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Last updateWed, 16 Oct 2019 12pm

Politics

GUC Stuffs Bullying Into a Locker

default article imageProfessor Jennifer Shamrock of the Communication Department along with three of her senior students: Kiley Minton, Alexa Passalacqua, and Natalia Starosolsky conducted a presentation entitled “Bullying in America” for the 11th annual Global Understanding Convention on Wednesday, April 4.

Throughout the presentation, Shamrock and her students showed pictures and video clips of children and young teens that have lost their lives to the inescapable realities and pressures of bullying. While bullying continue to grow harsher each year, school administrators throughout the country are failing to put an end to the problem that has plagued America’s youth. As devastated and grief stricken families look for answers, they turn towards current laws and legislations in their home states.

Bullying is forcing kids to stay home from school, some missing a total of one third of their total school days; the problem only gets worse for some, the group’s presentation explained.

For example, one of the main videos that Shamrock and her group focused on was a news report from Anderson Cooper called “Bullied to Death,” that told the story of Asher Brown, a 13-year-old boy from Houston, Texas who ended his life as a result of bullying. When Cooper questioned the boy’s parents, they said, “Asher was picked on for not wearing the same clothes, for his stature, for his Buddhist religion and for being gay.” However, despite Asher’s parents’ complain of their son being bullied, the administrators of Asher’s school denied knowing that the boy was bullied at all.

As a result of school district’s inabilities to catch bullying in their schools before children and young teens look towards such drastic measures. Many advocacy groups throughout the United States have developed. For example, Shamrock and her students showed a trailer from the award-winning documentary made the advocacy group Parents Against Violence Everywhere entitled “Rats and Bullies.”

According to their website, those involved in the production of “Rats and Bullies” explain that the movie “Tells the powerful true story of a 14-year-old girl named Dawn Marie Wesley, who after being bullied and threatened with death by three girls at her school, hung herself in her bedroom with her dog’s leash. In the suicide note she left behind, she named the three girls. The tragedy sparked national outrage, fueled a groundbreaking investigation which led to precedent setting court case, where, for the first time in North America, teens were made to stand trial for bullying.”

For many young teens, however, bullying exists far from within the confines of their school. Cyberbullying, according to the National Crime Prevention Council’s website, is the act of using the Internet and related technologies such as instant messaging, email, YouTube, and several social media outlets, to harm others in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner.” Cyberbullying has breached the safety of individual’s homes, making it hard for kids to escape. To many, suicide seems like “The only way out,” Shamrock explained.

The presenters offered an example. In 2006, Megan Meier, a young girl from Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, hung herself when a 47-yearold neighboring mother, Lori Drew, made a fake Myspace account in order to find out what Meier thought of her daughter. Drew created an account of a young male under the alias of “Josh,” pretended to be interested and in love with Meier, then told her “You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you.” Meier then proceeded to hang herself in her bedroom closet as a result of the cruel messages sent by “Josh.” Despite the horrors of this story, Drew was only charged with misdemeanors of doing “bad things with a computer,” the group explained. Bullying plagues many of America’s youth and extends not only from young adults to others, but parents as well.

The presenters explained that bullying is cyclical, continuous and that it happens just about everywhere including: School, on the Internet, in the workplace and around the world. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s website, “Surveys indicate that as many as half of all children are bullied at some time during their school years, and at least 10 percent percent are bullied on a regular basis.” The website further explains that the fourth leading cause of death among 10 to 14- yearolds is suicide as a result of being bullied.

The group continued by telling the stories of those who have been so gravely impacted by bullying. One story was that of Michael Brewer was a 15-year-old from Florida who was set on fire and left to die by bullies. After a two-month stay in a Miami hospital’s intensive care unit, Brewer is still recovering from second- and third-degree burns that cover his entire body.

As a result of such heinous crimes against America’s youth, many states have looked towards advancing, expanding, or creating anti-bullying legislation. According to the group’s presentation, the first state to enact a bullying law was Georgia in 1999. After over a decade, New Jersey created the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, named “toughest in the country.” However, many claim that such high regard against bullying is too costly and too demanding. Although, after the recent death of Rutgers student, Tyler Clemente, many are starting to believe that the law should enact anti-bullying requirements for all schools.

As of this year, 45 states have laws about bullying, the presentation explained. Although both Montana and South Dakota currently have no bullying laws set in place. Perhaps it is because these state legislators have the same ideologies as many Americans do: “Kids will be kids, boys will be boys.” Although bullying has sparked hundreds of movements and advocacy groups throughout the country that work diligently to influence and persuade lawmakers to put an end to bullying once and for all, the crisis continues to loom overhead.

Alexa Passalacqua, one of the presenters of “Bullying in America” and senior communication major commented on the student turn out for this particular presentation. “I think the student turn out for the event was really good. I feel this is a topic that affects a lot of students so some of them might have been able to relate to it,” she said.

Shamrock shared a similar opinion in that she felt pleased with the amount of students that showed up for the event; more than the two presentations she took part in for the Global Understanding Convention. Shamrock was also pleased to see that those that attended were not only students from her classes, but others as well.

According to Shamrock, “Unless people demand that legislators make anti-bullying legislation a priority, not enough necessary policies or laws will be enacted.” However, Shamrock expressed, feature films such as the upcoming documentary film, “Bully”, which exposes the realities of bullying on a daily basis in America, and the growing amount of celebrities speaking out about bullying and will hopefully bring publicity and attention that the issue so deserves.

She also explained that the recent implementation of New Jersey’s anti-bullying law sparked her interest in the topic. “Even if you read just a little about the topic, you’ll discover the largescale magnitude of the problem,” Shamrock said. However, “Every state must realize that growing numbers in child suicide will be the consequence of not addressing such a vast and growing problem,” Shamrock said.

Passalacqua also offered her outlook on the issue. “We chose this topic for the Global Understanding Convention because it’s an issue that really needs to be brought to America’s attention and solved because no person should have to go through what some of the people in our presentation did such as suicide, being uncomfortable going to school and cutting,” she said. She then expressed her feelings on the current law and legislation that have come to being in our state. “I think New Jersey did a great job with the anti-bullying law and it’s sad but I think the death of Tyler Clemente really brought it to the forefront that a change needs to be made so this stops happening to other kids,” Passalacqua said.

According to another student who attended the presentation, Angelique Vigo, a sophomore Applied Communications major, “Bullying has gone global. It occurs worldwide. More students are standing up against bullying and trying to put an end to it internationally as more people are becoming aware of this global problem.”

Vigo continued by saying, “In my opinion, I feel that the laws passed by the New Jersey legislature against bullying is favorable to all students who were victims and those who may possibly be victims. I feel that such laws should have been in effect much sooner. Those who are running for political office should be more vocal on their views and what they propose to prevent bullying.”

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