It is Columbine all over again. Three more students are dead and the focus again is on bullying. Bullying is much deeper and more widespread than students being killed as a result of being bullied. Bullying takes many forms. Examples include: 1) Verbal: name-calling, teasing 2) Social: spreading rumors, leaving people out on purpose, breaking up friendships 3) Physical: hitting, punching, shoving 4) Cyber bullying: using the Internet, mobile phones or other digital technologies to bully or demean others.
Each year I meet hundreds of new students. Some of them become Facebook friends. This is so they can then message me if they are upset or need anything. This has been helpful with students that are angry or self-destructive. I have seen bullying but have never experienced it. This past weekend I received a threatening message. I simply asked, “how are you doing?” on Facebook to a former student. The young person who responded to me was on drugs and has been living out of their car for some months. I was shocked and the more I thought about it the more it troubled me. I was at first afraid of even saying anything about it. My self-doubting thoughts said, “What did you do to get such a response?” The truth was nothing. In talking to students who have lived in “drug” homes they understood. Their response was that it was the “drugs” or “alcohol” talking and not the person.
This personal experience prompted me to ask my groups this week if they have ever been “cyber bullied” and to my amazement many when I asked, “have you received threatening texts?” said “yes”. Some have received them for weeks encouraging them to kill themselves. This to me was unbelievable. One young lady who has been yelled at and put down at home received encouragement to kill herself from school students. I asked why haven’t you told anyone. She said, “I tried and people said what did you say to them to get this started?” She thought it was hopeless. In this case they stopped in time. I thought to myself “how did you handle it? One message was enough to mess up my week at first.
You may be thinking, “Tom are you trying to excuse the murder of students in schools?” That is the last thing I want to do. I’m simply trying to understand the problem and show you what I have learned that the problem is larger than I ever expected. This is what student’s call “high school drama” and it is so destructive. Oftentimes this happens after relationships break up or when students that compete in some way want to get ahead.
When I got bullied back in the day it was mainly from elementary school to home. When I got home then I was safe. Today bullying is a 24/7 opportunity of some to hurt others and now with the Internet, with a worldwide audience. Pray for youth! Pray that we teach Christian’s to do unto others, as they would want others to do unto them. The second lesson is one of forgiveness. We need to forgive for healing. Students need to tell some one and seek to stop bullying, which is abuse. The hurt and betrayal runs deep only the love and forgiveness of Christ will heal the broken heart. Thank you for your prayers and financial support.
In the Service of the God of All Comfort,
Tom and Audrey Morris
Common Effects of Bullying
1. Have higher risk of depression and anxiety, including the following symptoms, t
hat may persist into adulthood:
A. Increased feelings of sadness and loneliness
B. Changes in sleep and eating patterns
C. Loss of interest in activities
2. Have increased thoughts about suicide that may persist into adulthood. In one study, adults who recalled being bullied in youth were 3 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or inclinations.
Are more likely to have health complaints. In one study, being bullied was associated with physical health status 3 years later.
3. Have decreased academic achievement (GPA and standardized test scores) and school participation.
Are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
Are more likely to retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.
Steps to Stop Bullying
1. Tell someone. A friend, parent, teacher, or counselor.
2. Begin getting in touch with how you feel and the abuse has affected you. Start to pray to God for help. Cry out to him for he hears you.
3. Call the school to find out if any procedures have been put in to place to deal with bullying. If there are existing procedures, you will want to follow them.
4. Find out what your state's anti-bullying laws are. You can call your local government, or you can check BullyingPolice.org and click on your state. This information will give you guidelines on what you can do about the bullying, as well as what legal actions you can take if it comes to that.
5. Record every incidence of bullying. Of course you don't want to wait to take action, but in the meantime you need to write down everything about the bullying incident in as much detail as you can. If physical bullying occurred, take pictures of any bodily injury.
6. Contact the child's teacher if the incident took place in the classroom. Give the teacher a chance to handle the situation. You may want to suggest the teacher call a meeting between the parents of the bully and yourself.
7. Notify the principal if the teacher fails to take action. You may go straight to the principal if the bullying is not occurring in the classroom. For example, the bullying may have taken place on the playground during recess or in the hallway in between classes.
8. Send a certified letter to the school board if the principal has not taken action to stop the bullying. Make sure you include a copy of your detailed accounts of the bullying, as well as any conversations you had with the teachers and principal. Keep a copy of the certified letter for your records.
9. Call the police if the bullying has become physical and the school is not handling the situation.
10. Ask God to help you learn to forgive the person or persons who have hurt you. Do this because God wants you to and because it will be a vital step in your own healing of this hurt and loss of you sense of security.