Sunday, October 20, 2013

Suicide from Bullying: Should the Bullies Be Held Legally Accountable?

            Tragically, in September, a 12 year-old girl jumped to her death from a tower after being a victim of prolonged bullying and cyberbullying. Like many children who commit suicide when the bullying becomes overwhelming, Rebecca Sedwick apparently decided that taking her own life was the only solution.  Statistics show that victims of bullying are up to nine times more likely to consider suicide as a solution. Not only does bullying need to be addressed and dealt with in schools, but also by parents. No child should ever have to resort to such desperate measures as taking his or her own life. Is holding the bullies accountable and legally liable for the suicide of someone who was a victim of their tormenting the answer? This solution is controversial, but some believe it may be necessary in order to better address the bullying pandemic and possibly save lives.  

Two girls were arrested by the Polk County Florida sheriff and charged with felony aggravated stalking in Rebecca's death. The sheriff has also stated that he believes that the parents of the two tormenters should also be held accountable on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He also believes the administration of the school also should be held accountable for failing to properly address the victimization of Rebecca. The Polk County sheriff made the arrests because, post the suicide, the bullies seemed to show no remorse. He said that the older suspect was gloating on Facebook, after the suicide, about bullying Rebecca. He believes the arrests have the potential of sending a much needed message to children and teens who bully and torment others in schools, the community, and on the Internet.

The alleged bullying of Rebecca started in December 2012 when she and the two suspects were students at Crystal Lake Middle School. According to a statement from the Polk County Sheriff's Office, Rebecca was bullied online for 10 months and had been physically attacked five times before that. 

The two teen bullies allegedly sent Rebecca menacing messages on Facebook calling her ugly, telling her to "drink bleach and die," and encouraging her to kill herself, according to police reports.  The 14-year-old suspect also allegedly bullied anyone who was friends with Rebecca, according to police, and even encouraged the 12-year-old suspect, who had been Rebecca's friend, to turn on her, as well. 

Clearly, with bullying being an increasing trend and with the statistics showing that bullying has the potential to cause victims to take their own lives, the dilemma needs to be better addressed. Hopefully, the recent arrests of Rebecca’s bullies will send a message to other bullies that such tormenting will not be tolerated. Maybe legal accountability for a bullycide, the suicide committed as a result of being bullied, is an additional answer to such a travesty. What do you think? I would love to read your opinions and comments to this blog post.

Picture credit: sanja gjenero

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bullying: Every Child and Parent’s Nightmare

Reports of children being bullied by classmates, peers and others to the point where such children may be considering suicide is a nightmare scenario and should certainly give all parents pause and concern. This is just one reason, among many, that the bullying problem needs to be addressed.

In today’s society, bullies may come in all shapes and sizes and some remain invisible, cloaked behind a computer screen. Cyber bullying has become commonplace in the age of social media. Demeaning and hurtful messages and gossip are often sent via text messages or posted on Facebook or other social media pages. In addition, bullying seems to be a silent epidemic. Targets of bullying are often afraid to talk about it or tell anyone who could help for fear of exacerbating the bullying. Not enough children stand up for those being bullied because they fear becoming a target themselves.

Children know bullying when they experience it or witness it. Parents and teachers, however, don’t always have a clear picture of just what bullying looks like. In order to intervene, parents and schools need to have a clear definition of the kinds of behaviors that constitute bullying.

The U.S. Department of Education's definition of bullying is clearly stated below:

•Bullying is deliberate. The bully wants to hurt someone. Bullying is usually repeated, with the bully targeting the same victim again and again. The bully takes advantage of an imbalance of power by picking victims he or she believes are vulnerable.

•Bullying can occur through physical, verbal or relational means where bullies try to destroy their victim's relationships through vicious rumors and social exclusion.

•Bullying often occurs in groups and teachers, parents and peers of students being bullied should be encouraged to expose such behavior.

•Students should learn to be assertive and "stand up to bullying" without resorting to violence.

There are times when punishment has to be handed out, but parents, teachers, principals, and counselors should also try to get to the core of why a child is bullying. Efforts should be made, not only to protect the victim, but also to help rehabilitate as well as punish the bully, as the case might require.

Picture credit: sanja gjenero