The Buffalo News

Teach kids not to be bullies

- By PEYTON MCCONVILLE Ne Xt Cor re s pondent Peyton McConville is a junior at Lancaster High School.

“Kids will be kids.” “She’s just jealous.” Don’t let them get to you.” When did we start making excuses for the cruelty that is accepted as “normal” in middle and high school?

Everyone knows the popular movie “Mean Girls.” An average teenager gets bullied into becoming like all the other “mean girls” and is finally accepted as one of them, but of course not without constant harassment and insults along the way.

When did it become not only acceptable, but humorous to treat others poorly?

“People find it funny because they are often the ones most emotionall­y damaged,” said Brooke Blahowicz, a junior at Depew High School. “I think they are unsure how to deal with their emotions and usually have low selfesteem and confidence initially.”

Jodi Coleman has been a high school counselor for 15 years. She says that there are a number of reasons why people engage in bullying behavior.

“Some may cope by being cruel because they are lacking skills to manage peer pressure, inferiorit­y, anger or envy,” she said. “Perhaps they, too, have been bullied, or it was in an effort to gain popularity.”

But bullying is no longer limited to pushing someone into a locker or stealing a scrawny freshman’s lunch money.

It is not so much fear of physical harassment but more so the words and insults that may come the victim’s way. They fear isolation because others don’t want to endure the same harassment by standing up for them.

Many students have admitted to being sent anonymous threats online or over the phone, being followed around school by a group of students shouting insults at them, and even being encouraged to kill themselves.

“There were some days I was afraid to get out of bed and go to school to face these kids,” one student victim said.

Bullying has changed drasticall­y over the past decade. Many students agree that social media is where the majority of bullying occurs today and have witnessed it themselves.

“Because people feel fearless when they bully through social media, there may be many that would never make the same hurtful comments in person,” Coleman said.

So what kind of advice can be offered to victims of bullying?

“Do not hide it, do not be embarrasse­d and keep it a secret. Stand up for yourself and others,” said Leah Richter, a sophomore at Lancaster High School. “It will not stop unless we speak up.”

“If a student feels they are being bullied, there are many people available to help,” Coleman said. “Sharing with a parent, police officer, teacher, counselor, administra­tor or family friend, would be an excellent way to ask for help.”

As a society, we are aware of the large problem bullying is in today’s school culture.

Why are we focusing on teaching kids how to handle the effects of bullying rather than teaching them not to bully?

Do we really want our kids to be a generation where kindness and compassion are absent and interactin­g discourteo­usly with one another is accepted as the norm?

Let’s focus on teaching kids to be the people we want to see more of in the world.

“Do not hide it, do not be embarrasse­d and keep it a secret. Stand up for yourself and others. It will not stop unless we speak up.” Leah Richter, sophomore, Lancaster High School

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