A new school year has just begun. Already, the bullying has started and the dreaded bullies have returned for another year of torment and mayhem to their helpless victims. When we think of bullies, we normally think of physically threatening bullies, first. The snide, nasty little person — no matter that he’s bigger than a Dallas Cowboys’ fullback, his attitude and manner of terrorizing the hapless kid who has done nothing physically to him — that ruthlessly lies in wait to pounce and beat the crap out of the child half his size. If that is your initial image of the “playground bully,” think again. Though this is the description most readily attributed to this menacing personality, there is another bully in town who packs as much of a wallop as his (her) “rock’em, sock’em” counterpart. He (or she) is becoming increasingly well-known, and their weapon of choice is the razor-sharp tongue of the verbal bully.
Although the bully has always been a fixture of depressed area playgrounds and schoolyards, they have now migrated outside their normally expected locations to include even the well-heeled suburban communities. Now, their ruthless stiff-armed tactics have begun to demand news coverage, getting the attention of more prominent citizens, and thus, gaining a higher position on the list of public issues to warrant more significant action to put an end to their brand of terror to their young victims. That mandate includes the verbal variety, as well.
Recently, an area student was on the receiving end of such verbal abuse. She and her mother took their grievances public on the local ABC affiliate, Channel 8 News. Called “mental manipulation,” the verbal form of bullying has put this teen and her mother at odds with local school administrators. The issue: the daughter has been excluded from the so-called “popular group” because she is just not “cool enough.” For this thirteen-year-old, the abuse started three years before when she and her tormentors had been in fifth grade. She had not been subjected to physical assaults such as being pushed into lockers; their method of abuse had been verbal commands: “We want you to do this or if you don’t, we’re going to just discard you.”
Throughout the past three years, this group of “popular girls” has made her feel as though she was not good enough to be a part of their group by expressing their disregard of her, which has included shunning her in the cafeteria during lunch breaks. Now, the eighth grader and her mother have chosen to speak out against these miniature offenders. According to the teen, she constantly asks herself why she’s not good enough and feels left out because she is not welcome in their group. Her mother states that the ill-treatment of her daughter by this perceived group of “popular girls” has caused harmful effects on her daughter. Her solution was not to talk with the principal of her daughter’s school, but to seek counseling for her daughter, instead. Since starting counseling, she has noticed a new confidence in her child.
While this mother admits that the ordeal her daughter has gone through brought back memories of her own childhood and the bullies she, too, once had to face, she chose not to bring action against her daughter’s bullies. Those mean-spirited girls are still free to spew their evil verbal missiles at whomever they please, whenever they please, if not caught and reprimanded by school administrators. As you might know by firsthand experience or read here in an earlier entry to this column, bullying is alive and well throughout the District, as well as the predominance of the country.
This daunting issue which occupies too much of our children’s school days must be severely addressed. Those who readily bully others must receive consistent reprimand or professional help to adjust their maladaptive social skills. There are programs (like the one at this link) to assist the troubled child and their victims, if the need is made known to the principles involved in these incidents. The program at the above link is merely a random example of what exists to combat such horrors as have befallen a number of schools across our country during our lifetime. The claims of all such programs must, of course, be examined closely and investigated prior to allowing them access to schools and/or minor children. One fact, however, is clear, and will remain so: The appropriate authorities must act to prevent occurrences of disasters like those which echo in our recent past, chiefly, due to authorities’ ignoring the signs and downplaying symptoms of that greater evil to come.