Ok, bear with me because I am about to start a rant.
I have absolutely always been an advocate of “zero tolerance” when it comes to bullying. I have also been active in trying to start up suicide-prevention programs/ assemblies in my previous high schools. It completely blows my mind that bullying is still such a big problem in today’s society, and it saddens me that cyber-bullying is a new trend popping up as a result of the Internet. I have known too many people that have struggled with depression, been mistreated and harassed by classmates, or have even committed suicide as a result of torment and/or emotional turmoil. Having gone to three different high schools and having someone in my grade commit suicide each and every year is unacceptable… and it is clear that it is a national problem, not just local or regional.
Only one high school I attended actually dealt with this issue in a proactive manner and tried to help other students who may be at risk; the other two just turned their heads and continued with their “hush hush” culture of not talking about it. Even when calling and writing to one of my former principals about my disapproval of their non-actions (in addition to providing them with suggestions and resources to help them hold a suicide-prevention and depression-awareness assembly), she still did nothing. She even told me, “I’m from the South, and in the South, we don’t talk about suicide openly.” So much for helping out your students and caring about their welfare. Only by OPENLY confronting the problem of bullying and suicide will any progress be made… The former Catholic school I attended needs to look at suicide as something that can be prevented, not as a “sin” that should not be spoken about. And the other public school I attended needs to open its eyes and realize that by refusing to discuss an epidemic doesn’t cause it to disappear.
In the news recently was an article about how Cornell University has had a record number of students commit suicide in the past year. Not too long ago, a young teen committed suicide after a fellow classmate’s MOTHER harassed her relentlessly online and encouraged her to “kill herself.” Today, nine students in Massachusettes are facing charges because their non-stop bullying of a fellow student, Phoebe Prince, drove her to hang herself earlier this year. Apparently they thought it was acceptable to physically and emotionally harass her because of the fact that they didn’t like that she had dated a certain boy earlier in the semester.
What REALLY gets me is the fact that the majority of the bullying took place on school grounds and during school hours. She was attacked in the library while doing homework; even though faculty members AND classmates witnessed this, they did nothing. It was common knowledge that this group of students were making her life a living hell. But people only came forward about the relentless attacks AFTER Phoebe’s death. And even though Phoebe and her family had contacted the school about the problems, the school did nothing.
In my opinion, these nine students deserve everything that they have coming to them. Nonstop harassment that results in a suicide should be a reason for a trial. No one should ever be treated in this way, and these nine students, no matter how old, should be held accountable. Their parents still get to see them every day. Phoebe’s parents cannot ever see their daughter again.
I am glad this story is getting so much press; I remember reading a very small article written about the situation right after Phoebe’s suicide. I did not think that anyone would be charged and had no idea that it would become a national headline. But let this be a lesson to everyone in America: Bullying is unacceptable. Witnessing such acts of torment and doing nothing is also unacceptable, especially when those witnesses are adults in a school setting. And suicide, depression, and harassment are topics that need to be spoken about openly. We need A LOT of work done to improve our education system, but I am passionate about every school adopting a depression and suicide awareness program, because I think it would help… even if it means just saving one teenager’s life, it would be a success.