Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bullying: It's not just someone else's problem by Guest Blogger James Langan

Bullying is not just someone else’s problem; it affects all of us. Every child has a right to an education, and bullying denies that right. A child constantly subjected to fear, threats, humiliation, and physical abuse is in no condition to learn. The school thus becomes, in the bullied child’s mind, a prison; and the child’s psychological state is reduced to that of a terrorized captive – whose main goal is not learning, but rather escaping from the incessant torture committed at the bus stop, in the playground, on the Internet, in the cafeteria, and even in the classroom. Emotional and physical survival become the only priorities, and all else gets cast to the wayside. In extreme cases, suicide becomes a distinct possibility. Of course, the bullied child understands none of this – anxiety not being particularly conducive to reflection.

The experience of being
bullied is both immediate and concrete. In any case, prolonged exposure to bullying can cause life-long scars and the permanent destruction of the child’s true potential. An uneducated child will eventually become a burden to us all, in one way or another.

But bullying also spawns
other victims: Unrepentant bullies who are not put in check before it’s too late become deprived of the possibility of understanding, appreciating, and respecting the rights and the dignity of others. This puts them on a collision course with a lifetime of pain and suffering when inevitably thrust into the world of adult relationships – be they within the context of a marriage, the law, a job, or common social situations. In addition, the bully’s moral development will be delayed if nothing is done since bullying others is clearly a symptom of the inability to distinguish between right and wrong and that it is simply wrong to harm others. Bullies must be made to understand that by humiliating others they actually are demeaning themselves much more so than they could ever imagine. Each and every child has the right to strive for his or her maximum level of development in all domains; and we, as adults, are responsible to make sure that that happens. That is the main point of all that we do.

Finger-pointing will not solve the problem: Parents blame the schools,
and schools blame the parents, and the suffering continues unabated. Only when both sides mutually agree to a cease-fire and begin to work together in good faith will the end of bullying be in sight. Politicians pontificate, and lawmakers legislate, and all manner of measures are proposed to leave the impression that the situation is under control and that the guilty will be punished. It is indeed a lovely show that accomplishes nothing. So something else is needed: An ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure, respecting the dignity of others needs to be part of the curriculum in the education of every child at the earliest– in the home and at school. This will take some effort, but is far preferable to condemning bullies and the bullied alike to a lifetime of pain and lost opportunities, never knowing what could have been.

None of us want our children to be bullied or to be bullies; instead, we want our children to be
kind, compassionate human beings with the education and moral development needed to build a better tomorrow. So talk to your children, their teachers, the school administrators, and even to other parents. This is not about “Us versus Them.” But rather, about working together as members of a community with the common goal of putting an end to the destruction of our children’s lives. And to ensure that they prosper and receive every chance to fulfill their true human potential, as is their right.

James Langan is an Information Technology Administrator at Girl Scouts of Nassau County. In addition, he also works with his Girl Scout colleagues to support language translation.

James has followed the Council’s work on Critical Issues and is passionate about spreading awareness on the various issues facing children today. We look forward to hearing from him on other topics again soon.


  1. Well said James. And so true.

  2. Excellent post James. Thank you!

  3. Thank you to Girl Scouts for addressing this ever growing issue. I'd like to add two very important issues:

    First: Zero tolerance is the only acceptable answer with bullies. Too many parents and teachers wrongly assume that 'boys will be boys', 'they'll grow out of it soon', or other reasons to not deal with the behavior. Parents of children who are bullied need to speak up and speak up loudly until their child is safe.

    We also need to teach our children that watching, egging the bully on, and not telling what happened are harmful as well. Bullies draw power from an audience and rely on the hesitance of students to 'tattle'.

    We as parents need to understand that bullying now is not the same as bullying when we were in school. The intimidation and emotional cruelty some students endure in this day and age not only causes fear, anxiousness, and declining grades in school, but have effects that last well into adulthood.