Bullying: Ignore or Report?

On April 20, 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting rampage through the Columbine High School in Littelton, Colorado. They killed 15 people, injured 24 others and then killed themselves. On April 16, 2007, (eight years after the Columbine Shootings) Sheung-Hui Cho went on a shooting rampage through the campus of Virginia Tech. He killed 32 students, wounded many others and then committed suicide. All three of these people suffered from severe depression and were bullied in school. Since these tragedies, 44 of our 50 states have passed laws requiring schools to address the issue of bullying. Good has come out of these terrible tragedies. There are only six states who do not have a bullying law. They include the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. The people at Columbine never thought this tragedy would happen. They never took this issue seriously until a tragedy did indeed happen. Lawmakers have finally taken action and realized the potential outcomes, but I still believe more action needs to be taken to prevent this issue.

There was an incident that took place about a year before Columbine. It was tragedy that didn’t bring national attention until years after the shootings. I think telling this story will help people realize how serious this issue is. The story is about Jared High, a sixth grader at McLoughlin Middle School in Washington. Jared was enrolled in the special education program, and he was excited to find out he was just selected to be the manager of the eighth grade baseball team. Eighth grade student Andrew S. was on the team as well. He assaulted Jared inside the gymnasium. The incident was so bad that Jared contusions on his back, neck, abdomen and right thumb. The vice principal met with the two boys the day after the incident, and considered the incident a “mutually engaged fight”. Both boys were suspended for three days. The brief also stated the principal did not refer to either boys discipline and conduct history.

On September 29, 1998 his father was at his office working and the phone started ringing. It was Jared calling to say “goodbye”. He tried to talk to him, but it was too late. He heard a loud pop and a few seconds later he heard something hit the floor. When he arrived at home, he saw police cars lined up outside the house with their lights flashing. He immediately knew something was not right when he noticed police officers shaking their heads in disbelief when they were walking out the front door. He went into his family office and Jared was lying on the floor dead with a self-inflicted gun shot wound to his head. The weapon was a 22 caliber pistol and it was sitting on the floor next to him. The physical and emotional pain from the beating was unbearable. Again, this happened before the shootings at Columbine High School. Most people didn’t think bullying was a cause of suicide or violence.

I have always been one of the taller kids in my grade, and from what I remember I was never physically bullied by anybody. I mainly was harassed by people electronically or verbally when teachers were not around to supervise. The vice principal at Jared’s school did not handle the situation in the professional manner he should have. Again, he only gave the two boys a three-day suspension for a “mutually engaged fight”. The district was very well aware of his behavior and the school did not refer to their discipline history when dealing with this incident. The principal was a very arrogant person, and has also been known to bully students.

Freeport also did not handle bullies in the professional way the should have. There was a student during freshman year who kept sending me inappropriate pictures of himself to my phone, and in the text description he wrote “this is for you Derek”. I replied “stop sending me these pictures”. He probably sent me about ten more pictures when I told him to stop again. He then said “Wanna fight you fag”? My mother called the school the next day. I had erased all the pictures from my phone, because I became sick of looking at them. However, I still had the threatening text messages he sent me. I showed him the messages and he talked to the boys who sent the pictures, and all the principal did was give them a warning. The next day one of the boys walked up to me and started threatening me, calling me a “liar” and a “faggot”. He made the excuse “I was only trying to be your friend, and you told the principal on me”. There was also one incident where he grabbed my backpack and threw my things around the locker room. He also touched me inappropriately and I told him to “get his f***ing hands off me”. He then said “Derek, you shouldn’t swear. I am going to tell the principal and you will get detention. I am only trying to be your friend. Why are you not talking to me”? I obviously didn’t buy that, because I have made the mistake of believing that line before. My mom reported the incident again, and all they gave him was a warning.

The thing about this particular bully was that he was short and skinny. He used that as an excuse to get away with things like disrespecting me. He was a real obnoxious kid who always disrupted class and would give teachers attitude. This same harassment continued into my sophomore year and they kept giving him warnings. I was not the only person who complained about his disruptive and disrespectful behavior, other teachers and parents were calling and complaining too. After my mother complained about it again, Freeport finally decided to kick him out. While I was relieved I never had to be annoyed by him again, I was pretty bitter because I felt like the only people who knew I existed were the ones who enjoyed making negative comments about me or harassing me. I endured some bullying after this kid was kicked out, but I didn’t really care. The administration would most likely give them warnings, and the bully would start threatening me. Because of that, I started not caring about school. My teachers would always get on my back about completing work and I would just shrug my shoulders. I felt as if the whole world was out to get me, and it wouldn’t matter whether or not I completed my work because I felt I had no potential whatsoever.

Suicide and violence were never behaviors I would have seriously contemplated, but I often wondered if that could have been the possible outcome if I didn’t have people who actually cared about me. There high school students throughout the whole country and the whole world who have felt the same emotions I’ve felt. For me, the only outlet for these emotions was going to Lenape Tech. I got to start at a new school, with people I have never met before. We also have committed teachers who care and want them to be a success in the real world. I have come to realize that bullies are just people who want to make life unhappy for somebody else. I try my best not to worry about them and know that I am really the only person who matters. It still is hard sometimes, because it brings back memories of the bullying situations I have endured. I have realized that most of them are not going to end up doing for themselves in the future, so why bother worrying about them?

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One thought on “Bullying: Ignore or Report?

  1. While I was reading a bullying-relevant discussion on New Zealand site Walking is Overrated I became aware of a tendency to minimise non-physical bullying (and put it in a hierarchy), and I am glad you said how hurtful and inappropriate electronic and verbal bullying are, and their effect on you and other students. The bullying experts with whom I am familiar talk about sexual and psychological bullying, and social/relationship bullying (sometimes known as alternative/relational aggression).

    In an ideal world, whether the bullying is physical or not should not affect your decision to report.

    I would also point out that warnings and threats are the first step.

    The Columbine massacre is very current now because 29-year-old twins went to Colorado and had that massacre in their scrapbooks before going to a shooting range.

    The organisations which listen to problems of children and teenagers who might ring or e-mail them are very well aware that bullying is one of the big causes of suicide – whether express or implied. For example, Childline.

    Your case shows that school systems do listen or try to. They will act on repeated complaints.

    I would probably talk with kids about the bullying policies in their schools and in the law.

    By the way, the spelling I’ve seen of Cho’s first name is Seung-Hui. I realise the Romanisation of Korean names is tricky.

    The Jared High story brings up a lot of emotions, of course. I worry about special education students in sport – curricular and otherwise. That can be a real hotbed for bullying and intolerance. The principal’s reactions were probably short-sighted and inconsistent, though how am I to know this without knowing how he dealt with other incidents over time? “Mutually agreed fight”? Not referring to the discipline record?

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