetrators when there is a devastated, grieving family who will never, ever have their young, loved one to coddle anymore?  How is that even justifiable?  It’s not.

This has gone much, much too far.  The time has long since passed for us to take some serious action that will prevent this from continuing to happen.  As loudly as people are shouting for marriage equality, so, too, should the voices be raised for our school officials, our law enforcement agencies, and our lawmakers to get off their collective asses and start making some real changes in policies that will prevent these teen suicides to continue to mount.  Anything less, and we’re only spinning our wheels as yet another family mourns.Nigel collageWe’ll never know how brightly Nigel’s star would’ve shone.  Rest in peace, young man.

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Jarrod Nickell, 18, Bullied to Death

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He wanted to play football for his new high school’s football team.  Unfortunately, even though he joined the team, he wasn’t allowed to because he had just transferred to his new school in Michigan, moving from Maryland.  As a transfer student, Michigan required more credits before being eligible to play.  Disappointed, but not dejected, he went on to wear his football jersey, #10, and cheer his school’s team on when they played.  Then, the bullying started.

They bullied him for wearing the football jersey and working the sidelines during the games.  That’s something I’ll probably never understand.  And, as we’ve heard far too many times, school authorities passed it off as boys being boys.  His step-mother, Michele had to intervene which, of course, only made it worse.  Now, he was bullied for being a “momma’s boy”, as well.  January 10, Jarrod ended the bullying he had endured by taking his own life.

There’s far more to the story, as you can imagine.  According to Michele, she and her husband have said all along that it was more than bullying that led Jarrod to end his life.  He’d also been dealing with depression from a young age.  He’d been living here in Maryland with his mother and step-father; however, once he turned 18, he moved to Michigan to live with his father and step-mother.

In the aftermath of Jarrod’s suicide, it’s reported that the Flushing Township police released a statement within 24 hours, sending letters home to the parent of his schoolmates, stating that bullying had nothing to do with his actions.  And, we’ve heard that before, as well.  Yet, it is confirmed by his step-mother that he was, indeed, bullied.  At times, severely so.  According to his step-mother:

The week prior to his death someone removed all the lugnuts from his tire and it came off while he was driving .. again not bullying

That goes beyond bullying, reaching into criminal activities: reckless endangerment and possibly even attempted murder.  But, boys will be boys.  As we’ve seen far, far too many times before, there was a breakneck rush to declare “bullying had nothing to do with…” Jarrod’s suicide.  And, whereas it’s acknowledged that bullying wasn’t the sole reason for the tragic event, clearly bullying…and, blatant bullying, was involved.

Javon Gill, 20, of Flint was a close a friend of Jarrod’s. Gill first met Jarrod in October at Jarrod sister’s Halloween party and they clicked — like brothers.

Gill said Jarrod confided in him, telling him he was having trouble focusing in school because of the bullying and that he missed having a lot of friends like he did in Maryland.

Who do these “authorities” check with before hastily committing to their “bullying wasn’t involved” stance?  Where do they get their information?  Why are they so eager to wash their hands of the situation when a young person has ended their lives?

“[Bullying] may not have been the only factor that pushed him, but it was a factor,” said James Nickell.

Here’s my take on this continuing issue:  we, the concerned citizens, family members, and friends of the bullycide victims need to resolve to hold these authorities’ feet to the proverbial fire and force them to take the bullying and ensuing teen suicide issue for what it is.  It’s a plague.  It’s an epidemic for our society.  To brush these events off as “boys will be boys” or “bullying has always been around” or whatever other catch-phrase they chose to absolve themselves of any responsibility or accountability is absolutely not acceptable.  However, we can continue to say that for as long as we want.  It won’t be until we come up with a solution, a solid plan, that holds their feet to the fire in each of these cases.  The plain, sad truth is that they are just not taking these cases seriously, regardless of what they say in attempt to make us believe otherwise.  They can argue that point all they want, but the proof is right in our faces.

Currently, one of the major news stories I hear every day (many times every day) is about this meningitis outbreak that’s been traced back to tainted steroids having been injected.  Currently, at least 20 people have died from this outbreak.  And, of course, officials are working hard to end the outbreak, including holding people accountable.  After all, 20 people have died from it.  Conversely, I’ve personally written about over 20 teen suicide just since the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year!!  Where is the outrage over that!?  Where is the media coverage on the bullying/teen suicide phenomena?  Where is the accountability when there are clear-cut cases of bullying?  Am I minimizing the deadly outbreak of meningitis?  Absolutely not.  What I am saying, though, is that for whatever reason, these cases of bullying, cyberbullying, and teen suicide are being treated as “oh well”.  “Boys will be boys”.  In some cases, the victim is found to blame…for being bullied!!  What I am saying is that it’s long past time for this to be treated with the urgency that it screams to be treated with.  This is a 5-alarm blaze, but it’s being treated as a brush fire.  For the sake of the thousands of teens who end their lives annually, that’s a grave injustice.  For their families, it’s a slap in the face.

Jarrod Nickell was an Eagle Scout, an assistant Cub Scout leader, a teenager who sometimes struggled and, some say, a victim of bullying.  He said he planned to join the Marine Corps following graduation.  He’d even already talked to a recruiter and started training.  He was living a promising, exciting life.  And, now he’s gone.

For Jarrod’s parents, it’s an ongoing struggle as they learn to cope without their beloved son.  The pain is still very raw.  You can offer your condolences and support on this facebook page set up in Jarrod’s memory.

Why We’re Losing Ground in Bullying Prevention

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I’ve been writing this blog article for about a week, now, in my mind.  Each time I thought I was ready move it from my mind to my fingers and onto my keyboard, that voice inside me would say “wait!  not yet”.  Normally, I hate when that happens.  That usually signals to onset of another bout of Writer’s Block, every journalist’s nemesis at one point or another.  This time, however, I’m glad that voice was there to annoy me.  I wasn’t ready to commit this to the blog just yet.  Now, I am.

Hopefully, I’m not breaking any news by saying that October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.  Well, every month needs to be Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.  However, October is the “official” month of recognition.  How fitting.  What’s been eating at me for the past week is the realization that preventing bullying is far more arduous than I ever imagined.  In the good ol’ days (late last year and early this year), the notion was it was as simple as educating the young people.  Teaching them love and compassion, and teaching it by example.  That didn’t last long.  It quickly occurred to me that the teaching had to start with the adults:  parents, authority figures, political leaders, religious leaders, even older siblings.  What-or-whomever!!!  It had to start there!!  And, I still hold on to that one as being one of the keys.  This week taught me even more than that:  what I now realize is that the reason why it’s so hard to tackle the bullying issue is because it is firmly ingrained into who we are as a society!  It’s how we live.  It’s how we communicate.  It’s become who we are.  At this point in time, it almost feels that bullies are the majority…on one level or another.  Here’s a look at the events from just this week that finally filled in the missing colors for me:

  • The facebook blog page was inundated this past week by the story of was a case, out of California, of a 15-year-old football player brutally beating up a lesbian at his high school, fracturing her jaw with multiple blows to the face.  There was talk of concussion.  Outrage set in, and rightfully so.  After all, this was a girl being savagely beaten by a boy.  I have no tolerance for that whatsoever, for any circumstances.  Allegedly, the boy attacked her for being lesbian.  That was the initial report.  Then, it wasn’t that at all.  Then, the boy responded, saying that he “did not know it was a girl.”  Of course, the LGBT community was up in arms.  “What are you trying to say!!!???  Of course you knew she was a girl.”  Everyone was screaming “hate crime”.  According to “the girl’s team”, the local sheriff’s department was siding with the boy, sweeping it under the carpet, and threatening to side with the boy if the girl decided to press charges.  The way it was presented, of course, gave the impression that even they were trying to get the boy off with nothing more than a wrist slap.  And, perhaps they were.  This story is still unfolding, which is why the names haven’t been mentioned.  There was a page set up on facebook in the girl’s defense, seeking action.  Until it was taken down, just over 24 hours after it went up, I monitored it closely, paying close attention to what was being said, and by whom.  Who actually witnessed it?  Who is just speculating?  Who is just stirring shit!?  As the story was going viral on facebook, I sat in vigilance monitoring the page.  And, it was here that it dawned on me that bullying is deeply ingrained into our collective psyche.  It’s who we have become:  a society of bullies.  The way these young people were talking to each other was nothing short of appalling.  In some cases, it was outright frightening, if not illegal.  The alleged attacker was now receiving severe threats of bodily harm, and even death threats!, right there before my eyes.  I only wish, now, that I had “screen-saved” some of this.  At once, the bully became the bullied.  It got so severe that I began to worry about him, as well.  “Will someone try to kill him?”  “Will the weight of the verbal assault from all around the country, from people he didn’t even know!, in addition to the attacks from “the girl’s team” prove to be too much for him to handle and he resorts to attempting to end his life?”  See, what happens quickly is when one side doesn’t agree with the other, instantaneously the verbal abuse begins.  It starts with name-calling.  It escalates quickly from there.  And, what made all of this even worse?  Not all of the attackers on this page were teens!!!!!  There were adults, both close to the situation and total strangers from different parts of the country, who were just as bad if not worst than some of the teens who were there.  So, the already enraged and impassioned teens are now having their bullying, abusive behavior validated by adults.  The education, and the bullying,  continues;
  • Someone took the time to read back through some of my older blog posts.  Apparently, the one I wrote about Lawrence King’s murderer, Brandon McInerney, and his sentencing caught his attention.  I was hard on Brandon for murdering the young, LGBT teen in cold blood.  I was angry because, in my mind, and in the mind of many (if not most in the LGBT community), this young “monster” killed Lawrence strictly out of hatred for gays.  Lawrence had “hit on” Brandon; Brandon snapped; Lawrence is murdered.  But, wait.  This guy who went back through my blog and read that post contacted me.  And, to be 100% sure, this person was completely polite and respectful in his email to me.  However, he challenged me to look closer at the whole case.  Did Brandon murder Lawrence out of homophobic bigotry?  Or, was Brandon, himself, a victim of bullying (from Lawrence), himself.  And, like many of you are probably doing at this very moment, I immediately scoffed at the idea.  My first thought was “seriously, dude!?”  But, he provided me a link to a facebook page that had been set up in Brandon’s behalf. (you’ll need to read through some of the threads)  Now, granted, the person who set up the page was and is a homophobic bigot.  He originally set it up praising Brandon for standing up against “the radical homosexual agenda”.  The thought of that mentality, that it was completely okay for one teen to murder another in cold blood under the guise of “standing up to the radical homosexual agenda”, existing in this day and age had my blood boiling.  Hesitantly, I continued on.  Make no mistake:  although the person who set the page up set it up for all the wrong reasons and with the exact wrong message, people came quickly to the page and let him know just how wrong he was.  That made it easier for me to continue reading.  The conversation became very interesting.  And, extremely enlightening.  I came away from it all with the changed opinion that, yes, there was a rush-to-judgement to vilify Brandon McInerney as this monster, homophobic, child murderer.  Brandon McInerney was indeed, himself, a victim of bullying…and, worse.  See, there are two people on that page of critical importance:  one knew Brandon personally; one knew the whole family personally,  Their  insight goes far beyond whatever the sensationalists-driven media outlets would’ve ever reported.  The story would’ve been much less potent had the entire picture been painted.  Read it for yourself.  I’m confident that you’ll come away with a different opinion.  But, I digress.  What made this page standout to me, other than the fact that I was able to really get some facts on what really happened, was the level of ugliness being posted as comments on this page.  And, the ones doing the posting were….that’s right:  adults.  Grown adults wishing for this boy, still a teenager, to get anally raped regularly while in prison.  Walk away with whatever opinion you may, as far as the case itself is concerned; however, to post such vile on a public forum about a teenager is beyond reprehension.  How on Earth do were EVER hope to seriously make a dent in the bullying issue with adults displaying this kind of behavior?  Easy answer:  it won’t happen;
  • Just yesterday, this video of Wisconsin newscaster Jennifer Livingston went viral.  It went viral because it is a video of her response to someone, some adult male, sending her a very demeaning, condescending email (bullying) about her weight.  He took the time to go into great detail of her responsibility to the community, especially to young girls, to…essentially…look more like Barbie.  This was a man who didn’t know her personally, who very rarely even watched her segment on the news, but wanted to say hurtful things to her just for his own satisfaction.  Very eloquently yet emphatically, her response to him was decisive and determined.  Still, it wasn’t enough that this guy took time out of his day to attempt to demean Jennifer.  There are people on the social networks, yes…adults, who have taken it even a step farther with their comments.  And, once again, by virtue of his now well-publicized email, and by virtue of some of the irresponsible, and immature!, adult commentors, our youth are being taught that being mean, saying hurtful things, is completely okay.  Bullying is okay;
  • And, lastly, this video was posted just yesterday.  It, thankfully, is a re-enactment of a bullying incident that really did happen in a middle school.  In the video, it’s happening in the workplace.  Therefore, it’s adults…in the video.  And, the walk-away message for every young person who sees it is “why should I stop bullying if grown ups are doing it?”  Indeed, that question is being asked every single day, all around this country, and around the world.

“Why should I stop calling him a faggot?  The pastor calls them that?”

“Why should I show fat people any respect?  My dad says that fat people are losers.”

And, there’s a long list of other examples that I’m sure you can add to that in your own head, from your own experiences.  Here’s the point:  we can forget about trying to stop these young people from bullying each other.  Nevermind the fact that suicide is now the #1 cause of injury death, and many youth suicides are bully-related.  Forget about the fact that bullying victims often end up with deep emotional scars from being bullied.  It doesn’t even matter that, in some cases, the bully victim reacts by becoming a bully, themselves, thus perpetuating the cycle.  It just doesn’t matter!!!  It.  Just.  Doesn’t.  And, it doesn’t because we, as adults, can’t figure out how to get out own act together, can’t figure amongst ourselves, our peers!, how to treat one another or talk to each other.  It doesn’t matter because as long as we continue to teach the young, through our examples!,  that it is ok, acceptable, and even expecting in some cases!, to demean others, to treat people with disrespect, to say and do hurtful things to others, to be intolerant and unaccepting of other people and their differences, we can continue to expect the bullying to continue and, probably, increase.

And, as the bullying continues to escalate, taught and condoned by adults!, the bully-related suicides will also continue to rise.  We don’t have a handle on it at all.  In fact, it’s headed in the wrong direction

Teen Suicide Cluster in Pennsylvania

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In a span of one week, beginning September 18th with the suicide death of Joshuah Delos Santos, there have been 4 confirmed teen suicides in a 7 day period.  That’s 4 confirmed teen suicides within 30 miles!  Map out a 30-mile radius in your own area, and you’ll see the significance of that troubling graphic

  • September 18:  13-year-old Joshuah Delos Santos commits suicide in Nanticoke, with bullying being a contributing factor;
  • September 21:  16-year-old Matthew Montagna, pictured, ends his life in Pittston.  Classmates and friends cite bullying as a contributing factor;
  • September 24:  an unidentified 15-year-old cheerleader ends her young life in Duryea.  Classmates and friends cite bullying as a contributing factor;
  • September 25:  an unidentified 13-year-old boy ends his life in his home in Hazelton.  The Hazelton Chief of police said, in a news conference, his suicide was not “bullying-related”.  We’ve heard that before.

Seven days, four teen suicides, all within 30 miles of each other.  Is there a problem there?  The obvious answer is “yes”.  Just the Joshuah Delos Santos suicide was horrific by itself, but to add three more in the next 6 days is just unfathomable.  Then, to add salt to the gaping wound, 3 of the 4 have a strong possibly of being bully-related.  Is there a problem there?  Yes, there is.

In our typical, knee-jerk reactionary society, suddenly there are town hall meetings to address the issues of bullying and teen suicides.  Parents are alarmed, and rightfully so.  If I had a school-aged child in that area, (s)he wouldn’t be back in school until I was certain, 100% certain, that the school environment was safe enough to return to.  What does that mean?  To me, that’s a very simple answer:

A safe school environment is one in which students can attend, interact, and learn without the specter of being taunted, for whatever reason, picked on, or otherwise minimized.  It’s an environment where they can intermingle with whomever their social circle may be without the fear of being ridiculed, feel secure and develop the social skills they’re going to need as they move into the adult “workaday” world without the fear of being discriminated against or taunted, and be able to have an environment conducive to learning as opposed to living in fear of being picked on just because of who they are.  That’s not too much to ask.

Is there a problem there?  You can bet the farm on it.  I have recently seen with my own eyes exactly how deeply ingrained this problem of bullying and teen suicide is.  The mindset is so fluid, because its deep-roots, that many, many young people don’t even realize the repercussions of their words and actions.  I know that, now, for a fact.  I watched it unfold.  And, more than ever, I’m convinced that the ball is being dropped in the homes, by the adults in these young people’s lives, and by (in some cases) the parents. If for no other reason than the fact that some parents don’t even know that their child is a schoolyard or cyber bully, they have to be held accountable to a degree.

On the other side of the coin is the authoritative figures who run…no…sprint from the issue of bullying.  Where is the accountability in that?  If not for the 3 suicides that followed Joshuah Delos Santos, within the next 2-3 weeks, the whole issue and question of bullying would’ve been swept under the carpet just like many have before it.  That’s been made impossible, sadly, with 2 of the 3 suicide victims that followed were reported to involve bullying.  And, yet, it has become redundantly customary for the school officials and, often, law enforcement officials to very quickly erase the bullying possibility (probability?) from the equation.  Why?  Better question:  why are we allowing it to continue?

Here’s a reality check:  if a young person’s friends and social circle says, “yes, (s)he was being badly bullied”, it really doesn’t matter what the adult figures say about it.  It was happening.  Period.  It doesn’t matter if the teachers, principles, or school superintendents say “there’s no evidence…” of bullying.  It happened!  It doesn’t matter that the Chief of Police or just the school police liaison says “there’s no evidence…” of bullying.  It happened!  And, in reality, it doesn’t always matter if mom and dad says their child wasn’t being bullied because, the bare-boned fact of the matter is they spend much more time with their friends and social circle than they do with you!  Did you really tell your parents everything about your life when you were 13, 14, 15, 16 years old?  No.  You didn’t.  Neither did I.  Neither do they.  But, their friends, their social network, their peers…they know!  And, if they say it was happening, to believe otherwise is just plain silly.  And, obviously, deadly.

In response to the recent spate of suicides, officials have said:

“We need to respond. We just want to try to reach out to the parents in the community and make them understand we all need to work together. This is not a Pittston Area School District issue only. This is an issue that is bigger than the school district,” Pittston Area superintendent Michael Garzella said early Tuesday afternoon. “This is a community issue. This is a national issue. This is a problem that has to be dealt with. The only way we’re going to be able to prevent these things from happening is if we all work together.”

Congratulations on your epiphany.  This is what many of us have been trying to get “you” to understand for quite a while.  We’ve got an epidemic on our hands, it’s costing the lives of young people, and it’s time to stop dodging this issue and start the dialogue.  It’s just regretful that it’s taken you these four young lives to finally realize that this is real.

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IF YOU, OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW, ARE STRUGGLING WITH BULLYING, DEPRESSION, OR SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE!  It could be the difference between life and death.

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Ashley McIntyre, 16, Family Blames Bullying in Suicide Death

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According the WBOY, a news outlet in West Virginia:

Ashley McIntyre, 16, was hanging out with friends at home Friday night, before she disappeared.

Ashley was later found, dead by suicide.  Friends and family alike say that bullying was a contributing factor.  The Liberty High school Prevention Resource Officer, Mike Daugherty, didn’t rule out the possibility that bullying played a role while also adding that…”he said he worked hard to eliminate bullying at Liberty.”  School Board President, Mike Queen, also is on record as saying he’s heard that bullying is to blame.

Conversely, Ashley’s family has said that she never said anything about being bullied, adding that she often kept to herself.  If she was being bullied, only her friends would’ve known…those who were with her in school and were able to witness it.  Apparently, she never talked to anyone about it.  Added PRO, Mike Daugherty:

Statistics show that 90% of teens who are being picked on or bullied, they don’t report it. They don’t report it to an adult, they don’t report it to a parent, they just sit in silence. Although they haven’t proven it to be bullying as of yet, we still see a lot of people wearing the pink shirts, supporting, saying that they’re not going to stand for bullying anymore

If Ashley was indeed being bullied, she kept it to herself…tried to deal with it on her own.  And, if that’s the case, it cost her her life.  Regrettably, far too many young people opt to keep it to themselves, for whatever reason.  In some cases, they fear telling someone about being bullied will only make things worse.  In truth, in some cases, that’s been proven to be correct.  In still other cases, they don’t report it because they’ve come to the realization, real or imagined, that nothing will be done about it.  Either way, we’ve created a culture where the bullied feels isolated.  My own surrogate son, Marty, was bullied badly when he was high school.  When asked if he ever reported it, his response was similar to what I’ve heard and read many times before:

After making several attempts to report my own bullying, I soon realized it became useless because they don’t take it seriously.  They always take the “kiss and make up” approach.  Another thing is I don’t really think they care.  They get to go home everyday to their families.  They have a passion to teach; they don’t have a passion resolve conflicts, unfortunately.

As adults, as school administrators, and in some cases, even as parents, we are failing today’s youth.  We are failing the ones who need us most, at the time they need us most.  It’s easy to say “how can we help if they don’t let us know what’s going on?”   However, to look at it from their perspective, we have failed to provide them an environment where they feel comfortable telling “us” that they’ve been or are being bullied; we’ve also failed them by creating an environment where they feel that telling “us” doesn’t do any good.  Marty’s words are echoed many, many times by far too many other young people who are bullied or are being bullied.  We send the message out, daily, that “if you’re being bullied, tell someone”, then, somehow, we drop the ball.  In this case, dropping the ball is costing lives.

Ashley’s mother, along with the rest of her family and friends, are now left with a lifetime of trying to figure out exactly what went wrong.  The void will never be filled.  Our sincerest condolences go to the family and friends of 16-year-old Ashley McIntyre.  May you rest in peace.

Thursday, the day of her funeral, I encourage everyone who reads this to wear a purple ribbon.  Wear it in Ashley’s honor.  Wear it for the teenaged suicide victims who came before her.  Wear it because this is Suicide Prevention Month Worldwide, and we must start doing a much better job at trying to prevent these tragic losses.

If you, or anyone you know, is “at-risk”, please talk to someone.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!!  There is ALWAYS someone ready and willing to talk to you when you need it most: 

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Enough is Enough: the blog page

An Update on Bullied Bus Monitor Grandma Has Me Wondering….

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Marty has to get the credit for this one.  Like many people, I’ve been following the story of Karen Klein, the 68-year-old school bus monitor who was caught on video being severely and inhumanely bullied by a group of middle-schoolers.  And, like most people, I thought it was an outrage that these young menaces would do what they did to this sweet lady.  They were, indeed, beyond cruel.  Their behavior was reprehensible.  I was very happy, like I’m sure many of you were, that the action against these boys was swift, and it appears that it will be quite harsh…as well it should be.

Marty saw the whole thing differently.  He called me, full of alarm, to ask if I’d seen the story.  Well, of course I had.  Half the world has seen it by now.  Hell, Karen’s getting a vacation out of the whole deal, paid for by “everyday Joes” from around the world to the tune of $427,000+ and counting!!!  That’s going to be some vacation.

What alarmed Marty was the fact that the authorities did, in fact, react as swiftly and definitively against these young tormentors; however, when it comes to the bullying that’s done to their peers, everyone drags their heels.  Worse, they fall into a very predictable pattern of complete denial. (“Those boys are good as gold”…Kim Lockwood)  Once he pointed that out, they whole story about Karen Klein became a whole different story for me.

I’m wondering how “they” would respond to that.  We know all too well about the intense bullying that goes on both in the schools and on the school buses.  For those of us who have seen the movie, “Bully”, we’ve seen it up close and personal.  Some of you have been bullied yourselves or have kids who have been.  You know exactly what I’m talking about.

What Karen Klein endured from these young tyrants, no one should have to endure.  That includes their peers and classmates!!  We have a culture where kids, straight and LGBT, are ending their lives because of the very same thing that Karen endured.  The world saw the affect their mindless meanness had on her, and the world reacted.  Swiftly.  Effectively.  Where is that response when the kids who suffer that same level of abuse day in and day out?  What is it about our culture that relegates thatbehavior to a “boys will be boys” mentality when it comes to the young people being bullied but runs to the aid of a Karen Klein who only suffered the same mindless attacks that the schoolboys and girls suffer everyday?  Understand that these are questions that beg to be explored and answered.  It’s a mindset.  It’s a mindset that costing lives needlessly.

The members of the facebook blog page hold my feet to the fire on everything I write, and I love it.  It keeps me on my toes.  That said, let me clarify that I have no problem whatsoever with the outpouring of love and support that Karen has received from around the globe.  I think it’s heartwarming to see everyone respond like that.  She certainly should have never had to go through this in the first place.  My issue, and Marty’s issue, is simple:  where is this response when we know that this is happening day-in-and-day-out to school kids on school buses, in schoolyards, and in classrooms every single day…in nearly every school across the country?  Where’s the rush to action then?  Why are the authorities not responding to those incidences with the same fervor they responded to in Karen’s ordeal?  These are questions that need to be scrutinized and answered before we can begin to see improvements.

It is my opinion that this case proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the ball is being dropped in the homes.  I’ll come under attack for that statement.  But, allow me to state my case:  as the overwhelming majority of you fellow Baby Boomers will attest to, there was absolutely no way, when we were adolescents, that we would evendream of talking to our elders the way these boys talked to Karen.  NO WAY!!  Respect was instilled in us.  So, where was the ball dropped?  Isn’t respect something that’s supposed to be taught in the home?  How is it that these boys, and others like them, are so at ease with talking to an elderly adult in this manner?  See, if these boys have no respect for a 68-year-old grandmother, and clearly they didn’t, there’s no way in hellthey can be expected to have any respect for their peers.

The cold, hard truth is that we’re not going to solve anything, insofar as bullying is concerned, by focusing solely on the youngsters.  It’s becoming more and more clear by the day that the real work is needed from the top, down.  Look, these kids are beingtaught to be cruel, disrespectful, careless, and intolerant.  Whether the teaching is direct or indirect, the teacher(s) is the adults in their lives.

Karen Klein, I’m sorry you had to endure such insensitivity from these boys.  I hope you have a wonderful and memorable vacation.  As for Marty, well…what can I say?:  that’s my boy!  As for everyone else, teach love.  Teach respect.  Teach acceptance.  It’s theonly way out of this mess.

UPDATE:

As I was writing this, the story was released that two of the tormentors have since offered what seemed to be heartfelt apologies for their behavior.  That’s good!  When interviewed by Anderson Cooper, one said:

“I feel really bad about what I did,” Wesley, one of the boys in the video, said in a statement issued to the show by police. “I wish I had never done those things. If that had happened to someone in my family, like my mother or grandmother, I would be really mad at the people who did that to them.”

while the other youngster stated:

“I am so sorry for the way I treated you,” Josh, another one of the boys, said in a statement. “When I saw the video I was disgusted and could not believe I did that. I am sorry for being so mean and I will never treat anyone this way again.”

See, they aren’t born to act that way!!  That repulsive, and dangerous!, behavior is taught.  Directly or indirectly, the lesson is still taught and learned.  I’m wondering what would happen if every case of bullying went viral like the Karen Klein incident did?  Forced to actually see their actions as the video goes viral, and sentenced to hearing the world respond to their spiteful, nasty behavior, I’m wondering if we’d start seeing some of these young bullies begin to turn away from their negative and cruel behavior?  One can always hope.

The Importance of Gay Role Models

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve strongly held that the world would benefit greatly from every LGBT person coming out of the closet.  Such an action would serve two very positive purposes:  1.)  it would show the world, a world that tends to minimize those of us who are LGBT, that we are solid, contributing citizens of our society who needs, and deserves, to be recognized as such; and, 2.) it could potentially save young lives by providing some of the struggling, young LGBT youth positive, strong, and gay role models.

This week, former NFL player Wade Davis announced he is gay.  Granted, Davis never played a single down on an NFL field.  That was because of injuries, not due to lack of talent.  And, certainly not from a lack of effort.  He tells a story of what it was like to be gay, open only to himself, in an NFL locker room.  Imagine the impact that an openly gay athlete would have on a growing-but-struggling LGBT teen boy.  The message that boy would get would be “you’re fine just the way you are, you can do whatever it is in life you want to do, and I’m proof that it truly will get better.”  That’s potentially life-saving.  How many of these young LGBT teens have given up hope and taken their lives because of a sense of hopelessness?  Their vision of the world is tainted by the extreme bullying they received constantly because of who they are.  They’re told, in one form or another, that their life is a non-factor.  Or, as one recent anti-gay group put it on their website, “It Gets Worse”!  Even more troubling, they don’t have many role models to look to and say, “that’s what I want to do when I grow up.”
Imagine how many young, LGBT girls Ellen DeGeneres has positively impacted.
We’re living in a very unique time right now.  The march towards equality for the LGBT community may be slow, sometimes seemingly snail-paced, but it’s steady.  Why else do you think we’re witnessing unprecedented lashing out from the other side?  To them, they’re fighting for their moral (?) lives.  And, they fully understand that the fight is much harder than they ever imagined it would be.  For us, the members of the LGBT community and our supporters, we’re also fighting for our lives.  We’re fighting for the right to just exist happily without having to deal with “them” imposing their misguided and often ridiculous “morality” on us.
We’re also fighting for our youth.  With 9 out of 10 LGBT teen reporting having been bullied at school, 90%!!!, and with the suicide rate amongst LGBT teens skyrocketing, we’re fighting fiercely to end that trend.  We end that trend by making them realize that they do have a place in this world.  We end it by letting them know, not by mere words but by example as well, that it really, truly will get better.  We end it by showing them role models of people who, like them, grew up gay, knew it early on in life, dealt with the ridiculously mindnumbing abuse that we sometimes must endure, yet made it through and are now living happy, productive, and promising lives.
To get to that point, however, we need more and more people, like Wade Davis, to step forward and be that example.  I’m not naive.  I fully understand that, in some cases, coming out of the closet would amount to professional suicide.  Imagine, a LeBron James coming out!  Or, a Bill O’Reilly.  Or…pick a name.  You get my point.  However, it’s that very culture, that unforgiving mindset that we’re working tirelessly to interrupt and, eventually, change.  It’s going to take a lot more work.  It’s going to take more people, like Wade Davis, stepping up and coming out as who they really are.  In some cases, I understand that that’s a hard thing to do.  I get it.  But, it’s so incredibly important.  Our LGBT youth are counting on us, the LGBT adults, our friends and families, and our supporters.  In too many cases, lives are depending on it.
I can’t think of any better reason than that.
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