Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tazi's First Twitter Letter! Subject: Bullying In Schools

Dear Readers:

Feel free to send your questions to me via Twitter or Facebook! Here is a question from one reader, in follow-up to my column on the Cranston (RI) Prayer Banner Controversy:

@TaziKat what is your solution to bullying? Do you feel that there is some a mechanism that will help reduce it in schools, etc? #asktazi


Dear IceCreamJunkie:

Bullying is an interesting concept to me, as it is something unique to humans. No other animal derives joy from picking on a smaller or weaker being. In fact, unless we are seeking to eat the smaller/weaker being, we will either protect them as a member of the pack or ignore them completely as dead-weight.

Bullying is something that should not be occurring in schools - period. Schools have the ability to block social networking sites from their Internet servers, which is where most cyberbullying occurs; and I feel they should exercise this ability as a means to an end. School computers should be used for studying, not socializing. As for in-person bullying, it is up to the teachers and other school employees to take a stand and end it when they witness it and to bring the behavior to the attention of the proper authorities.

Bulling outside of school is a different issue altogether. In studying human behavior, I have noticed that human parents like their children to be the best at everything and have a tendency to take pride in the most minor accomplishments. A child who bullies shames his/her parents; therefore, parents must be made aware of their child's unacceptable behavior in order for change to occur. Spell it out to the parents: Your child's bullying shames your parenting skills. Furthermore, I recommend holding parents responsible when they claim ignorance of their child's online behavior. A child cannot cyberbully without access to the Internet (or a smart phone) and social networks. It is the parent who provides access to the Internet (or a smart phone) and social networking sites. I realize that many parents want to be their child's friend (for real, and on Facebook) but they must be a parent first, however unhappy their child is with that decision.

If a child is physically bullying another, that constitutes a criminal act - assault, and possibly battery depending on the extent of injuries inflicted. I cannot think of any parent that would not be concerned about their child physically assaulting another; however, if there are parents out there that just don't care than social services needs to intervene.

Last but not least, sometimes the person being bullied needs to learn to take a stand. If someone is harassing them on Facebook to the point that Facebook is no longer enjoyable than they need to stop going on Facebook! A person who willingly subjects themselves to the hurt of reading insults has no right to complain that their feelings have been hurt. If someone is impersonating them online, the proper authorities need to be contacted because this is a criminal act as well as a breach of the terms of service of social networking sites.

If someone is bullying someone else in person, it is best to master the art of indifference if they are unable to think of a witty comeback. Bullies bully in order to get a reaction out of their target. Like a barking dog, a bully will lose interest in its target when ignored.

I realize this last bit sounds harsh, like I am laying blame on the victim; but life beyond the school-yard does not care about your self-esteem. As an adult, your boss is not going to care that your feelings were hurt when s/he criticized your work; you exes aren't going to care that their moving on has left you despondent; and nobody is going to want to listen to the drama that occurs on Facebook when there are more important things to be done. In fact, they are going to wonder why you are wasting time online when there is real work to be done.

I also realize that many fear to report bullying, for fear the bullying will intensify. If it does than the additional bullying needs to be reported as well. The recent aftermath of the court decision regarding the Cranston (Rhode Island) High School Prayer Banner has resulted in cyberthreats against the student who brought the case. The Cranston Police are reviewing the threats and, if the threats seem credible, calling people in for questioning. This police action could not have happened if the student did not stand up for herself. Let this be a lesson to those who bully, and to those who would bully.


P.S. When a parent bullies a child, that is abuse and must be reported to the authorities - by law.

Editor's Note: Following the original publication of this article, local news sources reported that the cyber-threats against Jessica Ahlquist have ceased.


  1. I love your wonderful advice about this very topic. I also feel that education is also the best tool. I feel teaching everyone to accept difference, regardless of disabilities, race, beliefs, etc. Is also the best. I say "show your colors" and accept and love others who also "show their colors", regardless if they are your own or not. This world is meant to be a beautfiul place and part of being beautiful is variety.

  2. The bullying issue has too many contingent issues to talk about in this tiny little rectangle. As a person who was bullied and has bullied, I will say this: fact of the matter is kids aren't monitored well. Lack of parenting and teacher involvement always seems to have a heavy hand in this situation. It always seems that the parents or parents first says "I had no idea that they were doing this to my kid." Teachers have 30+ rowdy kids in his or her class, they could barely teach the Pythagorean Theorem never the less monitor your child or children. Suffice to say, education is a hot mess right now, and it's only getting worse. So the fact is, there is a very good chance your son will be called a faggot for walking a certain way or being effeminate or your daughter will be called a bull dyke for loving to play baseball. If your son or daughter is just a shade different, I don't need to even utter what will be said about them. If your child is in a wheelchair, the problems are endless. If you were like me, you had a learning disability even if you were bright or not, there arises social problems, especially comments from teachers. We are not capable as a society YET to deal with the numerous traits and openly obvious signifiers as what makes an individual and how do we embrace that difference in a loving, non-judgmental, and pedagogical way. We are all different, but what binds us together is the rule of law. The challenge is, how do we met to requirements of educational law and doctrine and make it applicable to every child.

  3. Tazi, you are very much mistaken. Bullying is a natural and ordinary part of the animal world. Any animal that exists in a social structure, from wolves to chimps to chickens, engage in bullying. Have you never heard of a "pecking order?" It is a phenomenon by which chickens determine which has status in the pack by which has the right to peck another chicken. The lowest status chicken is the most pecked and cannot peck back. "Might equals right," is common in the animal kingdom.

    And humans are animals. Which means that bullying comes naturally to us. But we fancy ourselves as more than animals. We have decided that we do not turn on our weakest members or leave our old by the side of the road to be devoured by predators.

    There are only two ways to try to stop bullying. The first is to punish bullying so harshly that none dare take part in it. This is a form of bullying in itself, so it is not surprising that this rarely works. It can only work in a restricted setting such as a private school, where a bully can be expelled and made to be someone else's problem.

    The other way is through education. The Southern Poverty Law Center has a program called Teaching Tolerance (http://www.tolerance.org) that can help with this. It's also important to realize that bullying happens to people that the bully sees as "outsider." Getting kids involved in projects to expand their definition of who is "us" vs. "them" also helps. Creating, viewing, and discussing projects like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJymVGJ3Eag help in this regard.

  4. Pecking order is group behavior, yes, but it is not "bullying" which is to peck on another for enjoyment. I believe that there is a difference.