Kentucky Needs Better Protections From Bullying

This is why we need HB336 to pass. Now.

“A 15-year-old high school student took her own life this week. Her parents said she was the victim of bullying.

After the teen’s untimely death, other parents have come forward, saying their kids have also been bullied at Livingston County Schools and they’re calling on the school district to make major changes.

They said the school is failing when it comes to protecting their kids and they want new and stricter policies to stop bullying. They also want better counseling services, so that no student has to feel like suicide is the only option.”

My heart breaks for this young woman. It didn’t have to end this way for her.

You know the anti-bullying bill, HB336? It was rejected by the committee on March 13th, less than a week before the young woman from Livingston County took her life. She’s not the only teenager in Kentucky to do so.

“Sam Denham, 13, an eighth-grader from a Northern Kentucky middle school, and Miranda Campbell, 14, a high school freshman from Hopkinsville, committed suicide in the past five months to escape bullying, they said.”

No one deserves to be bullied. No one deserves to be harassed. Or assaulted. Or terrorized.

And you know what? If we’re not going to allow these kids to defend themselves from bullies without getting punished right alongside their attacker, then we (and I mean EVERYONE here) have to do everything we can to protect them.

“Rep. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, said the state already has sufficient laws against bullying. He expressed doubt that any additional laws could help.”

Clearly, we don’t.

Here’s the list of the House Education committee members. Contact them to let them know that we won’t let this go. Contact the members I’ve tagged below, in particular, to let them know how reprehensible their comments are.

Dad Bullies and Intimidates Daughter, Posts on Facebook for All to See

This video has been making the rounds on facebook lately, accompanied with commentary like “best dad ever!” and “brilliant! Way to show that disrespectful teenager her place!” Okay, I thought, let’s see it. I was repulsed. I couldn’t articulate why. So I thought I’d check out the comments, to see how others felt.

Again, I felt repulsed.

A summary, for those who cannot or do not wish to watch: a middle-aged white man, is sitting on a lawn chair in a grassy field. He tells the viewer how his teenaged daughter posted a rant on her facebook page about her parents and the chores she’s made to do. He mocks her for trying to restrict her parents from being able to view said post, and brags how he was able to see it anyway, when he was updating the software on his daughter’s laptop. He’s an IT guy, you see. How foolish of her, thinking she could hide something from him.

He reads the rant from a printout. He tells the viewer that since she had the temerity to complain about her parents on facebook, he is going to show her up by recording this video and posting it on her facebook, to humiliate her in front of all her friends. He lists the chores his daughter must do every day, and mocks her for complaining about a paltry amount of work. He castigates his daughter for being disrespectful. Then he gets up and pans the camera to show a laptop sitting on the grass. He tells the viewer that it is his daughter’s laptop, that he’s going to destroy it, and that his daughter is going to have to work to pay for the destroyed laptop, and the software he just uploaded on it. He pulls out a handgun and shoots the laptop. He shoots it again. And again. All the while reveling in it and mocking his daughter: “your mother said to do one for her, too.” He shoots it again. “You’re going to pay for these bullets, too. These are two-dollar bullets.” He shoots again, until his clip is empty.

The comments were reminiscent of a bloodthirsty mob, cheering the destruction of the laptop, mocking the girl, and raging about “teenagers these days.”

I have a problem with the idea that teenagers must “respect” their parents, when “respect” means they are never to say or think a negative thing about their parents, never to express their feelings unless it’s unconditioned praise and adoration, and certainly never to say such things to their friends. This degree of control over another person’s thoughts and feelings, and the expression of the same, is borderline abusive.

This man’s complete lack of respect for his daughter’s privacy is astounding. I’m sure he felt he was well within his rights as the one who paid for the laptop–people like him always do–that is, feel that once they have paid for something, they own it forever, along with rights to control whatever is done with it. (Apparently the concept of gifts is far beyond this man.) I’m sure he was absolutely shocked when he found that status while snooping–people like him always are–because without a doubt his daughter has never felt safe or comfortable enough to speak to him directly. He snooped, he didn’t like what he found. Shocking. His daughter will never trust him again.

This man felt humiliated (and probably emasculated) because his daughter spoke negatively of him to all of her friends. His response was to humiliate her in front of the entire virtual world. He responds to criticism by bullying. What a fabulous lesson to teach a teenage girl!

Not to mention the implied threat of shooting up his daughter’s laptop. I find this to be the epitome of irresponsible gun ownership. Guns are deadly tools–dangerous, deadly tools, meant to be taken seriously. The only way they should be used is for sport target shooting, hunting, or self-defense. They are not to be used as an outlet for your frustrated emasculation. He felt embarrassed by his daughter, so he destroyed the tool she used to do it with a gun. That he went to his weapon as the answer to his anger is a sign of a lack of control, and a bad temper.

In fact, the very reason I was so frightened of guns for so long is that, as a teenager, someone close to me vented their frustration by going outside and shooting into the air. They would wave it around and describe how they should use it on people who wronged them. This made me afraid for my life. I felt threatened, despite that they never pointed it at me, or threatened me specifically. Just that their first action when they were angry was to grab their weapon was a very bad and scary thing.

This man does not respect his weapon.

He has no business owning a gun.

That he told the offending person that they must pay him back for the bullets he used is psychological abuse–making his daughter participate in her own intimidation.

I feel for this girl. I hope she gets as far away from this sorry man as soon as she possibly can.

Resolve to Speak Out

From the Huffington Post:

“Each day we have the ability to transform lives, to speak out against injustice, to be — as first coined by National Security Council member Samantha Power — “upstanders” for positive change. Why do we remain silent?…If we dared to do what was right, imagine what we might accomplish. What if we educated ourselves better about the consequences of bullying, bigotry and failing to act?”

Indeed. To anyone involved in social justice, “speaking out” is an important step. How can we change the world if we don’t first say “hey, this is wrong”? But it’s more than just social justice–anyone invested in a relationship, whether that be a working one, a friendship, or an intimate relationship should be willing to stand up for the people in our lives.

It can be as simple as saying “Hey, that’s not cool. Don’t call her a ___.”

It can be as easy as signing a Change.org petition.

Or it can be as involved as writing a letter to a representative, a company, or an organization. It can be attending a protest.Or writing a blog.

Imagine: we can make our lives a hostile environment for bullying. For bigotry. For hate.

Speak up. Speak up more.

That’s my new year’s resolution.

Spanking: Child Abuse or Discipline?

Spanking once again made headlines recently in the US, with the release of Hillary Adam’s brutal beating captured on video, and reports of yet another death of a child from “discipline.”

I hear over and over variations of this response: “I got spanked, and I turned out okay.” And “Children don’t respond to reason, you have to show them that their actions have consequences.”

Horseshit.

Hitting another person, save for self-defense, is wrong. There is no excuse, no context, no roles that the attacker and victim can be put in, that makes it okay.

I was spanked as a child, and let me tell you what I learned:

I learned that when someone did something wrong, you had to hit them.

My little brother, as a child, was very annoying. He pushed my buttons, and wouldn’t let up. Initially, I’d do what my parents told me to-I told them when my brother was “aggravating” me. They told him to stop. But of course, he didn’t. Eventually I lost my temper and hit him. Crying, he went to my parents.

Thus I got my first spanking.

The next time this situation played out, my frustration doubled. Why didn’t my parents spank my brother? He was doing something wrong, he has to be punished. Well, I decided, if they’re not going to do it, I will. I am his big sister, after all. So I “punished” him. I hit my little brother.

Again, I got spanked.

I was angry. I was confused. Why was I being punished? I only did what they refused to do. My brother was in the wrong, not me. If they only spanked him, I wouldn’t have to. He was wrong. He had to be punished. He was wrong. He had to be punished.

He was wrong. He had to be punished.

I took this lesson and applied it outside of the home as well. When a boy at church grabbed my cousin while she was holding a toddler, I chased him around the field behind the church, sat on him, and hit him.

He was wrong. He had to be punished.

When a neighborhood boy attacked his brother, I in turn, attacked him. To show him what it felt like. To correct his actions.

He was wrong. He had to be punished.

Now, I’m ashamed of my actions. I know now that I wasn’t the righteous meter-out-of-justice that I thought I was.  I was a bully. And I didn’t even realize it.

I was hitting people, just because I thought they wronged me, or someone I cared about.

One of the things my parents taught me was to stand up for what I thought was right, to defend those who couldn’t defend themselves.

That lesson, together with the lesson implict in spanking, turned me into the worst kind of bully: the kind that believes what they’re doing is right. The kind that believes that society stands behind them, and condones what they’re doing.

The kind of bully that Judge Adams is. The kind of bully that implements the Pearl’s “child training” techniques.

Tyler Clementi’s Bullies Being Charged

Good.

Dharun Ravi is being charged for the events that led to Tyler Clementi’s death last September. In all, there are 15 charges, including four bias intimidation charges, tampering with evidence, attempted invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension, and witness tampering. A case is advancing against Molly Wei, his accomplice.

I’m relieved that Tyler won’t be yet another young gay man dismissed as a tragic suicidal character, with his tormentors as victims of their own making. No.  Ravi and Wei are finding out that their bullying has consequences for them, too. They drove a young man to death for their cruelty, and they will face justice for it.

It won’t bring back Tyler. If only it could. But perhaps Ravi and Wei will learn, along with every other bully of my LGBT brothers and sisters, that their actions are wrong, and that we won’t stand for it.

RIP, Tyler.

Heartbroken.

I’ve meant to write about all of the recent suicides of LGBT teenagers. I’d been waiting to find the right words. Then I found out about the Anoka-Hennepin School District, and my heart broke, and I can’t not write about it. THREE suicides of gay students, in one high school, in one year? What the hell is going on at that school?

Perhaps later, I’ll be able to write something more substantial. All I can do now, is pour the inside of my broken heart onto the page. People are dying! Teenagers are dying! Their hearts are being broken, their souls are being crushed, and all these schools can say about it is that bullying is bad, and they’re against it, and since they’re obviously failing, they’ll add some more meaningless training?

No.

That’s not enough.

Dig your hearts out of the back of your freezer! What is wrong with you? How can anyone stand by while someone is suffering so? I can’t fathom it. I just can’t fathom it.

Words are so powerful. A kind word is strong, but a sole kind word in the midst of so much cruelty can save a life. Is that not worth the effort?

I don’t care about your meaningless training. I want to know how you could have let it happen in the first place. Reaction means little to me right now. I cannot fathom the amount of self-absorption, self-righteousness, cruelty, lack of empathy, and the loads of back-turning it takes to ignore what was going on in that school, to let it escalate, to the point of three young people dying in one year at one school.

Ah, I wish I could have given each one of them a hug. I wish I could have been there, let them pour all their hurt and frustration and hopelessness out, and cried with them. I know what that pain feels like, and I know that just one person giving a damn would have made all the difference. Just one person, giving a real, sincere, heartfelt damn.

I know what that pain feels like, and no one, no one, deserves that kind of pain. Not ever.

I’m sorry. I hate that anyone has had to feel that pain. I hate that you feel that pain. I’m sorry I didn’t do everything I could to prevent it. I’m sorry that you were so desperate to be free of it that death was your only option. I failed you. We all have failed you. I haven’t forgotten you. I won’t, ever. And I know that’s meaningless, because what can I do now? You’re gone. The only thing I can do now is love more, see more, be more. And never, ever forget.