I arrived home Sunday to hear about an incident at Happyland Elementary. A couple of boys were bullying a smaller boy in their grade. I don't know who the smaller boy is, but I know the perps--they're widely well-regarded, athletic and clean cut and from popular parental units. I also know for a fact that one of the perps has needed a MAJOR attitude adjustment since he was about 5 years old. Anyway, this kid grabbed the smaller boy by the shoulders and kneed him so hard that this child might be permanently damaged.
For the rest of his life.
Because of being bullied in 3rd grade.
Tears filled my eyes, thinking about this small boy, wanting to be accepted, to be liked, willing to endure popular kids picking on him. Maybe he'd been taken around the corner of the building and nobody saw it. Maybe it happened with other children fully aware. However this incident occurred, now everybody knows this kid's shame. His weakness. It's possible no one else knew he was being picked on. Somehow I sincerely doubt that to be true. He woke up in the middle of the night screaming in pain and his parents took him to a doctor. I hope they file a lawsuit. It's well within their rights. Their child should have been safe from such abuse if the law requires him to attend this school.
One teacher, one of the best teachers in the whole district, pulled the entire class of boys in and called the whole group out on this kind of behavior. I felt grateful I'd pulled my children out of a school where such cruelty even could happen.
But the thing is, most of these kids are good kids. Most of these kids weren't involved.
Nevertheless, it still happened.
Someone got really hurt.
Sunday night I pulled each of my boys aside and talked to them. "If anyone ever picks on you, you know what to do right? You fight back. You don't let yourself be a victim. You're in karate, you know what to do--you know that 90% of the time a bully will walk the other way if you call them out. You always always always fight back. You do not take other people's abuse. It's not funny, it's not right. Fight back."
Because bullies only get to bully when they've got victims.
I can't give these perps an attitude adjustment. (Although you can bet when I see them I will give them Death Glares of Great Magnitude. And I will see them, they're in the same grade as one of my sons and play on the same teams. I'll also see their parents, and I hope to God they act contrite towards everyone they see. I'm really praying about how to behave.) I can prepare my sons to deal appropriately with mean people.
I can raise heroes. I asked each of my sons, "And if you see someone else getting picked on, what do you do?"
They know. They either tell someone in authority or they rush in to defend.
"Damn straight," I tell them. "We call out bullies--and we defend the weak because that's what Jesus tells us to do. And you're in karate, you know moves. You'll never ever get in trouble for defending yourself or someone else."
My sons carry this bizarre fear that they'll be the ones in trouble for fighting a bully. Where on earth do they get that idea? Self defense is not something a good school or parent punishes.
We all need to teach our kids not to be victims, but we also need to call out bullies, even when we're not the victim. The news articles about Rush Limbaugh this past week have demonstrated the power of people standing up to bullies. He is (and from what I can tell, always has been) a vile, horrible, nasty person who should not have the power allocated to him. Finally advertisers are pulling their support. I'm thrilled to endorse AOL, AllState, ProFlowers and Peter Gabriel because they are using their power and status to say being mean is not okay. They won't defend it or be associated with it.
Who does a bully bully if no one is willing to tolerate it?
Reader, I'm leaving you with this.
We ALL stop bullies. We need to teach our children and empower them to NOT tolerate mean and cruel behavior.
Sure, it's easier to not get involved, to look the other way, to hunch down, avoid eye contact and hope the bully doesn't zero in on us. It's easy to blame the victim, write off aggressive behavior as "boys being boys" or ignore a bully because they're bigger or athletically gifted or smart. It's easy to surround ourselves with friends and insulate ourselves from mean people. But the fact of the matter is that a bully doesn't get to pick on people who fight back.
People, we need to fight back.