Years ago a busload of teenagers were returning from Mexico where they helped some very poor people. They were very tired and very, very hungry.
They crossed the border into the United States and stopped at a diner. With growling stomachs, they waited impatiently to be served. Finally one of the braver teens asked the waitress if she could serve them. The waitress said that she would, but the two Afro-American teenagers had to eat on the bus. The teenagers looked at each other and responded, ‘Well, we weren't hungry anyway.' And they went back on the bus. They refused to be bullied.
Recently bullying has received national attention because it has become an emotional and physical danger from kindergarten through high school. Cyber-bullying has contributed to its increase.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in four children are bullied at school. 8% of students miss 1 day of class per month for fear of bullies. Pages of statistics on the damaging effects of bullying are available on the internet and other sources.
Bullying can be verbal (making threats, name-calling), psychological (excluding children, spreading rumors), or physical (hitting, pushing, taking a child's possessions).
Grade school children sometimes bully by ridiculing the car, house or clothes of poorer classmates. They may also taunt classmates with cruel nicknames, exclude them from birthday parties, slumber parties and the like.
When I taught high school, lively discussions followed when cliques were mentioned. Some students insisted there were no such exclusive groups in their class. But others who felt left out disagreed. Bullying can be blind.
Bullying often occurs in PE, recess, hallways, bathrooms, school buses, waiting for buses, classes requiring group work or after school activities. Students can bully others as individuals or as a group.
Charlie Brown said, "It's hard on a face when it gets laughed in." I know. Students who are sensitive and lack confidence especially suffer. According to Education.com, "Children who are bullied are at greater risk of depression and lower self-esteem later in life, prone to missing more school, and more likely to have problems with alcohol and drug use." Bullying can even lead to suicide.
Bullying hurts the teaching mission of the school. Grades may drop because stress transforms energy that should be spent on studies into fear that no one will sit with them at lunch or other bullying-related tactics.
Students make a good school better when they respect teachers and classmates. Bullying can be stopped especially when teachers, parents, administrators and significant adults do not tolerate it or other violence. Home and school must cooperate to eliminate bullying and teach students to respect each other.
In Thessalonians 5:11 it says, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do."
In Matthew 5:43- 44 it says, "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[ and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Our youth deserve respect and the chance to learn. Bullying can diminish their opportunities for learning and hurt the common good. Let us pray that with adult example, guidance and supervision, bullies see and repent of damages they cause, change and mature. This would make bullied youth, their concerned families, teachers and others who support our schools happy.
Fr. Don Lange, Hazel Green