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Bullying: One victim, many players

Posted on March 21, 2011 at 11:05 AM

Most of us have seen the compelling video of the obnoxious dancing bully taking pot shots at the overweight victim who finally has his fill and body slams the little punk. Here's a personal admission: I was proud of 16-year-old Casey Heynes, who said he had been bullied all of his life, for standing up to not only the bully in his face, but all of the bullies surrounding and watching the fight. He may have been suspended for defending himself, but he would have been king of the house when he got home if he were my child.

I have taught my own children, "You better not ever start a fight, but you are absolutely allowed to finish one."

In a world where news anchors give enticing warnings about the graphic nature of upcoming video, then proceed to run the video repeatedly for as long as possible, we've likely seen every possible follow-up to the story. Most interesting to me is the bullying "expert" who gives advice to bullying victims who aren't watching.

"You should walk away [while you're being punched in the face] and go tell a trusted adult," said the "expert" to her nonexistent audience.

Many parents will tell you, telling a trusted adult only works when the adult can actually be trusted to appropriately handle bullying. If the adult ignores the bullying victim or - worse yet - brings the victim and bully into an office for a "peer mediation," bullying activity will likely escalate and cause the bully to seek reinforcements from the anti-snitch crowd.

What I have not seen in the aftermath of the infamous bullying video is an analysis of all the other ways this bullying incident might have been stopped and all of the other students who should have been harshly disciplined for taking part. It's easy to focus on the two boys at the center of the video where all the action is happening, but bullying does not occur in a vacuum. Successful bullying require an audience, and the innocent bystanders are necessary players in the bullying melee.

Starting with the two girls who stood there laughing when the boy with the camera and Little Dancing Bully Dude first approached Casey: What could they have done, besides giggle and move to a spot where they would have a better vantage point? Bystanders who do nothing are, in my opinion, just as culpable as the bully. Children who know they are expected to be ethical and moral leaders would intervene before the violence escalates. They learn to be moral and ethical leaders in the home--from parents who will not accept behaviors that demean others.

And the punk with the camera who plays lookout and says, "Keep recording. Look, who's that in the background?" Did he get suspended? Did his mother blister his behind when he got home? Or did he brag about it and show off the tape to all of his friends with absolutely no punishment meted out on the homefront? If kids like that had vigilant parents who stepped in when they heard their children laughing at the expense of others, Little Dancing Bully Dude wouldn't have the audience he needs to pick on kids like Casey.

What about the second bully--the bystander who approached Casey after he body slammed Little Dancing Bully Dude? First he stood by and watched his little buddy bully Casey, then he tried to step in to carry the bullying mantle. I hope his parents had a stern talk with him when they saw the video just about everyone in the world has now seen.

The only child who acted with any integrity and courage was the girl who stopped the would-be bully from going after Casey. She should be held up as an example in the campaign to fight bullying. Every parent should show their children her brave, righteous actions.

Walking up on the scuffle between Casey and Little Dancing Bully Dude, she said, "Come on, guys, you need to...," in an attempt to diffuse the situation. When the second bully started to follow Casey, she stepped between them, held up her hands and said, "I think you need to back off and leave him."

IT ONLY TOOK ONE GIRL whose gut told her what she was seeing was wrong. Were it not for her courage and integrity, I believe the bullying mantle would have been passed to the second boy. Hers is the behavior that needs to be trumpeted; not that of the bully or the victim, but of the bystanders who have the power to stop bullying now.

Parents, be the "trusted adult" in your children's lives. Teach them to stop the bully now; for if they don't, they may one day find themselves as the lone victim in a coliseum of inert innocent bystanders.

Categories: Family

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