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The Times
  • Editorial: Teach your children well — about bullying

  • If it can happen to Miss New York, it can happen to any child. Bullies, it seems, have indiscriminate tastes, lashing out because, for whatever reason, it gives them the illusion of power.

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  • If it can happen to Miss New York, it can happen to any child.
    Bullies, it seems, have indiscriminate tastes, lashing out because, for whatever reason, it gives them the illusion of power.
    But bullies — as we grownups are wont to tell our children who suffer their wrath — are weak. That’s not so easy to comprehend when you are on the receiving end of name-calling, physical assaults and social ostracism.
    Kaitlin Monte, of Pittsford, N.Y., who was crowned Miss New York this past June, is vibrant, intelligent and self-assured. In just a few months, she’ll go on to represent New York at the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas.
    But that confidence was once shaken. Like many others, she suffered the wrath of bullies in her formative years. Monte was cyber-bullied, contacted via a chat service on the Internet and sent a message that frightened her.
    “Because it was anonymous, it meant that now, suddenly, I didn’t trust anyone,” she said. “And that’s scary because it was just once that it happened, and I felt that pain. It was really detrimental to me.”
    More than 1 in 3 young people have been victims of cyber-bullying. According to PACER National Bullying Prevention Center, more than 160,000 kids miss school every day out of fear of attack or intimidation by other students.
    Kids are just going to be kids, some may say. But kids are cutting themselves, failing out of school and, in extreme cases, taking their own lives in response to this so-called rite of passage.
    And some, like Jamie Nabozny, an Ashland, Wis., student, are filing federal lawsuits — and winning. Jamie is the subject of a documentary called “Bullied: A School and a Case that Made History,” which was screened in New York City this month.
    The Teaching Tolerance documentary by the Southern Poverty Law Center chronicles how Jamie stood up to his anti-gay tormentors with a federal lawsuit. Jamie’s suit led to a landmark decision that held school officials accountable for not stopping anti-gay bullying.
    Some schools have programs encouraging kids to get off the sidelines, stand up to bullies and support the victims. Still, we need to ask ourselves some tough questions, such as why can’t we, as a community, find a way to stop this? Is it human nature? Is it denial? What are the factors that allow this horrible childhood behavior to be viewed as acceptable?
    We need to find the answers to these questions — but we also need to face the answers to these questions.
    Parents have the weighty responsibility of holding their children accountable when they participate in acts of bullying. It can be very difficult when our children behave in ways we don’t condone or understand — or in ways that we believe reflect poorly on us. But, sometimes, they do, and it’s important to recognize the damage they can cause and demand they own up to it.
    Page 2 of 2 - And if parents aren’t the first line of authority holding bullies accountable, the schools, the society — and the law — may, eventually, step in and do it for them.
    -- Messenger Post (N.Y.)

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