A Twelve year old at the ‘Shabbos park’ asks a group of boys if they want to play with him. He is rejected because because he has a slight behavioral disorder.
A third grader is threatened by a peer and is told that if he is tells anyone he will get his head put into a toilet.
A sixth grade girl walks out of a classroom and is rushed by classmates who start piling books into her empty backpack so that it will overfill and fall down, along with its’ owner.
A boy is shunned during recess and not allowed to play football with the other boys because he “doesn’t throw well”.
On the school bus home a child takes another child’s jacket, throws it on the ground and steps on it.
Bullying is a problem in any school. Even in our own day schools/cheders/yeshivas/girls-only-schools. It shows no bias regardless of the school’s hashkafa.
In our educational intitutions, where even three year olds learn about Rabbi Akiva and the mitzvah of Ve Ahavta Lera’eha Kamoha and six year olds understand that 24,000 students died because they didn’t show respect and kavod HaBre’os to each other, bullying has become an issue.
There are schools that have anti-bullying programs in place. Some school have their special committees to deal with the issue. The school my children attend even has an actual curriculum that starts before first grade and includes a list of required books for summer reading that deal with bullying.
I didn’t attend a yeshiva until I was eighteen. I attended public schools and was not at all athletic or considered ‘gifted’. I was, until the end of eighth grade, rather nerdy. Then things changed. I started listening to some different music and adopted a particular style of dress. My hair went through different styles, shades, and lengths. The summer before eleventh grade I attended a summer program in Israel and returned Torah observant sporting a yarmulka and tzitzis.
For those prone to bullying, I certainly gave them ample opportunity. I was a great target. The only Torah observant teen in a midwestern city with a population of 350,000. I listened to everything but top 40 music, and dressed mostly in black. However, due to the ‘no tolerance’ policies in the schools I attended, I was never really bothered by anyone.
So I wonder, why is bullying an issue in our schools?
It can’t be solely because these bullies have parents who are bullies.
It can’t be solely because our schools are afraid to discipline bullies for fear of potentially turning the bully into an ‘at-risk child’.
It can’t be solely because kids today are never told “no”.
It can’t be solely because today chutzpa is about as common as the flu.
No, not solely, but I believe these are all factors. Like most really important issues, there are no easy answers or band-aid remedies.
Bullying is an impediment to the value of achdus that we hold in such high esteem.
If you have kids, talk with them. If you can get involved in your school, give it a try.
Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead
Just walk beside me and be my friend
And together we will walk in the way of Hashem
While doing research for this post I came across a pretty interesting site called, Stop Bullying Now. Comments, suggestions, and solutions are welcome. Thanks for reading.