A bit more introspective here for a change. My deepest sympathies go to Jamie Hubley's family and to all his friends. It feels a tremendous loss for this community and for the world.
The Boy is going into middle school next year. We're facing the hard decision about where to send him, that scary time for parents when you realize it's time for him to leave the spread his wings a bit. Decisions that seem enormous and overwhelming at the moment. Jamie's story hits close to home. Jamie by all accounts was involved in his community, like his dad. He was well liked by his friends. Like Jamie, The Boy has been bullied. And like the Hubleys, the situation was brought to the attention of school officials.
In our case, I'd give the school a solid C+ for handling the situation. I know another situation, the previous year where, quite frankly, I don't think it was handled so well. (The bullied child in this situation left the school.) Our bully left the school at the end of last year, I know more than one parent who was happy we'd heard the last of him. But at the end of the day, leaving the school doesn't solve the problem in the long run. In my mind, the fact that the incidents would happen in the first place is indicative that whatever programs we have in place, are clearly not working.
Kids committing suicide is another.
Zero tolerance, koombaya at recess and "be nice" posters and talks sounds really good in the boardroom but as an increasingly high number of suicides show don't translate well at all to the classroom. I'd go so far as to say the same thing for the pledges.
I'm worried because I know The Boy, try as he may, doesn't fit nicely into the mold. He's not particularly athletic, he's a bit of a philosopher -- an artsy, smart and funny. He's different. He's a lot like me. And I adore this about him. I love that he's not typical, but didn't that make high school a very special inner circle of hell for me. I hope that like me, he'll find some cool close friends and keep his head down. Just makes it through -- those uneventful kids none of us remember. (Yes, in fact I was one of those.)
I was bullied in grade school. Not seriously, you know fat kid with a funny accent stuff. Things were better in high school. I remember feeling like I never quite fit in, but I had friends and it was ok. But things were dark in my head. Very dark. Depression just wasn't something anyone talked about then besides really, I didn't know who to turn to, even if I'd wanted to. Looking back on those years now, I just remember feeling tremendously alone. It was definitely a hard hard time. I can't imagine having to deal with taunts and physical assaults.
But here is my point.
As an adult, there are 800 things I'd tell my teenaged self to do. And I'm pretty sure teenage me would ignore them -- every single one. I confided in no one about the dark ideas in my head except maybe the long lines of angsty poetry I kept in my journal. Really, there is no way I'd have gone to my parents or a teacher or anyone with this. Somewhere along the way, the adults lost me. Somewhere along the way I lost me too. (But that is fodder for another post.) I'm 90 per cent sure that if you'd thrown bullying into that mix, I'd not be here today. It's just one more thing.
It gets better, yes. It will. (Really, if you're a teen in trouble, it does. I swear.) It got better for me. I found my like minded cohort. But damn it if I'm not ok with kids going through for years of torment. And wouldn't it be well, great, if it could be better now. Right now? And isn't that what we should be aiming for? Don't we want to look back on this period as the dark days when adults did the right thing stirred shit up. Why is it we're all ok with high school being so bloody mean? It's time for change.
Out-dated ideas towards sexual orientation need to make their way out of the curriculum. Normal need be about love and caring and healthy relationships. Not so much about who does what to whom ... not about sin, and fire and brimstone. It should also be about respect for differences. And if the teachers and parents disagree, fuck 'em. This attitude is killing our kids.
And it's not citing the bible that is going to be make it better. In fact, one could argue that it's what created this problem in the first place. Reciting the Bible did me absolutely no good either.
As adults though we need the courage to support our kids 100 per cent and that means being ok with different sexual orientations.
More importnat than this, we need to give kids the strenght to stand up and in turn ostracize the bullies. Because it's only through social pressure that these kids will see the problems they're creating. But I have no clue how we get there... And right now, I'm not sure the school boards around here do either. But it's time they got wise and fast.
As for me, all I can do is be there and be loud in support of all kids. A lot of us care... come find us, we'll work through it together. Promise. And if I can't make it better today, I promise to help you get through for tomorrow.