Often people dismiss bullying as a normal part of growing up. But bullying is cruel and harmful. It’s not normal healthy behavior. It’s not ‘boys being boys’. Being bullied can lead young people to feel anxious, depressed, and afraid. Most teens who are bullied don’t tell their parents or they minimize the extent of the bullying. Teens may avoid or refuse going to school. Some may self-harm. Others may feel they need to take drastic measures of violence or, like 17-year-old Tyler Long, suicide.
by Franklin P. Schargel, lifelong educator, motivational speaker, trainer, consultant, and the author of many books, including Creating Safe Schools: A Guide for School Leaders, Teachers, Counselors, and Parents.
Most of Tyler Long’s teachers loved him because he absorbed classroom material “like a sponge,” his mother, Tina Long, recalled. Her son was a “rule-oriented” elementary school student who had an “obsessive interest” in golfing. Social situations often overwhelmed him, however, and he was frequently the target of harassment by his peers. While in the sixth grade in Georgia, Tyler was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and subsequently placed on a number of medications. According to Long, the prescriptions made her son sleepy and he soon gained 60 pounds.
The schools did little to halt her son’s bullying, Long claims. The middle school principal, she alleged, told her to write off the harassment as “boys being boys.” A week afterward, she said Tyler was attacked by three students in a school bathroom.
Throughout middle school and high school, the bullying continued. “They pushed him into lockers, they spit in his food,” Long said. “A boy said there were over 200 people doing this to it . . . It was every day.”
A well-developed reporting platform, school transparency and community involvement are all necessary to combat school bullying on the national level,” Long said. “They have got to have a good documentation system to where everything’s not meetings and papers. We have got to be able to pull up what’s going on in our schools.”
However, she believes another key factor is student inclusion. “Let these kids use their creativity to come up with what they need to make this successful. Because they can do it. I’ve seen it.”
Long encourages parents to speak to their children’s friends because, she said, no matter how tranquil a student’s home life may be, the impact of his or her school experiences could prove dire.
“If we had went to that school and started talking to people about what Tyler was going through, we would’ve known,” she said. “If your kid comes and says ‘I’m getting bullied’, times it by 10 because it is always much worse than what they’re telling you.”
Schools need to take reports of bullying seriously. They cannot dismiss it with clichés like “it’s normal” or “it’s boys being boys.” Too many youngsters, especially those perceived as being different (too fat, too short, members of minorities, LGBT kids, or those with learning disabilities) are being targeted. We need to hold aggressors accountable for their actions. Schools need to develop a reporting platform. There is a need for community involvement to combat school bullying. Parents need to speak to their children’s friends because no matter how tranquil a student’s home life may be, the impact of his or her school experiences could prove dire. If a child reports to a parent or school official that they are being bullied, times it by 10, because it is much worse than they are telling you.
- Everything Starts With 1 Solution-focused, student-driven, and community-oriented bully awareness and prevention organization, founded by Tyler Long’s parents
- National Conference on Bullying, February 25-27, 2015, Orlando Florida Franklin Schargel will present the keynote address, Bullying: What Schools, Parents and Students Can Do
- Schargel Consulting Group Comprehensive information, resources, and services for creating safe schools, dropout prevention, and improving school leadership and school culture