Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Roots of Bullying: A "Blaming the Victim" Culture

I am having the opportunity to continue to reflect on the roots of bullying in our culture and why it is so widespread today. My 14 year old son, who is a straight A student, emotionally intelligent and literate, with a defined and grounded sense of self, all too often is in the pathway of insecure bullies, who "bully up." One of my friends was shocked to hear that a tall (he's over 6' tall), smart, mature kid would be in the line of fire. I explained that in middle school, when ANYONE sticks out as "not comforming for conformity's sake," they are in the line of fire.

My son was brave enough to go to the principal, along with an ally, his 7th grade history teacher, who is one of the most emotionally intelligent teachers I have ever met. My son presented a well-thought out and respectful picture of what was going on and what needed to be done.

One of the comments my son shared with me that really caught my attention was the principal's response to when my son was being bullied last year when he broke his dominant arm in two places on a school field trip, and brought a pillow in to rest the arm when it was first healing in a heavy cast.

The principal's comment after my son explained the constancy and the intensity of the bullying was, "why didn't you keep telling the teacher this was going on?" My son's point was, "If you keep telling the teacher, you get labelled a 'tattle tale,' and then you get bullied more for that."

My son's advocate asked the principal why there is so much responsibility placed on the bullying "victim," and why the teachers or the system can't be proactive and prevent this activity from happening in the first place, or respond the FIRST time a bullying problem is reported.

I thought the teacher's point was spot on. What it says to me is that there is a lack of EQ not only among the kids, but also amongst those in the administration, charged with holding the space the kids operate and live in during the school day.

Phoebe Prince went to the principal of her school the week before she committed suicide and reported the extent of her experience. She was sent back to class.

WHY do we keep "blaming the victim," rather than recognize that bullying is a systemic problem? It is not just about the kids--be it the bully or the bullied. It is also about the entire environment our kids are living in, which begins at home, and continues at school.

Until we can get to the root of the matter, and stop putting all the responsibility on the kid who is bullied, bullying is only going to become more epidemic.

1 comment:

  1. I hope your son is doing better.

    Your post poses some great questions. Sadly, the popular anti-bullying movement is blind and backward.