2012 Commentary: The Bullying of Children and Teens Goes Against Everything Americans Believe In

Abstract: As Americans, we take pride in the fact that our society upholds the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, school bullying strips its victims of these rights by damaging their self-esteem and by ostracizing them from others.

The news media has recently focused a lot of attention on the topic of bullying in schools. That coverage continued with an Associated Press article (posted on Yahoo) discussing the issue and praising a newspaper, The Sioux City Journal, for using the entire portion of its front page to posit an editorial calling "on the community to be pro-active in stopping bullying and urg[ing] members to learn more about the problem…" The press is right to condemn this practice; the bullying of K-12 students can have a lasting, negative impact on their social and professional lives.

As a youth growing up in the 1980s who had to endure years of constant bullying from classmates, I did not encounter many adults who seemed to worry about the practice. They viewed it as a natural part of childhood (especially if they had been bullies in their youth) and put the onus on the victims to find a way to keep other students from harassing them. This practice might indeed be beneficial to hierarchical, authoritarian societies or to cultures that espouse Social Darwinism; however, bullying has no place in U.S. schools.

Americans take pride in the fact that our society upholds the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. While children and teenagers might not yet possess the maturity to exercise all of their freedoms (such as the right to buy alcohol), they nonetheless have just as much right to dignity and respect as any adult. Per the Center for American Progress, bullying runs counter to these principles. Its victims are robbed of their dignity; their basic rights are violated. Additionally, students whose self-esteem is damaged as a result of constant harassment from their peers are more likely to be unhappy and are more prone to committing suicide.

Perhaps worse, children and teenagers who are bullied in school often suffer long-term psychological impairment as a result of this harassment. The Harvard Mental Health Letter asserts that victims of bullying "find it hard to make friends, tend to be lonely and isolated, and suffer emotionally and socially." These youths are therefore denied the chance to develop some of the basic social skills and emotional traits that they will need if they want to take full advantage of the opportunities that this nation provides them.
The Sioux City Journal should be applauded for its decision to use its entire front page to protest school bullying. This practice does not have any place in America's schools. It strips its victims of their dignity and often hinders them from fully developing the skills necessary to achieve the American dream.

-- Anthony Hopper

#bullying #children #kids #teens #schools #opinion #rights

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