By: Dani Langevin, Valley Patriot Lesbian Columnist – January, 2011
As an eighth grade teacher I see bullying almost on a daily basis. As a student I was at both ends of bullying. I remember bullying a boy in third grade because he was heavy and ran funny. In high school, I was bullied by an upper classman. He made me hate going to school, especially lunch because I would inevitably end up with a portion of his on me. A year after I graduated, I read about my bully’s passing while on a military campaign in Lebanon. At the time, I remember thinking that he got what he deserved due to my relentless torture. I don’t think that any more, but it does illustrate how damaging bullying can be to a children’s emotional ability to think rationally.
I agree that all students need to be given sensitivity training, be kinder to one another and should be held accountable for their behavior. However, I do not agree that anyone should be held responsible for the death of another person due to suicide. It’s not that simple.
There’s got to be a great deal more involved for a person to feel that the only way to deal with an unpleasant situation is to take themselves completely out of the equation. Bullying has been around since the dawn of time. Not everyone who has been subject to the cruelty of their peers has resorted to such desperate measures. Those that do must have had other underlying emotional issues that had not been addressed. Kids are all wired differently. There’s no user manual that can be applied to every single child. If a child’s emotional issues go unaddressed, unfortunately, some of them can be prone to extreme measures.
I have two sons. Both of them couldn’t be wired more differently than if we picked two random children from opposite sides of the earth. My younger son is 17 and thick skinned. He can take a good ribbing about the ridiculous skinny jeans he wears, the fact that he has added studded spikes to his jean jacket that he tore the sleeves off and the strange little beard he has that looks oddly like fuzzy testicles at the end of his chin.
He can take it all. My older son, 18, is quite the opposite. He takes every little comment and nuance as a direct attack on him personally. In fact, just recently he hadn’t been home in almost a month because I had the gall to tell him, in front of company, that he needs to pick up his mess before he goes to bed. He hung out at his fathers because Dad is a ‘hands off’ kind of guy and lets my son come and go without demands. I truly believe that, had my older son been subject to bullying, he would have considered desperate measures to relieve himself of such torment. Would it have been the fault of his bullies? No, absolutely not. It’s the way he’s wired and we’ve been trying to help him ‘fix’ that wiring since he was a young boy.
And when does bullying no longer become bullying?
If an adult commits suicide, does anyone look into their recent past to see if a co-worker, peer or boss had been bullying them? Why is bullying confined to childhood? Can a person deliberately bully someone with the intent of turning them toward suicide? If so does that then make it murder? Recently I read an article about a couple from Waltham. A husband shot his wife then killed himself. Are investigators looking into this man’s recent emotional background? Did the wife bully her husband into murder and suicide? What were the factors behind this heinous event?
I am not trying to be facetious. I’m quite serious. I am sickened by the recent rash of suicides by gay teens. I understand that they were bullied, but the bullies should not be held accountable for the actions of the bullied.
They should, however, be held accountable for their own actions. They should be required to take sensitivity classes, write a letter to the family and friends of the lost child and apologize for adding to their distress, and do community service that involves giving back to others less fortunate than themselves, but to be stamped with the blame for another person’s death is just as wrong as the death itself.