Hopefully Phoebe Prince’s life was not in vain. Bullying has been around since the caveman. However, never has the emphasis been so keen as now. It seems that the death of Phoebe Prince has become the Columbine of school bullying.
As more is being told about this tragic event, we find out that that the root of the problem was because Phoebe caught the eye of one of the star football players. The statutory rape charge resulted from the fact that he was 18 and she was 15. He was also one of her harassers. His girlfriend and her buddies then got into the act of persecuting Phoebe for going out with her boyfriend. You know, that all too familiar case where it is all the girl’s fault and the boy is off the hook for any wrong doing. At any rate, on the last day of her life, Phoebe was hit with an energy drink can thrown from a car when she was walking home from school. She went into her house and hanged herself with a scarf given to her on her birthday.
Much has been said on TV and the news about school officials’ culpability. The school has said repeatedly that it was only aware of any problem for about a week. I believe them. Kids are sneaky and I doubt this nastiness directed at Phoebe was ever done in front of any adults. Friends have stated that Phoebe didn’t tell school officials. So its very difficult to do something about a situation you don’t know anything about. Most schools have anti-bully programs that address recognizing bullying and how to handle it. Most programs also fall short. Schools generally have bullying built in to the code of behavior system. Again, most bullying is done behind the scenes. Someone has to step forward. Bullying also must be recognized for what it is and universally agreed upon.
Jodee Blando has written a book, “Stop Laughing at Me. ” She herself was the victim of severe bullying and she has advised parents when their child is being bullied to take care of their child first. Reassure the child that there is nothing wrong with him or her and that the other people need to change. Then find activities through parks and rec one town over and enroll your child in something. Create an interim social life as a lifeline for your child before taking on the school system. Break the cycle of bullying.
Even though bullying has been around since the origin of kids, it has taken on a more virulent form with the advent of electronics. Phones, texting, computers, facebook, cyber communities are making bullying even more intense than old fashioned bullying of yesteryear. Parents are often unaware of what to be looking for. A virtual chat room can be more devastating than a classroom mainly because a teacher is in a classroom. Chat rooms are often unmonitored and it is easier to bully from behind a computer screen.
Former juvenile judge Linda Hatchett will start an online program online at www.parentpowernow.com starting Monday night at 10 pm. Pre-register. What a great idea. Judge Linda also recommends that parents of kids who have been accused of bullying should come to the website. Those parents have a big responsibility also.
CNN has a terrific half hour show entitled Battling Bullies. This issue is not going to go away. It is time deal with this psychologically damaging situation.
The government also has a real hard-hitting website: http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/kids/ It even has comics.
The resources are out there so that kids aren’t alone and neither are their parents.
What is it that pushes us as society over the top, so we no longer hem and haw over things like school violence, long trench coats bullying? Readers will remember that the killers at Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, has been subjects of bullying and ostracism. What makes schools, parents and communities finally pull out all the stops and decide that unacceptable behavior will not be tolerated? Perhaps the death of Phoebe Prince has finally pushed us all over the edge. Perhaps we will all stand up and simply refuse to accept bullying. Perhaps school boards will not start throwing kids out of school who bully. Perhaps society will no longer make up excuses for bullies.
Another slant to this story in Slate
There is a flip side to this story that has a new kid in town slipping around and sleeping with other girls’ boyfriends. While doing that should not get you killed, there are some strong social ramifications that are often involved with tis type of behavior. Should this side of the story be ignored or does have a solid part in this girl’s suicide? When we hear tales of cyber bullying and physical violence, how does this story differ from any other case where someone beats the snot out of someone else for infidelity, whether in marriage or dating?