As a child, I was once bullied when my family moved from one side of town to another.
On the first day of school, a boy introduced himself and engaged me in ‘friendly’ conversation. During that conversation, he asked me what church my family planned to attend. When I said I attended synagogue, not church, he punched me in the face.
But Jew hatred is only one form of bullying. Recently, I released Happy Jack—Sad Jack, a Bullying Story, a gentle, story-in-rhyme children’s picture book about a young bi-racial child who was bullied on his first day at school. The school reacts, suspends the bully, and assembles the children to teach them an important anti-bullying message:
“People are different in color, shape, size.
Ears, noses, mouths, and different shaped eyes.
Different races and genders—more too,
We’re Christians or Buddhist or Muslim or Jew.
But there’s one thing in common we all have in this place,
We are all valued members of this human race.”
Today, more and more schools are attempting to teach these important messages to children. But are the messages being delivered too late in life? Should there be more serious consequences?
Last week, 14-year-old Adriana Kuch took her own life after four students allegedly assaulted her in the hallway of a New Jersey high school. The assault was captured on video, apparently so the teens involved could further humiliate her by posting the beating online. As a result of their brutality and stupidity, they now face assault charges while Adriana’s father grieves the loss of a child.
The school superintendent has resigned, after Adriana’s father complained to NBC that had the school acted sooner to remove the offensive video, his daughter might still be alive. Mr. Kuch also alleged that the students involved had been bullying his daughter online for several years. He strongly believes that years of bullying, culminating in this beating, drove his daughter to suicide.
Here’s a question for you:
If the video is authenticated, and the accused students are guilty, should they face manslaughter charges?
Alec Baldwin and others involved in the “Rust shooting” were charged with manslaughter over what everyone agrees was a tragic accident. The behavior here is far more deliberate, and most of us know that the CDC reports that bullying victims are at a higher risk for suicide.
Is it just me, or are we seeing an uptick of these events? Bullying, whether it is physical or verbal, online or more direct, has become tragically common. While less common, we continue to hear and see stories like Adriana’s—a young person’s suicide is linked to a bullying incident. Is it a stretch to demand that penalties begin to fit the ultimate crime?
The CDC takes bullying seriously, defining it as:
“Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Bullying can occur in-person or through technology. Bullying has serious and lasting negative effects on the mental health and overall well-being of youth involved . . .”
Depression, anxiety, involvement in violence, substance abuse, poor social functioning, poor school performance, lower grades, lower standardized test scores, poor attendance, and, of course, a high risk of suicide related behaviors are all consequences of bullying, according to the CDC.
In this case, Adriana’s suicide took place two days after the beating.
The school district issued a statement that it is “evaluating all current and past allegations of bullying” and “will undergo an independent assessment of the District’s anti bullying policies and ensure every necessary safeguard is in place to protect our students and staff.”
I’m sorry—for me, that’s too little, too late. I’m a 70-year-old senior citizen with nine grandchildren. My bullying event happened almost 60 years ago. When are schools going to start to take these incidents, behaviors, prejudices, and acts of violence seriously? How many more children need to die?
In Adriana’s case, according to reports, while this child was left bloodied, bruised, and unconscious from her beating, the school did not call the police. What? Who should society protect? The bullies or the bullied?
I can hear the anti-woke crowd screaming and arguing, as I write this. Manslaughter charges for a kid who takes her own life? “Hazing” in high-school has been around for a long time. Kid’s need to toughen up—why ruin these kids’ lives? These arguments are . . . Malarkey!
I’ve seen the video. Adriana is walking down the hall with her boyfriend and another student hits her in the face with a full water bottle. She falls to the ground and students are punching her in the head and pulling her hair. Other students stand around cheering. It’s disgusting. After half-a-minute of this brutality, two school workers finally intervene. The former school superintendent issued a statement that the decision to not involve the police was “in line with school policy.”
It is time to stop offering the parents of dead kids our “thoughts and prayers.” It is time to end a culture of violence in schools and start offering grieving parents and siblings justice, which begins with harsh consequences for bullies. Last week, over 200 students staged a school walkout to protest the school’s handling of bullying allegations. Good for them! The kids seem to get it. Where are the adults? We will be watching.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you. Or, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
Mark M. Bello is an attorney and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series, ripped-from-the headlines, realistic fiction that speak truth to power and champion the rights of citizens in our justice system. These novels are dedicated to the social justice movement. They educate, spark discussion and inspire readers to action. One of these novels, Betrayal High, was written in response to school shootings. For more information, please visit www.markmbello.com. Mark also hosts the Justice Counts podcast with Lean to the Left editor & publisher Bob Gatty, presenting bi-weekly interviews focused on social justice.