Saturday, February 24, 2007

You need to come home! Ryan is dead!

The St. Albans Messenger has a long sobering article. You need to come home! Ryan is dead! starts off with:

"Oct. 7, 2003, was the day that split John Halligan’s life in half. He was in a hotel room in Rochester, N.Y., away on a business trip for IBM in Essex Junction. His cell phone rang. He knew the number. It was home.
"'John! John!' his wife cried on the other end. 'You need to come home! You need to come home! Ryan is dead! He killed himself!'"

It is painful that Ryan was persecuted for so long. He was teased at schooling and harassed on the internet. It went on for a couple years. He couldn't take it any more and he committed suicide.

His parents sound like parents who were involved and trying to help him. They were not checked out or ignoring him. They took some action, action that wasn't effective, but they were trying.

Bullying is a big problem in public schools. For every student who kills himself, or tries to kill others, there are dozens and hundreds of students who are picked up, harassed, and mocked. Part of the problem with public schools is the administration's hands are partially tied and they can not take effective action.

I am reminded of Willy Wanka who several times says "Please stop that." He says it without any power or force behind his words. He lets the visitors get hurt by the consequences of their actions. Public school officials are often about as effective. They try. They ask the bullies to stop. But they don't step in and punish bullies.

In public schools the victims suffer the consequences of the actions of bullies.

My prediction is the lack of control will drive more parents to homechool their children.

(Hat tip: Google alert)

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NerdMom said...

It is amazing some of the arguments I hear of to put down homeschooling. The bully issue is one of the biggest. It is the idea that we all need to learn how to cope with bullies as children in order to be quality adults just blows my mind. The reason more parents aren't up in arms is the theory that we lived through it, shouldn't our kids? I personally want better for my kids and don't think bad behavior is something that should just be tolerated.

Grizzly Mama said...

I don't think that being the victim of bullying does anything to help any kid anywhere. I've heard that same thing - it's crap.

Henry Cate said...

I agree with both of you. As adults if we are subject to serious bullying we call the police or take people to court.

And for minor forms of bullying we can often leave the situation or are mature enough to find constructive ways to deal with the bully.

Children in a public school are suppose to endure the bullying and can not escape.

I don't understant why people think this is good for victims.

Shannon said...

Willy Wonka

I agree - one of the huge reasons that we took "a short break" that's lasted 10 years is that the "special ed services" weren't positive enough to counter the extremely negative aspects of school for special kids.

(BTW - homeschooling was enough. Niki is now a bright, articulate 15 year old. The results of "special ed" in school would NOT have done that for her.)

Tammy said...

There's a difference between believing in something, then looking for all the ways that we can prove that something is true, and looking at all the ways we can find what's true then deciding what to believe based on that.

The bully thing, to me, is one of the many ways people justify the usefulness of school, and why it's OK to send their kids off to it.

On the other hand, there is indeed something to be said for learning to deal with bullies and people who are obnoxious. That, I believe, is learned either from parents or from friends. When there's no role model for us to look up to on how to deal with these situations, or our role models are not very adept at knowing how to do this, then our kids have little chance to learn how to deal with it, no matter how many times they have to. If our kids have good role models, and people in their lives who are available to give them useful tools right when they are the most needed, it won't take very many times to figure out how it works.

Without those tools, the coping mechanisms that kids come up with are most often not healthy, reactionary and based on fear and the feeling of being trapped. And most often, that's what being faced with bullies and obnoxious people in a school is setting up for our children - having to deal with these things by themselves, with no tools, no support, nowhere to go, and very little room to make wise choices.

There is a lot of grey area between the kind of "opportunity" schools offer for teaching children how to deal with bullies, and the overprotective stereotype of homeschoolers hiding in the house all day to avoid contact with anyone. But for some reason, many people can't even imagine a life in that grey area, where there are plenty of opportunities to deal with life's struggles, but also the support and guidance right there, in the midst of the problem, when it's needed the most. When people can't see what it could possibly be like in the grey area, then what does that say about the kind of learning they've received about how to get along in the world. (my edu blog)

Anonymous said...

Vermont passed an anti-bullying law as a result of this tragedy. The problem now is that the bullying law is being used as the justification for bringing in an organization to give talks about not bullying gays. That's great; kids should not be bullied for this reason. There are two problems, though. One, the gay young man who gives the presentation is said to have spent time describing how great it feels to "kiss a boy." Two, parents cannot stop these talks from being given to kids as young as 6th grade (including the off-topic promotion of the gay lifestyle). The ones who try to are subjected to a bullying campaign by the so-called adults involved.

Henry Cate said...

The Vermont law sounds like a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences.

In trying to fix one problem, people have created a second problem.

This is one of the reasons why I think it is often best to keep the government from passing laws to "fix" ever problem.