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Posted at 11:36 AM ET, 10/ 2/2009

When Kids Attack Other Kids

By Valerie Strauss

If my child had been attacked at a school event by teenagers and other people watched and did nothing to help, I would be apoplectic. A lot of people would not hear the end of it.

In fact, I am apoplectic over an incident in which this happened to a child I don’t know.

If you haven’t seen the story in The Washington Post this morning, here it is.

It relates how the 17-year-old leader of a pom squad at John F. Kennedy High School in Montgomery County was attacked during the third quarter of a school football game by two teenage girls--apparently over a boy. A video of the assault was later posted on Facebook and solicited comments such as "LOL" and "hahaha." It has since been taken down and charges were filed against the assailants.

The victim went back to school but was afraid people would make fun of her.

The most horrifying part was the last sentence of the story, when her mother, Cardelia Maupin, said this:

“It’s this horrible vision in my head. Where were the people who could have helped her?”

Indeed, where were they? And who are the folks who find a video of a fight in which a girl is kicked and beaten funny?

This is hardly the first time we have heard about when someone is in serious trouble and people just sit and watch--without lifting a finger--either out of fear or lack of concern.

But the fact that the phenomenon is not new does not make it any less horrifying.

The job of teaching young people to recognize when and how to smartly get involved in a bullying situation belongs to adults at home and school. Most bullying, in fact, occurs at school (on the playground).

Researchers say that the only kind of anti-bullying program with any hope of reducing such behavior involves the entire school community. Unfortunately, most schools don’t begin to address the issue in a comprehensive manner.

The Answer Sheet wrote about bullying two days ago, and spotlighted a school in Colorado, near the site of the 1999 Columbine shootings, that instituted an anti-bullying program a short time after that horror.

The program involves every adult and student in the school and teaches kids that being a bystander to violent and bullying behavior is not allowed. That doesn't mean young people are taught to try to break up a fight but rather how to sensibly get help.

Every class at Vivian Elementary School in Lakewood, Co., spends about an hour a week on the subject--all through the school year so the lessons really sink in.

For more information on how to recognize bullies and victims, and to learn what parents can do, click on the link above.

And let’s talk about this.

What would you do if you saw kids gang up on another one? What would you want your children to do? If you found out your child had made light of the situation on Facebook, what would you do?

By Valerie Strauss  | October 2, 2009; 11:36 AM ET
Categories:  Bullying  | Tags:  bullying  
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Comments

Thank you for writing this story. While bullying is not new, I think our capacity to be outraged over incidents such as this one has been in significant decline- partly due to desensitization from the onslaught of demeaning treatment of people in our culture (both on-screen and in real life)and from the school environment point of view, too much emphasis on pure academics, technology and test scores.

People, least of all young people, aren't machines. But with less and less attention paid to the things that make us human and caring, these incidents will inevitably take place and probably increase in number. It would be really helpful if somewhere in the discussion of school reform, people were bringing up issues like the status of students' mental health, the importance of the liberal arts (in steady decline for some time now)and what is really important for young people to learn besides numbers and facts.

Schools reflect the society of which they are a part.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | October 2, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Valerie,
Thanks for bringing up this topic so directly.
Bullying has been a huge and barely recognised problem for over a century of American school experiences.
I recommend that you contact the area school districts such as Fairfax, Arlington and Montgomery to find out about their long-standing programs of training students in peer counseling and bully control. These have been effective in ameliorating many tough-situation school populations. There are a variety of programs used widely throughout the nation.
The key has been to involve and train the students themselves in handling situations that confront them.
This probably would not have been possible in the fight at a football game. The more prevalent occasions are in hallways and classrooms. Here other students can watch, learn and practice better ways of reacting and behaving. These programs are typically done at the middle school level and often continue at the high school level.
When in doubt or in need of more information - ask a real, live teacher. They are the ones who know what works and what doesn't.

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | October 2, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

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