Yesterday, was my 4 year anniversary of graduating from Abilene Christian University! My, how time does fly. 4 years of fun but hectic, emotional but meaningful experiences in full time youth ministry.
Over the 8 years of interning and working full time in ministry, there is a common thread I have seen in all areas of the country I have worked. Bullying. When one of our parents at Trinity contacted me about something called the Bully Project and a showing of a documentary about bullying, I couldn’t help but feel the need to at least see what it was all about.
Every youth ministry I have worked with, I have seen bullying of one type or another.
However, I honestly have never quite experienced bullying problems in schools as I did at one of the middle schools there in Huntsville. It was as if every week I had a new parent or student coming to me with bullying issues. A cutting epidemic because of it. Sigh. It was awful, and I was at a loss. I eventually sat down with the counselors there to discuss the problem. It was a little ironic to me at the time, because they did have a thorough plan in place for bullying… a better plan than any other schools I had dealt with…however, the plan itself, simply put, was silly. I hope it has changed since I moved. Maybe the problem has drifted away. I doubt it though…because after seeing the documentary last night, it seems like their plan is much like other schools in the country.
The documentary Bully echos the experience I have seen with youth. It follows the lives of 5 students in the country,…Iowa, Oklahoma, Georgia,…the same cases were true. It doesn’t matter what area of the country students live, what type of school they go to, bullying is a problem.
The students in the film ranged in age and type. Here is the trailer for the film.
Each story of the 5 different kids is touching for different reasons. However, the one that touched me the most was about a 12 year old boy named Alex who is called “fish face” by peers. He has a large family, and he was born at 26 weeks as a preemie. As I sat there watching his mom recall his birth, I was thinking… he is her little miracle baby, and she is happy he is alive today. Period. Then, he is called fish face. Like seriously?
This happens all the time. There are Alex’s everywhere.
Students were asked to complete forms and write a paragraph about the bullying they saw. The problem is,…what 7th grader on their own free will is going to go to the authorities and report bullying and put themselves at risk? Not happening. When parents come to report bullying, the principal in the movie said in a nutshell, we can’t do anything unless it is reported. We can’t watch everyone. I have ridden the bus before and the kids were “as good as gold.” It shows the bus driver aloof and not noticing day after day.
I know that many of the students who do bully haven’t been taught at home, but that really shouldn’t matter. I absolutely love that we call our youth area the Haven. That was actually my initial selling point on Trinity. Students should have a safe Haven at school, church and home. We do not tolerate bullying at church. If we know about it or see it, we do our best to stomp it immediately. It should be the same way at other places.
Unfortunately, even though people can make schools safe, many times bullying is taken online… over the years, I have seen pictures show up making fun of others at the schools or “rating” people.
That is asking for another situation like Tyler’s from the movie. If you are doing that…stop. Your few seconds of laughs and making yourself feel better is not worth the inner torture it could put someone through.
We all go through weird awkward stages…maybe yours already happened, you may be going through it,…or maybe it is coming. We all have them. There is no need to broadcast it for someone else. If it was broadcast for you, just think…how much better would that phase of been if you hadn’t of had it broadcast to your peers? Show some grace.
This statement is going to be unpopular to teens but I must say it– parents, your students are still learning how to make decisions. They may look like adults, but many don’t finish developing their brain until 24 years of age. If they are on facebook; you should be on facebook. If they are on instagram; you should be on instagram. If they are on twitter; you should be on twitter. If they are on vine, you should be on vine. Figure it out if you don’t know how to set it up. I will gladly help you. You don’t have to follow all of their friends…just them. They are your responsibility. You should know if they are bullying or being bullied. Like Alex, they may not even know that they are being treated poorly because it’s been going on for so long.
I know this was probably a rant of sorts, but I am so tired of turning on the news and seeing report after report of students committing suicide because of bullying.
Here is the link to the Bully Project. http://www.thebullyproject.com/#prettyPhoto
It’s about time we stopped this. Everyone is a child of God…we must not forget that key fact. There is always someone there who remembers that! Seek them out!