a few weeks back i wrote about bullying. i wrote about the recent suicides of several teenagers due to bullying. i never thought that it would happen in my backyard.
last week, a 14 year old boy left a suicide note for his parents, walked several miles to the nearest highway, and killed himself by running in front of a semi truck. he killed himself becos he was teased about the way he dressed (he dressed "emo"), for being artistic (he played the violin and was a very talented artist) and becos he was presumed to be gay. this boy went to high school in my hometown school district.
the news is sickening. i thought in the nearly 20 years since i left high school, that kids were more tolerant now. "emo" seems to be more mainstream (at least it seems to me, since i see a lot of kids dressed like that at the mall!). people are more accepting of one's sexual orientation (as i see from the changes in mainstream christianity and more celebrities being "out").
i will say, that where i went to school, the area is very rural and backwoods. our area is sometimes called "pennsyltucky". we are very redneck. but that doesn't give an excuse to put someone down just becos they wear all black or are a violin virtuoso. and it shouldn't matter who you love - it's the person inside who counts.
i wish i could tell this boy to hang in there, that high school is a blip in life and that the assholes who made his life hell probably wouldn't amount to much anyway. i wish he would know the fun of auditioning at districts (it's that time of year!) - i bet he had a chance to make district orchestra. i wish he would know the excitement of entering a drawing at the county fair, winning a ribbon. i wish he had a chance to express his unique voice, not in the way he chose, but as a creative, caring person. i wish this child didn't become the latest poster child of bullying.
i urge all parents to talk to their children about bullying. get to know their routine and their friends. pay attention to their gestures and words when talking about school and other kids. remind your child that if they are being bullied, they don't have to put up with it, and to tell a teacher, a friend, a school official, and especially you. keep talking about it, and keep telling the bully to stop and seek higher help if they don't. no one should put up with bully bullshit.
if your child is the one doing the bullying, tell them that those actions are not to be tolerated and are totally inappropriate. set consequences for your child if they pick on someone else - this is behavior that should not be rewarded. teach your child the golden rule - "do unto others as you would have done unto you".
as a parent, you are the role model for your child. would you pick on a coworker becos they dressed like a punk or was gay? of course not. set your child up for life by showing respect to others, and your child will learn to respect others as well.
talk to your child's teacher and other school officials about any policies about bullying in school. find out if there are any consequences to the bully. if your school or district has no policy in place, it's time to develop one, and enforce it.
teachers, pay attention to your students. listen and observe. not all kids who dress weird are "bad"and "deserve to get teased", and some kids give the impression that they are "good" when they are anything but. don't put off teasing as "something all kids go through". all teasing - in jest or as torment - is not fun to the person on the receiving end, and as we are learning, is damaging to one's self esteem.
kids killing themselves becos of bullying - it's got to stop. not one more.
i pray that this boy's family will will feel peace someday. my thoughts are with his friends - no one should lose a friend at such a young age. i also pray for the truck driver - unfortunately, they are involved, by no fault of their own.
to read brandon's story and information on bullying, click here