Friday, May 8, 2009

"That's so gay" - words can kill

I know a newly blended family. I was totally shocked to hear the step siblings taunt their new brother, age 6, calling him, 'gay' and 'fag'. There was one instance where he was learning how to work a new birthday toy, smiling and laughing. The joy was sucked out of him, like a popped balloon, when one of the sibs said, "That's so gay"! This is not about sexual orientation, this is about bullying.
This happened quite a while ago but it keeps haunting me.
a) it was allowed by the parents (were they worried about disciplining his kids her kids?)
b) I was so shocked - I didn't do anything! I am so ashamed of myself
c) Recently, there have been mulitiple sucides by children as a result of bullying

I did talk with the little boy later, there was no question he felt bullied by the others. We talked about the words and why people bully. But I didn't do enough and I am so sorry for that. At the time, I was trying to welcome someone new into the group and I didn't feel it was my place to correct someone else's children - especially when meeting them for the first time. That is so wrong. Children are vulnerable and need adults to protect them.

This month there have been highly publicized suicides of two 11 year old boys (how many have not been publicized?). They had been bullied to death.
They were harassed at school - in front of teachers.
For more information see here and here.

There should be a zero tolerance for bullying in every school. Actually, there should be a zero tolerance for any kind of harassment. Just like the definition of sexual harassment, the person being harassed knows it when they feel it. That should be enough! But students are reluctant to report it or minimize the extent of the harassment. They think it will stop on its own. Parents tell them to ignore it. That might have been good advice when I was growing up but it is not in today's world.

Speaking up and stopping this behavior will not only protect the harassed, but may help the bully turn into a better person - before they get older and it escalates into anti-social or criminal behavior.
I am prepared now -bullying will never happen around me again!

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