Alex Hernandez of Omaha NB's photo went viral a few days ago: it showed the contents of his backpack, including his debit card, tablet, cochlear implant, and English homework dumped in a toilet... by his own classmates. Alex, who has been deaf since he was 1 year old, says this isn't the first time he's been bullied - it's been going on for years. He shared the photo on social media after reporting his backpack missing after lunch and later discovering it in the bathroom.
Fortunately, the good Samaritans of the internet have responded to Alex's needs. A GoFundMe page for $800 to replace the contents of his backpack was quickly filled and has since been taken down. But although he is grateful for the support from the community, Alex no longer feels safe at his high school, and has decided to transfer out - a decision supported by his mother, who told US news sources on Tuesday that she was planning to file a police report and is still unhappy about the situation.
“It’s not fair that the bullies think they can continue with this behavior,” she said. “They need to be reminded that there are consequences to stealing and bullying.”
While I'm thrilled that his mom's filing a police report, I sat there wondering: what is the school doing? And after this long, I'm afraid that the answer is: fuck all.
Bullying is a pervasive problem, and given the sad reality of the news I think that a lot of schools schools are too afraid to get involved because they're afraid of what parents might do. While some parents maintain that learning to cope with bullies is almost a rite of passage and that protecting kids makes bullying worse, others maintain that bullying exists because we don't do enough to tell people it's not okay. Arguably, technology has made bullying worse. Where we were able to go home and have a safe haven from bullies, social media has not only made it so that bullying can follow kids around, the technology's "memory" persists long after the bullies would forget. In the last few years, there has been more than one tragic news story about teens and preteens committing suicide after being bullied, including the 13 year old boy from Staten Island, NY, last month who said the teachers didn't do anything to prevent it and told him "these things will pass." "I gave up," he wrote in his suicide note before he hung himself.
I'm sick of seeing bullying and nothing being done. Sick of it.
As a mom of a kid who was bullied over a purple backpack, a former teenager myself, and long-time veteran of the internet (22 years and counting), I've seen a lot of bullies. I have the somewhat unpopular opinion that bullying won't stop unless punitive action is taken against bullies directly, and it is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that society does not consider this behaviour acceptable. You can't just say it's not nice to be a bully. You have to have the teeth to back that up. History has proven time and time again that without the threat of law, a few bad apples will break order down and ruin the nice things for everyone.
The trolls don't starve when you neglect to feed them. They just go find some other unsuspecting victim to eat.
Punishing bullying works. I have told my kid to hit another kid, and I don't regret it. Teaching my kid to walk softly and carry a big stick was probably one of the best pieces of advice I've given him to date. HOWEVER - I don't believe this is the way it ought to be. While I trust me and my son not to get the whole wrong idea about self defence, if individuals have to take up the torch because the law and administration won't, sooner or later you're going to get vigilante justice that's just as bad. If you don't believe me, look at Brock Turner who's getting his just desserts and then some, up to and including people threatening to shoot him.
I think the law didn't do him any favours by not sending him to a prison and "ruining his life."
But it has to start young. Schools need to get more involved in punishing bullying behaviour rather than turning a blind eye. Suspend and expel the kids. I guarantee you that the parents of bullies will decide to get involved when it starts affecting them. Some regions have even considered fining the parents of bullies, and I think this is actually a great idea.
And then, go after the adults who spend so much time harrassing and bullying others.