I recently read an article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The subject was a lawsuit between parents Julie and Timothy Krebs. The trial’s ultimate intent is to remind the New Kensington-Arnold School District of their lack of response to the bullying that Destiny Krebs endured every day. Tragically, the emotional pain proved too much for Destiny Krebs. She took her life in February of 2015. I have felt obliged to write about this story since I found it only a week ago. However, I was unsure where to begin.
I graduated from high school five years ago. I was a target throughout my years in the public education system. However, I do not know the specifics with regards to the nature of bullying incidents that are known to take place in New Kensington-Arnold Schools. We have often heard the cliché where people refer to bullying as an epidemic. No doubt that we should be concerned about it. However, I think it is important to remember that bullying is still a very complex issue.
Lee Hirsch’s documentary “Bully” made that incredibly clear. The five families featured in this critically acclaimed work featured the lives of five families who have been affected by bullying in ways that have many significant differences and similarities. (Below are links to stories about each family.)
- David and Tina Long (from Murray County, Georgia.)
- Kirk and Laura Smalley (from Perkins, Oklahoma.)
- Kelby Johnson (from Tuttle, Oklahoma.)
- Alex Libby (from Sioux City, Iowa.)
- Jameya Jackson (from Yazoo, Mississippi.)
I am truly grateful for all of these families. They have all reminded us about the importance of determination. They all had one thing in common. That is their anger with their school’s lack of response. It is never easy to turn the reality of a child’s death to movement. I am in no way trying to claim that I am on the side of administrators or teachers who are apparently uninterested in doing anything to prevent the issue. I, however, think it is important to keep things in mind if it should come up in a conversation between you and the people you interact with every day.
Parents make a significant difference with regards to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of not just their children. Again, that difference can be positive when they become involved in movements like The Bully Project. It can also be profoundly negative. The question is, what is the appropriate way for a teacher or principal to speak to parents of students who are indeed involved in bullying? Our world is full of parents who have absolutely no clue about what their children doing when they are not under their direct supervision. Good luck to the teacher who tries to tell the parents about their behavior. In a worst case scenario, the parent will most likely get defensive and deny that their child did anything wrong.
“How dare you tell me that my child is not a perfect little angel?”
Sadly, our world is full of parents who just don’t care about how damaging bullying is. Some of them go even farther than dismissing the issue and using cliches like “boys will be boys.” They believe that it is funny to mistreat other people and will remorselessly defend a child who does it. I suppose a plausible theory could be that schools often refuse to address the issue due to fear of backlash from the parents of the bully. However, this ends up backfiring for schools because a lawsuit from the parents of the victim is often the only way to remind faculty and administration of how the issue continues to affect everyone negatively.
(The scene from Bully at the town hall meeting with Tina and David Long was an eye-opening example. A local pastor stepped up to the microphone. He said that students showed up in school with ropes around their neck right after the suicide death of their son Tyler.)
I certainly agree that we should all be angry with school teachers and administrators who are completely lax with regards to punishing children who bully. I agree that movements like “The Bully Project” are very beneficial in getting the word out. However, our anger can make us oblivious to how complicated the world is. I will forever be grateful for the people in my life who taught me the importance of rising above negativity and hatred. We need more individuals and groups who are willing to step up to the plate and take that risk.