by Valerie Grieve.
We have all heard the adage, attributed to an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It has been quoted so many times it is almost a cliche. Why? Because it says something that we all know in our gut to be true.
Recently our village failed an 11 year old Canadian boy with Muscular Dystrophy. He was assaulted by a bully while walking to maintain his muscles.
Bullied kids do not trust that adults around them will protect them from bullies. Often reporting the bullying results in worse consequences. If the bully is talked to by school authorities, police or parents, he will most likely retaliate against the victim to make sure that the reporting of his behavior does not occur again. Parents, teachers and police cannot be everywhere and the bully watches for an opportunity to isolate the victim. The victim feels truly helpless and becomes withdrawn and depressed.
This is a matter that we as adults have struggled with. Most bullying happens at school or on the way to or from school. As parents, we can drive our kids to school and pick them up. We cannot stay with them at school and sit in on classes. That puts the onus mainly on the school.
If you have any problem with your child and you need resources for him, the school will probably respond that there is no money in the budget for an Educational Assistant, or any other assistance for your child. It is easier for the school to blame the child for inciting bullying behavior from others, or you as parents, for not teaching your child better social skills or how to cope with the bullying. It is easier for the school to insist that it is a legal and policing matter that should be dealt with through the law. Of course the police will not put officers on the playground, and even if they did, it is impossible to see every nook and cranny and the bully can still isolate the victim. They may say that the problem is that of the bully’s parents, and direct you to deal with them, which could have disastrous results if the parents also resort to harassing and bullying behavior. Sometimes the parents of a bully recognize the problem and make an effort to address it, but the bully fails to respond and stop the bullying behavior.
We, the adult villagers of the community of a bullied child, need to look at how we address the issue of bullying if we hope to be able to protect bullied children. We have to take this seriously. Sadly there have been many other cases of bullying victims taking their own lives.
How can we, the village, intervene? I don’t claim to have all the answers, but here are a few ideas.
1. Send bullies to residential training schools for a time. We remove criminals who are a threat to the community to protect others from their violent behavior. Do victims of bullying not deserve that same level of protection? A few months secluded in a secure facility with other bullies will provide a consequence that might mean something to the bully and be a reason to change his behavior. If he does not change his behavior, at least he would be removed to a place where he could not further harass his victim.
2. As an adult if you see a kid being bullied, step in if you can safely do so. If you think there would be risk to yourself, call 911 for help or ask others around you to help. Do not look the other way.
3. Do NOT blame the victim. This only further damages the child and makes it more likely that he will not come forward to seek help again.
4. Take steps to keep the victim in view of adults as much as possible. Assign teachers to the lunchroom and playground with instructions to watch the child.
5. Hire an Educational Assistant to stay with the victim, or security staff for schools.
If you have more ideas, please add them to the comments and draw them to the attention of your government representative. Write letters to the editor of your local paper. Use your voice to speak out and protect victims of bullies.
Become a villager who looks out for the welfare of all kids in your community.