By John Lee
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” Desmond Tutu (South African social rights activist)
There is no way to stop every instance of bullying. A bully’s violent tendencies can sprout from anything: fights between his or her parents, past experiences as bullying victims, the list goes on. Yet a common flaw of discipline and intervention is the complicated pursuit to address every single one of these negative origins in every single one of these antagonists. A school’s campus is a favorite choice of battlefield for such oppressors. With a great variety of bullies tormenting various victims in myriad ways, schools must step up and educate their students on how to effectively change their environment as an institution.
1. The blind cannot lead the blind. The worst thing that can happen is for a school to be aware that bullying exists on its campus, yet still refuse to acknowledge that fact because it would damage its image. In such a case, the school only becomes another force of oppression. Every solution starts with recognition of the problem, and for harassment at school, this would entail some method of gauging how deep the aggravation has penetrated the student community. Whether through surveys or anonymous counseling, students should have the comfort to share their experiences without having to worry about their privacy. The school could then gather this information to effectively understand what students define as bullying and the various ways, both seen and unseen, such persecution affects its atmosphere.
2. Educate the masses. Setting zero-tolerance rules does have its benefits, but when it comes to callous students who have no problem with breaking codes of moral conduct, even expulsion may have limited results. Bullying must be attacked at its source, which is not the experiences of the student that have pushed him or her to apathy, but rather their actual mindset and how they react to such experiences. School counselors and teachers generally do not have the ability to deal with a bully’s ordeals outside of school, but they definitely have an influence over how students view those around them. Bullies will attack whoever they see as inferior, due to physical appearance, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, or any other characteristic. Thus, a school’s diversity presents a menu of choices. However, with proper instruction and guidance, a school can use its diversity to manifest a gateway to open-minded acceptance—an extremely idealistic, yet valuable goal to keep in mind.
3. The best way to destroy an enemy is to make them a friend. The true fatal flaw in the fight against oppression is that others merely observe and look down upon the bullies as unapproachable monsters, spewing lies like “I would never do anything like that.” Students tend to forget that a “harmless” comment on a friend’s photo will never be interpreted the same way by everyone because the letters on a keyboard cannot express the same emotion. Bullying comes in many shapes and sizes, just like its victims, and the most harmful action is to assume that one is a bully only when using certain words and leaving behind bruises. Rather than wrongfully distancing one’s self from that category of antagonist, students must break down those boundaries and reach out to the victims as well as those who have oppressed them.