Twelve year old Florida school bully victim Rebecca Sedwick did tell someone of her plight.
She did not just keep it to herself.
Her parents, the school, and the local police were aware of the problem. She even left the school, started homeschooling, and enrolled in a new school for the next semester. Yet the bullying continued.
She told somebody – why didn't this help?
She jumped to her death from a tower Tuesday.
In the old days, before social media, most of us were bullied at some point or another. It was considered sort of a “rite of passage” in growing up.
Little Ralph in “A Christmas Story” faces a bully almost every day coming home from school. After having an awful day at school and building up a lot of frustration, on the way home he confronts the culprit “mano a mano” and overcomes him. Good story.
But these days congressmen can block a vote on an important bill easily just by using the filibuster - checking in on their computer instead of having to stand in the House or the Senate speaking for hours and hours. Likewise, a bully can just sit at a computer screen and anonymously pour torment upon any person anywhere.
The teenage culprits in Rebecca’s case will be caught. But it is long after these cyber bullies drove her to jump off a water tower. As Rebecca’s life is lost, so are these bullies’ lives forever changed.
School anti-bullying pep rallies are okay. They will help convince some that bullying of all types, including cyber stalking, is an awful idea. Just as important, they can convince the victims to always speak up about the problem instead of remaining silent.
But chanting, "Bullying no way!" is only a start. There remains a hard-core group who will always choose the wrong path and pick on the less secure. It appears that one such group side-stepped a preliminary Polk County, Florida police investigation.
One solution is that just as Ralph must confront his bully, the victim and the bully must meet face to face under adult supervision.
The bully must be allowed to explain the gripe about the victim which could be just a simple, “I don’t like you.” The victim must be allowed to express the pain being felt. They should be assisted in reaching an understanding – maybe not a lifelong friendship, but an agreement to peacefully coexist.
But there is a profound difference between Ralph’s days and today. Cyber bullies can work anonymously, in packs, dumping their miserable words upon anyone, anywhere, at the touch of a computer key.
Our children must be forewarned and forearmed as to how to handle cyber bullies. Part of their schooling must include how to not take these vicious electronic notes personally. Also, it is essential to include “What to do if…”, including specific names and contact information of school and community personnel who will assist them and their parents with the problem.
This requires a lot more than a rally where children chant, “Bullying…no way!”
Maybe we must create a new word for cyber bullies since the word “bully” sounds so physical in nature. These evil-doers rely upon the internet to deliver their impersonal psychological and emotional torture.
We should call them something very unsexy. "Cyber bullies" and "cyber stalkers" connote a bit of intrigue.
“Internet muggers” is one suggestion. Someone uses the internet to deliver their anonymous threats and insults notes. What would you call those who bullied Rebecca Sedwick at school and on the internet?