voices unheard

An overweight boy called “lard-ass” daily.

A girl physically assaulted because she liked the wrong guy.

A crowd of kids taunting a kid with a prominent red birthmark on his face, “Hey Kool-Aid!”

An overweight girl named Carla heartlessly labeled Cowla, trying to simply navigate around campus without being mooed at day after day.

These are just some of the voices I’ve been hearing… and the common denominator I keep finding:

“No one did anything.”

I don’t want to be an alarmist, and I definitely don’t want to insinuate that parents, teachers and schools don’t care. Not true. As you read this today I’m actually at an on-campus anti-bullying program run by Campus Life (think school-assembly on steroids with small groups where kids actually open up). The fact is countless adults care deeply about this—I’ve interviewed many of them. But sadly, many of these kids’ voices are being drowned out in the crowd. And far too many adults simply don’t have a clue what’s going on.

Literally every story I’ve heard contains the same element:

“I told the adult on ‘yard duty,’ and they said to just ignore it.”

“I told my parents and they dismissed it.”

“I told the principal, and he called the boys in and warned them. Nothing changed.”

I don’t have any problem believing these stories… because I’ve experienced this all firsthand. So let me ask this: in a world full of caring adults, how is it that we keep missing the cries of hurting kids?

How can we miss crowds of kids at recess jeering “Hey Kool Aid” at a boy with a giant birthmark? How is it that in a high school locker room kids are constantly ridiculed, tormented, slapped on the back of the neck, even hung up by their underwear? Is there some hidden code that a locker room is a ‘no adult’ zone? How can an entire campus know that there is going to be a fight after school—and adults actually warned about it—and yet a kid gets chased by a mob and beat to the ground until literally hospitalized, while campus security toss a football back and forth?

Let me give you just one specific example that happened to the daughter of a friend of mine. Girl likes boy, but boy likes two girls. Boy finally chooses one girl, so she and her friends decide to humiliate and ostracize the other girl just to make a point, ganging up against her between classes, knocking her books out of her hands, even shoving her to the ground. One time this shunned girl was pushed and threatened so she fled to a nearby bathroom where she hid in a stall and texted her mom: “Mom, please come get me. I’m scared.” Her mom rushed to school and told the front office what happened. “My daughter was just threatened by a group of girls and is now hiding in the bathroom terrified. She just texted me from a stall.”

The response from the front office?

“She’s not supposed to be texting at school.”

These are the stories I keep hearing, and I know that some schools are not like this. But why does this keep happening? And did you notice I didn’t even mention one story of cyber bullying? (Something I devoted an entire chapter to in my previous book.) The online world has only magnified the problem.

So what can schools, teachers and parents do to prevent this kind of cruelty?

What is the cure?

I want your stories. Do you have stories of kids being bullied, teased or mocked? What actions do you see adults taking? What’s working… what’s not working?

I’d love to include your stories in the book I’m writing on this subject. Email me!

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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One Response to voices unheard

  1. Dawn says:

    Bullying comes in different forms (cyberbullying is the new addition). It’s sad to hear news about teens committing suicide because they were bullied. The latest I read was the story about 3 teen girls who exposed a schoolmate with a severe pineapple allergy to the fruit. These girls were 13 and 14-year-olds. And the story you wrote about the school blaming the victim for texting at school, it’s frustrating. Every school should have a serious policy regarding bullying. A victim’s life and future are at stake.
    I hope your readers could read these articles about bullying.
    https://www.parentingmonkey.com/teenagers/bullying

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