Is Well-Intended Anti-Bullying Pledge Just Empty Words?

By Jason Menard

The old adage states that actions speak louder than words. Until schools, police, and parents are willing to get tough on bullies, I fear that this latest anti-bullying endeavour – the Pledge to End Bullying – will amount to nothing more than empty words.

Essentially, the pledge states one’s belief that everyone in the community has a right to feel safe and that “I pledge to be respectful of others and stand up against bullying whenever and wherever I see it.”

Nice words. Great sentiment. But the ones who most need to follow those rules won’t be the ones lining up to take this pledge. If this sounds familiar, perhaps because it’s very similar to a piece I wrote in the Ottawa Citizen in May regarding a much-more graphic anti-sexual assault campaign.

The Pledge site continues by explaining how the Pledge is a community-wide initiative. It’s designed to raise awareness in schools, at work, and at home. Unfortunately, certain people are already all-too-aware of bullying – and those are the victims.

I’m all in favour of awareness campaigns and education. And what I like about this is that, unlike the Ottawa anti-rape campaign, it doesn’t only target the bullies – it also asks that the community at large get involved and take action.

But at some point, we have to ask when is enough enough? When to we stop focusing solely on education (Stand Up 2 Bullying, Pink Shirt Day, Anti-Bullying Day… the list goes on and on) and take true action. Bullies prey on fear, so maybe it’s time to give them a taste of their own medicine.

No, I’m not saying we should form a lynch mob and whack the bejeezus out of these kids. And, not, I’m not denying that many of these kids have real emotional, psychological, and social disorders that require support and counselling. But those are issues that should be dealt with after the fact.

Bullying isn’t just overt. It’s not just the playground fight or the pushing and shoving in the hall. It’s often much more insidious. It’s the threats uttered so no one else can hear; it’s the non-verbal and off-location intimidation tactics. It’s the on-line harassment.

And it’s all made worse when the school refuses to take it seriously.

Our son was bullied in his younger days. We called the school on a regular basis demanding that something be done. We were told that the situation was being monitored by teachers. But teachers can only see so much. In the end, our son found himself in the hospital after being pummeled by one of these bullies. Only then did the school take action – and at that it was only nominal.

We were lucky. Other families aren’t. Their kids are killed – some in the moment of bullying; others by their own hand suffering from the long-term anguish.

You want to stop bullying? Get tough. Fast. A child utters a threat? Call in the cops. You purport to have a hands-off policy on school? Well then enforce it. Hanging a bunch of cheesy posters doesn’t do anything; suspending these kids from school or having them spend some time in juvenile hall will.

Bullying is a crime. In the real world, we call it harassment, assault, and – in some cases – murder. Awareness programs and cutesy slogans are fine, but we’re well beyond the point of gathering around and hoping our chorus of Kumbaya will make bullies see the error of their ways.

Unfortunately, many schools see these troubled kids – and the targets of their tormenting behaviour – as someone else’s problem. Gloss over the issue long enough and these kids will slide on into another school. And while the physical pain will fade, the emotional scars can last for years. We need to get tough. Fast.

Schools must take threats seriously and they must act fast. Parents must stop protecting their bullying children – we’ve been told over and over that we are in the vast minority because we expect the school to enforce consequences for our son’s actions (tardiness, not handing in assignments). In many cases, the parents can’t control their kids’ behaviours, but they can certainly get out of the way when it comes time to punish them for their actions. Kids know they can threaten parents, teachers, and fellow students alike with absolutely no repercussions.

Recently, New Jersey enacted legislation that holds schools legally responsible for the behaviour of their students towards one another. Is that the answer? Something has to be. Anti-bullying has to be more than posters and buzz words. Holding people accountable for their actions – or lack thereof – is the only way we can reduce bullying.

The Pledge to End Bullying is a nice start – a rallying point around which the community can gather. But unless that pledge is backed up by serious action, then it will prove to be just like the rest of the campaigns and it will be our community’s children that suffer for our empty words.

3 thoughts on “Is Well-Intended Anti-Bullying Pledge Just Empty Words?

  1. Carrie Drake

    Yes, but….we are a society of slogans and little action to back them up.
    Many kids are floundering. I heard it described as floating in space with nothing to grab on to.
    I don’t expect school staff to be social workers but they should be enforcing the rules of discipline and standards of behaviour that are clearly laid out in school board policy.
    When they expect nothing from our kids, that is what they get. Students know there are no real consequences for their behaviour.
    Kids so badly want some boundries and direction from the adults in their lives. Parents like yourself who want their children to learn how self-discipline can lead them to sucess in life are swimming against the current.
    But our children are worth it! They deserve more than a few assemblies and as you said a bunch of stylistic posters.

    Reply
  2. charles

    the problem i am having is that i live in a small town where there is no juvenile facility so there’s no way to show that there’s consequences to their actions. here is a little of whats going on here .
    We moved to Manchester Tennessee about 2 yrs ago
    we rented a home and enrolled our children in the local public school
    after about a 4 month time period my son started to come home complaining about some other children picking on him my
    first answer was they are just teasing you because your new to the area. he then came home after a few weeks later
    saying they are telling me i am gonna get beat up after school i spoke with the asst principal at which time i was told
    we will speak to the boys and get it stopped.
    a short time later my son came home crying and stated he was beat up by a boy from school and two teenagers.
    after we left the hospital (was there because my 11 yr old was stomped and kicked repeatedly) my wife went to the police and gave
    the name of the boy and was told we will handle it .
    a few weeks later my son came home and told me the boy and more of his friends were following them (my other smaller
    children yelling at them and saying we are gonna get you)down the block until they got home i then called the police
    once again. well was told that i would be arrested if i didn’t stop and go back home. i then requested to speak to the person in charge of the officers that evening and was visited by sgt Taylor and was asked what i would say if he could produce someone that would say i have been yelling at the children as they come by my home? out of fear of my children being left at home alone i dropped the issue and took it no further. now the reason i was
    around the block is because my then 5 yr old was crying and scared to even walk to school ( one block away) so i went
    to where it happened and called the police.
    a short time after that one of the other boy came to my home in my own back yard where my kids were playing and brought
    two other boys with him and stated he was there to
    “kick my sons ass” i called the police again they went to the boys home and talked with his parents at which time i was
    asked not to let my kids walk up the street he lives on on there way to school to prevent any possible assault
    in the future.
    OK now about a month went by and my son comes home saying he is being hit with paper objects and his chair is being
    kicked and hes being called names in class so i attempted to set up a interview with the principal and again i was
    headed off by the asst principal saying he would take care of it . well i received a letter stating that the issue was
    resolved and it was gonna be watched not a week went by and at a pep rally at school my son was verbally attacked at
    which time he didn’t respond so the other boys assaulted my son by hitting him in the leg several times i went to the
    school the very next morning and demanded to speak with the principal we sat down and talked about the issue and for
    some reason i was told my son is being bullied because he plays the role of a victim (WHAT?) so i asked whats it have to
    do with that and was told well Mr carver we have helped your family out for Christmas and we have tried to be good to
    your children.(what the heck is this about) i then emailed the Manchester Tennessee board of education and still have no
    reply from Dr prater Powell i guess my child’s safety is enough for the director of schools to be concerned about.
    well now just the other night a suv pulled up in front of my home and several kids got out and pelted my house with
    frozen eggs hitting the garage door and also dangerously close to the picture window that is directly over where my
    younger children sit on the couch and watch tv. i called the police again and an officer came out and stated
    there’s nothing we can do at the same time i was speaking to the officer my neighbor came out and stated he seen the
    vehicle stop and turn out the lights and gave full details of the vehicle i had also let the officer know that i seen them
    pulling away and i knew who it was but was told unless i could tell who was driving there’s still nothing that he can do
    why is it my family cant get any type of justice in Manchester tn is it because these kids are related to the police or
    school officials??? i haven’t a clue but its not fair that my kids have to fear walking to school and cant focus on
    learning once they get to school.
    now im having to answer the questions from my children why did they not do anything and they are learning
    nothing can be done if they are treated in this manner.

    this is only being allowed to escalate into something bigger maybe a child has to die to get the attention of the officials in this town of Manchester tn

    Reply
  3. Tonia Welch

    There is supposed to be a ZERO TOLERANCE in Coffee County schools against fighting, but when my daughter was jumped at Coffee County Middle School in 2011 by a little girl she didn’t even know and nothing was done. I too went to Mr. Creek(vp) and that was a total joke. The little girl broke my daughters tooth, wrote threats of killing my daughter on FB and I had to print off the FB pages and carry them to the school. The next day, the little girl was back in school. My daughter’s nose was busted and her tooth broken off. She had been threatened and bullied by this little girl and the school did nothing. I was told by the principal that my daughter could just go home if she was terrified because the other girl was entitled to a free education. I could go on and on, but it’s a waste of my time. I too waited for a call from Prater Powell and never, ever received a single call. For the record, my husband is a cop.

    Reply

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