I recently read a news report about a 10-year-old girl in Utah who died by suicide. Her mother said the young girl, who family members and friends called Izzy, was tormented in school by peers who made fun of her autism.
The family blames bullying and lack of response on the part of Izzy’s teacher and school leaders for Izzy’s deadly despair. It’s heartbreaking to read news of children dying by suicide for any reason, let alone bullying because it’s so senseless. Let’s be honest. Bullying is a common problem in schools. It damages children’s self-esteem and the ability to respect and get along with other children. It’s especially harmful when directed at those who are different in terms of physical or emotional differences. So who’s to blame for this problem? Where are children learning this dangerous and ugly behavior?
Bullying is real. Most adults know it. As someone who worked in schools for a decade, I admit it’s difficult to eradicate or control for lots of reasons. Not the least of these reasons is that kids see so much of it in their environment. TV show characters that belittle and make fun of others is daily fare. Often in our homes, we speak of others in ways that are clearly unkind using the excuse that we’re “only kidding.”
It’s past time for all responsible adults to see that behavior as inappropriate and to turn down the volume on teasing and unkind references to others. Let’s remember that our kids are looking at and learning from us and that the life we save by controlling our behavior could be our own child’s.