Bullying

I have been a witness to some bullying for the past few days, and I feel the need to rant, so here goes.

I know that everyone has been the victim of some bullying. I used to show my junior high kids the movie ANGUS to show them that even the popular kids have such problems, but it does seem that the more vulnerable among us are bullied more often. The movie is based on a story by Chris Crutcher, some of whose books are quite controversial, and while I never would have even read the story out loud to my “kids,” the movie has proved its worth time and again.

I hate bullying in all forms. I particularly hated it when my grandson, RJ, was the victim of bullying. His bullying came from an adult, and there is something about that that seems particularly insidious. I was an adult before I realized that some wives are bullied by their husbands. Many women of my generation (and men, too) were raised to ignore bullies and hope they go away. I think one of the good things about kids nowadays is that at least some of them speak up. And some adults listen instead of telling the bullied kids to “have a stiff upper lip.”

My son was the victim of bullying by both children and adults, and what made his experience so unbelievable was that it happened at a parochial school. He had a concussion before his dad and I really had a clue, mostly, I think, because we just couldn’t wrap our minds around the fact that such a thing could happen at a Christian school. Yet it did. And my son was not alone.

Recently on Focus on the Family, I heard a talk by Dr. Wess Stafford, who is the president of Compassion International. Dr. Stafford tells a moving story of how it was to grow up as a missionary’s kid on the Ivory Coast of Africa. Sadly, that story includes his account of the abuse he received, both at the hands of adults and that of children, at the boarding school where missionaries’ kids were sent at that time. Dr. Stafford’s story is doubly sad because he presents the abuse he and his fellow classmates suffered as a case where Satan won, turning some children away from God forever.

With all that in mind, remember when I wrote about the Shrek Kid? Had I still been in school, being in class with him would have been my worst nightmare. I try to serve all the kids at school, but I will admit that I was relieved on the days that the Shrek Kid was absent. He could smell out vulnerability, and you never knew who would be the victim.

The Shrek Kid is in one of the classes to which I have been assigned this year. And he wasted no time in picking on one of the kids for whom I am there. Somehow, he managed to involve the whole class. The really sad thing about that is that, in this case, the whole class went along. And the butt of the teasing is one of the school’s most vulnerable students. I guess things haven’t changed that much, either. The first day, she just took the abuse and went home and cried. The teacher had done little, and I was not in a position to help her without making matters worse.

The second day, I intervened. While the teacher gave a talk about mutual respect to the rest of the class, I took the girl for a walk. I am an inclusion aid. Such things are really my job. And when we came back, she sat next to me. That might seem inappropriate to you since this is high school we’re talking, but like I said, this is one of the school’s more vulnerable students, and she has just as much right as the bully does to be in the classroom. Inclusion is now the law.

My reaction to the bullying was not the immediate thing that you will see if you read this post by Shannon at Wind Scraps. Shannon is talking about rescuing a chick from its mother, who would have pecked it to death:

I screamed “Hey!”, threw my trough to the ground, raced through the garden and around the side of the chicken yard, yanked open the door to the coop, dropped to my stomach (and I won’t describe what I laid on to do so), and reached out the open door and beyond the ramp, scooping up the dazed chick just as the hen was readying herself for another bloody blow.

Maybe it should have been. Like I said, it does seem to me that bullies smell out the most vulnerable among us, and just like the chick, in the aforementioned post, sometimes their “pecking” leads to worse things than the drawing of blood. I did, figuratively at least, scoop this student up in my hand. And I can keep her safe by me. At least for that class. But who is going to be there as she goes to lunch? Or to seventh period, where she will see the Shrek Kid once again?

Dr. Stafford says that the evil in society rolls downhill, that while adults may be hungry, for instance, it is children who starve. And maybe that’s where we need to start, to look at society over all. Maybe bullying is an evil perpetuated by Satan, as Dr. Stafford says, a kind of “poverty” in many ways, where Satan convinces a child to give up. Maybe the bullies are suffering from a kind of poverty of their own. Children need more than food on their backs or clothes to wear. They need to feel safe. Maybe bullies don’t. Maybe society needs to be wary of the warning Jesus gave us in Scripture:

See that you do not look down on one of these little ones [or even the not-so-little]. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.Matthew 18:10

I am in the job that I am because of the kids. I feel God called me to it. And I don’t see an easy solution to the problem of bullying. Throughout the day, I have asked God to give me wisdom in this situation. And there have been no neon signs to point my way just yet. So I will do the only thing I know to do, to turn the problem over to hands more capable than mine.

I will pray for the girl that is being bullied.

And I will continue to pray for the Shrek Kid.

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