Bullying isn't news. Bullying has been around forever. When an imbalance of power exists, bullying happens. It happens to young children, it happens to tweens, it happens to teens and it even happens to adults.
Bullying happens because, as a country, we allow it to. We waste time researching the best and most effective bully prevention programs. We waste time looking into specific bullying events, questioning every possible child, teacher and other adult who might have information about what triggered the event. We waste time in meetings, arguing about where to place the blame.
Meanwhile, bullies continue to bully and children continue to die. Some children take their own lives when the bullying becomes too much to bear. Others die as a result of the physical attack.
Bailey O'Neill spent his 12th birthday in a medically induced coma to control seizures that only began after a vicious attack by two of his classmates, and died one day later when he was taken off of life support. Bailey was hit directly in the face several times by one of the other students, causing the fracture and concussion.
Rob O'Neill, Bailey's father, fervently spoke with ABC Affiliate WPVI. O'Neill shared that Bailey's demeanor changed after the attack, and that the attack was a direct result of bullying. O'Neill reported that Bailey was sleeping a lot, moody, angry and not himself.
Know the signs
Not all children exhibit signs of being bullied, and many fear coming forward to seek help. It's important for parents to pay close attention to behavioral changes, particularly: unexplained injuries, sleep disturbance, changes in eating habits and/or appetite, physical complaints (headaches, stomach aches, or faking illness), declining grades, decrease in social activity and self-destructive behaviors. These are all clear indicators that something isn't right.
Take any warning signs seriously. Talk to your child frequently and keep in close contact with the school.
Divided we fail
While the school district is cooperating with an investigation into the incident that left Bailey with a fractured nose and severe concussion, officials remain reluctant to call it bullying. They want clear cut evidence.
The problem with bullying, however, is that it often happens when no one is looking. And when it does happen in the presence of other children, those children fear speaking up because they might be next.
The only way to eradicate the culture of bullying that thrives in this country is to work together. We failed Bailey. We have failed countless others who have taken their lives to end bullying. We can't afford to fail any longer.
Parents need to take responsibility when their children bully. Schools need to call it what it is and stop pretending that bullying happens less frequently than it does. And parents and schools need to work together, every day, to put a stop to bullying behavior.
Do the research
Every school across the U.S. should participate in quarterly anonymous surveys to stay on top of the causes of bullying within each school. When hot spots are identified and support staff are used to monitor those hot spots, bullying events decline.
And support staff should be adequately trained to identify and diffuse incidences of bullying.
A call for action
Time and time again, we've seen the good that a cohesive group of parents can achieve if we just agree to address the issue. Start a Facebook group. Get involved with your PTA. Be the squeaky wheel. Stand up for the innocent and get help when you hear that your child is the aggressor. It's time to put an end to this culture of violence and fear. It's time to start saving our children.