Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bullying: Can It Be Stopped? by Chris Schaben

There are tragedies in American history that can be remembered with one phrase. One phrase will make people remember horrific events from the past. If I said Titanic, Hurricane Katrina, Pearl Harbor, or 9-11, people would know what I was talking about. What if I said “Columbine?” People wouldn’t directly associate the word with the high school in Jefferson County, Colorado. Instead of thinking of the place, they would think of the event. They would think back to April 20, 1999, when two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, brought guns to Columbine High School and killed 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves. What could have led two people to planning such a deadly massacre? Would anyone have ever guessed that bullying could lead up to something so horrifying? Bullying needs to be stopped because it harms people both verbally and physically, and only bystanders and victims can stop it. But can it be stopped?

Bullying is a major problem for students throughout the world. In a 1991 study of U.S. children, 81% of boys and 72% of girls from the ages of 7 to 12 reported being bullied. And in a recent study, 77% of teens said they have been bullied verbally, mentally, or physically, and 30% of U.S. students in grades six through ten are also involved in frequent bullying. Statistics show that each month 1 out of 4 kids is bullied or abused by another, and each day about 160,000 students miss school because they fear that they will be bullied if they go. As you can see, bullying is a major issue that many students fear and remember for the rest of their lives.

At first glance, bullying might not seem like a huge deal. However, bullying may lead to some very serious effects. Students who get bullied frequently usually have a tough time making friends and may skip school, causing their grades to drop. Victims can also develop severe depression and physical illness such as lack of sleep and appetite. As bullying goes unnoticed, the situation gets worse. There have been many occasions where the victim has committed suicide or has started carrying a weapon, such as a gun or knife, to protect himself. The truth is that the results of bullying can cause harm to the victims or anyone around them. But victims are not the only ones whose future gets affected. Children that bully others are more likely to use drugs and alcohol as adolescents, and the continuation of bullying may also lead to more serious acts of criminal activity in their adult lives. Bullying needs to be stopped before someone’s life is ruined!

So, how should we solve the ever-growing problem of bullying? Most schools have anti-bullying programs and assemblies to stop bullying. But that will not stop it! Research by Canadian psychologist David Smith found that 57% of anti-bullying policies had no measurable benefit, 14% yielded mild improvement, and 29% actually made the problem worse! Schools always try to target the bullies and tell them that what they’re doing is wrong. The people they should actually be targeting are victims and bystanders. Victims are the most important people to address in anti-bullying programs. It’s not their fault they are being bullied, but they are the ones most likely to react to bullying in the way that will result in someone getting hurt. Bullies aren’t the ones committing suicide and shooting up schools. Fighting back rarely works, so victims need to learn how to ignore comments said by bullies. Bullies only tease or make fun of people who act afraid. The bully will eventually stop if the victim acts like the bullies isn’t bothering him. Another solution to the problem is to teach bystanders, which includes adults and other students, to step in and stop the bullying from going on. All bullies want is attention. Unfortunately, they try to get it in the most negative way. If bystanders tell the bully that his actions aren’t funny, he will probably leave the victim alone. Bullies are also intimidated by large groups, so they won’t bully victims if they are surrounded by other people. We must all face the truth that bullying is inevitable, a natural byproduct of human nature.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is a quote that every victim of bullying should keep in my mind. They should always remember that someone has their backs, whether it is a parent, teacher, or friend. Nobody is ever completely lonely and unloved, and bullies can’t make other students feel that way! Bullying needs to be stopped because it harms people both verbally and physically, and only bystanders and victims can stop it. Although bullying can’t be stopped completely, its power can be removed. And the only way to remove the power is for the victims to act unafraid or for bystanders to step in and help. If this doesn’t happen, we may have another “Columbine” on our hands. But what would be even worse is if the word “Columbine” was replaced by another school’s name. All it takes is just one bully to say one bad thing to one victim for one disaster to take place. What should be done about bullying? Please leave a comment about how bullying has affected you and how we can try to stop it.

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