BY: NADIA ZAIDI
School should be a place to learn and nurture social and intellectual development. Most importantly, it should be a place where students are safe.
But schools are failing to maintain secure environments.
A 12-year-old boy who was brutally attacked by a classmate and placed in a medically induced coma is a recent reminder that schools passively address bullying and aggression.
Henry Sembdner was repeatedly beaten during school hours, on school grounds at Kenyon Woods Middle School in Illinois.
Incidents like this are too common. Sembdner isn’t the first child to be victimized at school and he won’t be the last.
Rather than addressing root causes of increased rates of victimization in schools, parents and teachers often settle for assumptions.
And mental illness has become a scapegoat for bullying behaviour.
This is not to bypass, or demean the scope and severity of mental illness and its possible correlation to aggressive behaviour. I firmly believe in respecting the sensitivities and complexities of those who suffer from mental illnesses.
Nonetheless, its misuse has become a convenient deflection from declaring liability. Aggressive and bully behaviour is a transgression against someone else and a gross violation of one’s safety. It must be dealt with diligence and due discretion.
Teachers and administrators – where are you?
Parents entrust you with their children, yet many times that trust is broken. It is your responsibility to protect your students and ensure that learning takes precedence over all.
Rather than picketing for additional support, take responsibility for your inactions.
It is agreed that teachers and administrators must receive the support they need to assist them in bully prevention.
They must also exercise responsible discretion and monitor the climate of their classrooms and hallways.
Honour the public’s trust in your ability to teach and be there for our children. It is your responsibility to make sure that the socialization that occurs within school grounds is appropriate and conducive to healthy development.
Students aren’t safe if they aren’t protected against their aggressors. They must be supported, acknowledged and trusted when they report bully behaviour.
And parents – wake up.
It’s time to rip off the blinders and no longer succumb to the convenience of passive parenting. It’s easier to excuse problematic behaviour than to address it.
You must snap out of the difficulties that pervade you and take responsibility for the life you chose to bring into this world.
Accept that your child is not always the victim. Many times, he or she is the aggressor. Acknowledge and recognize signs of delinquency or mental illness. There are always signs. Their actions reflect the boundaries you instil in them. Behaviour is learned, mimicked, displayed.
It is your job to raise your children and to be present. It is your responsibility to address issues that may surface in the classroom.
You are accountable for your minor-aged children. You may as well have pulled the trigger, or punched that kid so hard he bled into a coma.
We tend to blame school boards and administrators for the jobs that we should be doing as parents or guardians.
Children are being killed at the hands of their schoolmates. They are taking their own lives to escape the torment of their aggressors.
Why must it always take extreme cases of victimization to arouse our motivations to speak out against bullying and in support of prevention?
We must hold parents and administrators to a higher standard and expect the same checks and balances that we do from our government. Students shouldn’t be dying at the hands of their peers.