We Need To Do Better Nicole Paulhus

This past weekend, I was enraged by a series of discouraging responses to Mikaela Foster’s brilliant and mature piece on bullying. I could not believe that anyone would respond to that article with anything but encouragement and support. The fact that these comments seemed to come from adults only made me angrier. I have avoided writing about bullying because it seems to be so excellently covered by the younger writers on this site. However, this week I cannot stop thinking about the fact that adults are responding to their outcries with negativity, that administrators are ignoring their feelings and that yet another troubled kid has shot up a high school.

I was in sixth grade when the Columbine High School shooting occurred. I remember sitting in class the following day and planning my exit strategies from each classroom. Instead of listening to my teachers, I was contemplating how to most effectively turn my desk into a shield. My safe simple world grew dark and scary in an instant. In the following weeks my middle-school was evacuated three times due to bomb threats. While all false, they were still scary. Then one day word spread that a kid in my grade was bragging about having access to a gun and knowing how to use it. The boy in question had asked me out a few times, I had refused him and he had said some pretty hateful things to me throughout the year. When I heard of his gun rant, I was instantly terrified, as were a lot of kids. There was a long line at the payphone. We wanted out. Then the bell rang and despite our protests, the principal forcefully sent us back to class. We were children, we were scared and we were told our fear didn’t matter.

I went to class holding back tears. When I explained to my teacher what was happening, she marched me directly to the payphone and handed me a quarter. She was a mom and said if her kid were scared she would want him to be able to call her. I called my mom and she came to get me, but not before I was forced to have a sit-down with the principal. He was mad that I had gone against his rules of imprisonment and forced me to explain myself. I did so expecting to be met with sympathy and action. Instead, a grown man in a position of power looked into the eyes of a tearful 11-year-old girl and said that she was overreacting and he wasn’t going to do anything without proof. My mother kept me from school the rest of the week and after finishing up the year, I went willingly to private school in the fall.

I was fortunate enough that my bully’s threats of violence were empty and that when the institution failed me my family was able to send me elsewhere. However, not every child has these luxuries. Not every kid has parents willing or able to intervene on their behalf. School administrators need to do better. How many kids need to die before complaints of bullying or violence are taken seriously? Out of a thousand kids threatening violence, there is one who actually shoots up a cafeteria. Out of a thousand girls called sluts and whores, there is one who is so mercilessly bullied that she sees no way out other than death. Out of a thousand kids with “fag” written on their locker, there is a boy who has grown to hate his existence so much that he ends it. How sure are you that the bullying case in your school isn’t one of these? How sure are you that those threats are empty? Is that a risk you are willing to take? It shouldn’t be. Kids should not have to die in order for their feelings to be taken seriously. Your job is to protect them and provide them a safe environment in which to learn. If you don’t stand up for them, you are failing them.

As for the rest of us, we are all so quick to blame society for all of our problems, but as members of this society we sit back and watch the cycle of abuse continue without doing anything to change it. We need to encourage kids like Mikaela Foster and Ruby Karp to stand up for what they feel is wrong instead of saying, “That’s just how the world is.” That attitude is exactly why these things keep happening and why hate keeps flourishing. We are the adults, we need to set an example and we need to do better.

Feature image via prevent7.org

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  1. I agree. I read Mikaela’s article and found it very nice, I pretty much agreed with all she said. I do agree, it goes both ways both boys/men and girls/women can be bullies. But this is a great article in response to the negative responses to Mikaela’s. Adults do need to protect the younger generation. Adults need to actually step in when bullying is occuring not pretend it isnt happening. When I was in high school teachers did nothing. And only one student ever stood up for me when I was being bullied and I tried hard to do the same when I saw it. There’s all these talks of what they do to stop bullying but they do nothing. For once the adults need to step in and do what they keep saying they’re going to do. Thank you for writing this.

  2. This is a great article! As adults it is our job to protect the younger generation, they should not have to deal with this kind of behavior. It makes me sick to think that so many young people are ending their own lives because they think its their only way out :(

  3. Great article Nicole!!!

  4. Preach on! There is absolutely NO REASON why kids these days should have to deal with it because ‘that’s the way it is! But, don’t worry, it gets better!’ I remember being in middle school and high school, and everything was either the GREATEST THING EVER or THE END OF THE WORLD! That’s it. If adults like ourselves cannot help the young people, than what are we doing here? Why did we fight struggles in our teen years? It should be to help those younger than us. We are their advocates.

  5. thank you for posting this! in middle school i was bullied and went to my administers repeatedly. the school didn’t do anything about it until one of my bullies broke my arm, and even then my bully got a week suspension and i got dropped from my classes and had to do work in the school office to make up the credit. it makes me sick when i see bullying at any age. kids should never be met with negativity. we should be bringing up the hopes and spirits of our youths. I allowed bullying to take me to a really dark place and luckily I had a teacher who set me up with yellow ribbon and I got help before it was too late for me. I hope that as a society in general we can realize the error of our ways. It take more people like you who are willing to stand up and speak out.

  6. Thank you for this.

  7. I lost faith in the public school system ages ago. Of course, not everyone had a mother who would nail ‘em to a wall (metaphorically, of course!) if they didn’t stop to listen to her for all of five minutes! I love my mom for being the b**** (no other word for it, considering how hard she had to fight to get them to even consider that i should never have been the one in trouble–funny how the victim always got in trouble instead of the bully D<) she had to be.

  8. My thoughts exactly. The worst part is, how many times did the kids doing the shooting, ask for help before getting to that point. Not every person bullied hides away, some lash out with devastating consequences. How can we still live in a world so full of hatred and ignorance?

  9. I really like this piece; I’m glad you wrote it. Bullying has been a problem for a while; I noticed it when I was in school and I feel like it’s gotten worse over the years due to cell phones and IMs and stuff because now kids are “cyber bullied” as well as being bullied at school so they almost have no escape. I was in 6th grade when Columbine happened too, but it was the last year of elementary school for me, so while I was slightly unsure about going to school the next day I felt like those things could only happen in middle school/high school so I didn’t need to worry too much. (I was wrong, but it kept me calm so that’s good).
    I feel like administrators don’t always take kids seriously enough. Like, your bully’s threat was empty but the principal had no way of knowing that in advance so he should’ve understood when you called your mom. And sometimes even when students aren’t threatening other kids, they’re taunting them in another way and that can be really hurtful too. We’ve all seen/heard enough stories in the past few years about kids committing suicide because of bullying so verbal bullying isn’t okay either.

  10. I loved your article. I was bullied all through middle school and high school and its the worse feeling in the world, especially when none of these bullies and rumor spreasing people knew me in bs chool or outside of school so when the news come in about school shootings or children killing thenselves im in utter disbelief. And your.totally xorrect we as adults should take responsibility and ask what we as parents can do from talking to our children about.bullying others and being there for those who are being bullied.sad to say i didnt have parents who understood what i was going through so i had to trudge.on thru things year afte year from being thrown rocks, to booed off stage while receiving a school
    award, to just hiding behind the school library or restrooms duringg lunch..and its awkward.when now years later.i meet up with a bully of.mine and they seemto not remember their actions without knowing the impact of their actions towards me, but now that im a mom of a three yr old boy i tell his dad i want him to know better and do better to be able to know were here if he goes thru aomething like i did or to kepp him from doing this to others…bullying.is not a joke and shouldnt be taken lightly especially.now at this time and age..things arent how they were where children for some reason dont see the.light at the end of the.tunnel, and we shouldnt bash on the.ones who are mature.to understand this….(sorry for the long response…thanx to anyone who reads thru) :)

    • I’m terribly sorry for everything you had to go through. :( Being bullied is the worst, roughest thing imaginable. Unfortunately, when you live through it, you don’t have to imagine. Bullying is real and it’s more common than people know. You’re right–it’s not a joke. It’s taken too lightly. “Kids will be kids” just doesn’t cut it when kids are bringing guns to school, or committing suicide.

  11. I was bullied awfully in 7th and 8th grade for absolutely no reason whatsoever. I went to a school counselor and was ignored. I showed her the bruises and was ignored. I went to the principal, same thing. So I never told my parents, thinking I’d get the same treatment. My self-confidence plummeted, and to this day I tend to shut up my emotions and feelings until I get a stomach ache. I hear people in my parents’ generation talking about how kids these days are overly sensitive. Everyone was bullied in the old days, they say. Maybe…But that’s a lazy, ignorant excuse for something that needs to be handled. Fast. Props to Mikaela Foster for her courage to stand up for what’s right. I hope other girls read her words and Nicole’s and realize that what’s happening is not okay.

  12. Thank you. Mikaela knows how it really is. Those others don’t see the humanity in the big picture, so thanks for trying to point it out. Three years ago (8th grade) was the toughest year of my life because of things like you’re describing. It doesn’t have to be a fact of life. It’s not my fault. It’s not gender psychology. It’s definitely not an exaggeration. And those things are honestly the worst things you can say to a bullied kid. So thank you so much for acknowledging that we have a problem in society that desperately needs to be fixed.

  13. thank you for this.

    • i also think it’s natural for adults to be all like, it gets better, don’t worry. but when you’re our age, and you’re actually living it, you know the real deal. it’s hard it’s hard its soooo hard.

  14. I’m so glad you took the time to respond to the commenters on Mikaela’s post. The following link is a great article is another great piece that starts to enlighten us to the cruel and derogatory environments that young children have to face every day. I was lucky to have a very strong family and friends support system when I was in middle school and it still was the hardest three years of my life. I can’t imagine how these young girls and boys deal with the ever expanding vocabulary (slut, whore, fag, cunt, etc.) of their classmates and the ever more tolerant administrations. Where do we go from here? It’s hard to say, but a good start is giving young people like Mikaela a voice and a platform to be heard.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/one-towns-war-on-gay-teens-20120202

  15. I just saw this last night http://thebullyproject.com/ and I was blown away. I think the term bullying is too associated with “that’s the way it is, kids” outlook that lets us all turn a blind eye. It is harassment and is a human rights issue that extends into schools, workplaces, homes, etc. Go see this film. It needs to be in every school.

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