ENTERPRISE EDITORIAL: Become an upstander, not a victim-blamer
Bullying clearly isn't a new phenomenon.
And it isn't the exclusive problem of one school. Every school district sees it happen.
But do we understand how we all play a part?
Are schools handling these incidents effectively? Should improvements to school policies and responses be implemented?
What can parents do to protect kids?
These are questions raised by this week's TV news report of bullying that escalated to a Century Middle School student being cut with a razor blade.
According to StopBullying.gov, "When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time. Parents, school staff and other adults in the community can help kids prevent bullying by talking about it, building a safe school environment and creating a community-wide bullying prevention strategy."
StopBullying.gov is a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The website includes a variety of bullying prevention information.
Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that all students learn in safe, welcoming school environments.
This isn't the first time that the Enterprise — or any of us community members — have heard about bullying at one of our area schools.
In the past, families have been too fearful about retaliation toward their children to come forward and speak publicly about their painful, sometimes traumatic experiences. Some still are afraid.
Breaking the silence on the topic of bullying takes a tremendous amount of courage. As a result of one family speaking out publicly, another eight families agreed to share their stories. They hope to make a difference in the lives of their children and others who are being bullied.
Sadly, the Partlow family is experiencing reprisal.
Children are coming home from school repeating rumors that the news story is "fake." Some are mutilating pictures of the victim. There is name-calling and accusations that somehow the victim deserved the bullying.
Victim-blaming only rewards the bullies.
Victim-blaming encourages silence about serious, hurtful, possibly life-threatening situations.
Victim-blaming allows violence to fester and grow.
Instead, let's all become upstanders.
Stopbullying.gov advises, "Stop bullying on the spot. Intervene immediately. Don't ignore it. Don't talk to the kids involved together, only separately. Don't make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot. Get police help or medical attention immediately if a weapon is involved, there is serious bodily harm or threats of serious physical injury."
Those who engage in bullying behavior need help, too. The bully may have a high number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). They may have experienced violence or bullying themselves. Without professional help, experts say the bullying behavior will most likely continue.
This is a discussion that our schools, our families and our communities need to have.
School should be a place where all children feel safe and know their concerns about bullying will be taken seriously and addressed.