It is better to intervene before a child commits suicide rather than waiting to solve the problem after the fact.
Recently, a girl in Lakeland FL committed suicide as a result of being bullied. (see: http://www.baynews9.com/content/news/baynews9/news/article.html/content/news/articles/bn9/2013/9/10/girl_12_found_dead_i.html)
This case received a lot of coverage. What annoyed me most was that once again, it represents a failure of the adults around this girl to intervene on her behalf before she got to the point where she killed herself.
I’m not blaming her mom, obviously, but people are so unaware that anything can be done, they do nothing. After the fact, the sheriff’s office arrested the two girls who were bullying and charged them with stalking and harassment, which were valid charges, but they came too late to help the victim.
Those charges also did nothing to help the bullies. And yes, that is a concern. We are talking about kids here. Most bullies can be taught to stop bullying and they and society will be better off if we can.
Here are my thoughts about this tragic case:
- We need to stop thinking of bullying as inevitable. It isn’t. We can and should be doing something about it. Stop being complacent.
- Sometimes kid on kid harassment is illegal. Adults have legal protections against this sort of prolonged harassment; kids should receive the same protection. Stop calling it bullying and label it for what it is, illegal and dangerous behavior.
- Treat it as the crime it is, but with leniency for the bully. They are, after all still kids. Give them an opportunity and the resources and support they need to change.
- Learn what is required to get bullying to stop. It isn’t easy, but it is doable. So learn the skills, teach them to your child and pass this information on to others.
Do I recommend filing police reports in every case? No. But when the bullying is severe, it is an option and we should no longer be waiting until things turn tragic before using that option. Afterwards is too late.