We don’t need to review what bullying is, what causes it, or go through the recent horrors resulting from the actions of bullies. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are hearing about the suicides and depression caused by bullying. As a society we need to start discussing how to handle this epidemic.
I have a few concepts that should be considered to begin attacking the problem with the same zeal that bullies attack their victims. To begin with, we need to put pressure on all sides of the equation, the bully, the bully’s family, and the schools. By putting together a no-nonsense approach we can knock out our neighborhood bullies.
First, I would begin with the schools themselves. I would enact legislation that holds schools liable if they know, or should have known, of bullying that is taking place in the school, off premises, or on the internet. School officials know exactly what’s going on and should be pressured to act quickly and decisively otherwise face potential liability. Putting their collective heads in the sand won’t stop this problem. This law would force schools to be wildly proactive in finding who is causing the problems.
Second, the PTA should take out a page in the local newspaper and name those kids who are known bullies. A fund should be put together to buy the space and to fend off lawsuits by naïve parents. Let’s embarrass the kids and their families by letting the world know that their kid is hurting others and their parents are nowhere to be found in the equation. Once parents find out that their names will be listed, they will be all over their kid to be sure they aren’t the problem.
Next, the Attorney General, or a division of the AG’s office, should be dedicated to bullying. Parents of bullies should be sued by the AG’s office and the cause of action should be negligent oversight. Once parents find out they can be sued for money damages, not by the bullied family, but by the AG’s office, you will see how quickly parents will educate their kids on the dangers of bullying.
Lastly, the local prosecutors’ offices should be seeking to criminally prosecute the bullies in juvenile courts or adult courts (depending on the age of the offender). The act of bullying, whether physically or on-line, should be treated as a crime and cannot be overlooked. It has been overlooked to date and we have now seen the fatal consequences of such inaction.
We must decide whether we will be treating this problem seriously or just want to pass weak and meaningless legislation that makes us feel like we’ve actually done something to address the problem. I suggest we take real decisive steps to stop this now and forever.