The Anna-Jonesboro School board in Illinois made the decision to expel three bullies from it’s school… at least until 15 January 2015, at which time they can reapply to enter the school and a number of “factors” will be considered before they are given an answer about their reapplication. This decision touches on a much larger issue. And it doesn’t stop in the classroom or school yard. The “No More” commercials touch on it as well, because bullies are far more likely to abuse their significant others, spouses, and children later in life. (And yes, I’m going to open my mouth about the Ray Rice issue)
They teach us that bullies have to be mean in order to feel good about themselves. I’m not a psychologist and I don’t care to be. I don’t know if that’s true or just a line of bullshit that therapists say to make them feel good about themselves… Frankly, it doesn’t matter. Being intentionally cruel to someone else, regardless of the reason, is not a sign of societal worth. It shows weak character, poor social skills, and judgment. Caligula was a bully. Would you want your child sharing a classroom with him? Would you want your daughter marrying a man like that?
The answer is a resounding no, but that is an extreme example. Bullying can be as simple as name calling or taunting. A guy I went to junior high with used to call me “Stinky” and no, it wasn’t because he had a crush on me and couldn’t express it. It was because my parents smoked and his didn’t. As a teen, I had as much control over my parents smoking as I did my eye color. He is now serving time in prison for assault with a deadly weapon… obviously, he grew up well.
As did so many other “bullies” that I went to school with. For most, I was not the target for their wraith, I just saw it. Another good example; a girl who I had a couple of classes with used to pick on other girls. She was from a good family, student athlete, over-achiever in her studies, but didn’t like girls on the “heavy side.” About six weeks ago, I ran into her, at the drive-thru of a local fast food restaurant, where she was working, to support her three kids, as a single mom. She was as nice as could be. In high school, she wouldn’t have given me the time of day (I wasn’t in her clique so we weren’t friends and I wasn’t “heavy set,” so she didn’t torment me). For the record, the years have not been kind and she is now heavy set and looked old.
Obviously, bullies don’t just hurt the people they victimize, they hurt themselves. It may not be immediately evident, but many bullies become failures later in life because they can’t adjust to not being the “top dog” once they enter the real world and find people won’t tolerate their bullshit. Their victims are more likely to succeed in life than they are… And when the bully does succeed… well, cue the music and bring out Ray Rice.
I don’t actually know if Ray Rice was a bully in school, but it is likely. Statistics say that most abusive relationships have one partner that was a bully in their younger years. He punched his fiance in face, knocking her unconscious and then dragged her from the elevator into their hotel room. So, obviously, money doesn’t make you less of a bully. Being famous also doesn’t do it. It just seems to make you feel like the rules shouldn’t apply to you. In the case of Rice, I was horrified by the first punishment, a mere suspension. I applauded the NFL when they came back with a life-time ban from the game. I get that he has rights, but should this man be a role-model for other young men? I don’t care how many times he says he’s “sorry” or how much the woman (now his wife) defends him for the “mistake.” He deserves to be banned from the NFL and ostracized. He is supposed to be a hero, not a jackass (and yes, I do believe that our “famous” people should be held to higher standards of conduct than the “average” person because they are people that our youth emulate – when was the last time your kid came home and said “I want to be like Ralph the Plumber down the street”?).
So, how does this relate to the Anna-Jonesboro decision? Like the NFL, they are going to take flack for their expulsion of the three students involved. And like the NFL, I think they failed to do enough in the original punishment. Their ability to reapply to the school, in just two months, where they have obviously caused damage to at least one teenager, is vulgar.
The same goes for any other school facing the problem of bullies and not effectively punishing them. Schools are supposed to be breeding grounds for knowledge, learning, maturing, and personal growth… the cocoon stage from child to adult, if you will. But every time a bully graduates from high school, without the personal growth to not bully others, the school has failed. The newly formed young adult is not a well adjusted member of society, they are a societal drain. Bullies make people miserable, it’s what they do… Being a teen is traumatic enough without bullies. How many of our depressed teens or anxiety-riddled teens are being bullied? How many of our children could we stop medicating if we eradicated bullies? How many could probably become functional teens without the use of medication if their bullies were no longer at the school? And how many of these socially awkward teens could grow into more highly functional adults if they weren’t being medicated and were able to grow out of their awkwardness because their “flaws” were not being over-blown and laughed at by bullies?
Our society is always going to be rather uncivilized, because of the terror bullies create in the hallowed halls of schools and the elevators of hotels and behind the closed doors of houses, until we stop it.*
*I realize that punishment is not always a deterrent… look at the prison systems around the world… but we do have prisons to put people who cannot function in society. Perhaps bullies need special schools where only bullies go… Perhaps they should be forced to face the same stigmatization that they force on their victims… Maybe we should go “old school” and force them to wear uniforms with a giant, scarlet “B” on it, while everyone else gets to wear their own clothes… I don’t actually know the right answer… I don’t know what makes a bully stop… I do believe that until they can learn to function like a civilized person, they should not be allowed to mingle with civilized people… And I do know they should be the pariah, not their victims and that we, as a society, must stop making excuses for them. As the commercials say, “No More.”