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Bullying: a silent epidemic
by Mel June 1st 2009, 08:22 AM

Article featured in Avatar - Volume 2, Issue 11 (May 2009).


Bullying: a silent epidemic
by sushi_error

April 20th, 2009, current and former students and residents of Columbine, Colorado marked the tenth anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings. For many in this small town, the Columbine massacre etched bloody wounds that may never heal. At the same time, many question the motive of both shooters, seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Both boys had completely different personalities. Klebold was described as “hotheaded, depressive, and suicidal.” While, other classmates and adults described Harris as “sweet-faced and well-spoken”, even “nice”. However, as law enforcement further investigated this tragic event weeks after, new information began to surface.

It was believed that bullying prompted Klebold and Harris to open fire on their classmates and teachers. On the other hand, journal entries from both boys would reveal a dark and even suicidal side. Regardless of various speculation, more than eighty school shootings would occur in the years following the Columbine massacre. According to a research done by the Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education, at least two-thirds of student shooters felt “bullied, harassed.” This information was gathered after studying thirty seven cases of school shootings, including Columbine. The real question is: how can educators, parents, friends bring an end to bullying, before another tragic event like Columbine occurs again?

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is echoed on playgrounds, in parks, and schools. However, it does not hold water and is a myth. Name-calling can be just as powerful and hurtful as throwing punches. Being called terrible names such as “fag”, “whore”, or even “stupid” can resonate in a child or teenager’s mind for a long time. Bullying of any kind is done with the intention to instill fear and vulnerability into the victim. A black-eye heals after a few weeks, but being labeled a “faggot” damages a victim’s self-identity, confidence, and self-esteem. Many victims are bullied because they “do not comply” with what society defines as ‘normal’ (this includes sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political affiliations, and even dress, etc).

Bullying can cause long-term emotional damage to any victim. Why? It can easily make one feel less desirable and hopeless. According to MentalHelp, the short-term effects of bullying may include: anger, depression, low grades, and even suicidal thoughts. These feelings can lead to bigger and long-term problems that may carry into adulthood: a desire for revenge, insecurity, fear and avoidance of social situations.

As a society, then, how can we undo the damage caused by bullying and prevent it from continuing to occur at our schools (both at the primary, secondary, and even post-secondary levels)? For one, there needs to be clearer communication between students, teachers, and parents/guardians. Second, schools need to implement better and more effective bully prevention programs, as well as, creating a committee to oversee this problem and others. Lastly, there should be various programs to reach out to children or teenagers who bully and assist them in changing their violence. Programs such as Olweus' Bullying Prevention Program, GLSEN's No Name Calling Week has reached out to millions and millions of children to prevent bullying on all levels.

Bullying will continue to be a silent epidemic, unless something is done. It hinders the growth of children and schools. It not only prevents adolescents from reaching their biggest goals, but will also weaken communities worldwide.

Last edited by Mel; April 4th 2010 at 09:21 AM.
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