Archived Story

Who’s to blame? The kids or the parents?

Published 1:53pm Monday, October 4, 2010

There has been a recent onslaught of news stories involving children and teens committing suicide because of bullying.

A few days ago, a Rutgers student killed himself because someone apparently posted a video of him in some type of sexual act.

A 13-year-old boy from California recently passed away after a suicide attempt a week ago. The child’s mother said it was because he was being bullied in school.

Carl Joseph Walker Hoover’s 2009 suicide is what first drew my attention to this problem. Hoover’s mother found him hanging by an extension cord. She said he had killed himself as a result of being taunted and called “gay.”

It’s normal for a child to be picked on a little in school. It’s what kids do. But when is it too much? When does it stop being bullying and start becoming something else? And should we hold parents responsible for their child’s views of others? My answer is: yes, we should.

I know a child is his or her own person, and when it comes down to it, no one can control the child’s thoughts, but parents or guardians can condition their child to be more accepting of others. It’s called raising your child right. No one is born innately believing being homosexual or of another ethnicity or religion is wrong. It’s something learned in one’s environment.  And if the child didn’t learn it from the parent, it is the parent who should have the common sense to enlighten their children that there will be people different from them and making fun of those differences just isn’t right. Open their eyes to the world. Childhood is the stage in a person’s life that sets a basic foundation. That is the time parents should educate their young ones, especially in this day and age.  In school, of course, I had small bullying instances here and there–nothing too serious, but I couldn’t help but peripherally see others around me constantly be picked on.

There was Krystal, not only was she the only Caucasian student in my elementary school, but her hair had to be cut off because gum got in it. Kendrick, who went to both elementary and middle school with me, was extremely effeminate. He was one of the nicest, most easy-going people you’d ever want to meet. No one wanted to work in a group with him. No one wanted to sit by him. To this day, I still regret not standing up for him like I should have. I’ve always been accepting of everyone, no matter how different they are.

I wasn’t raised in an extremely diverse environment, but I knew right from wrong, and judging others based on something they had no control over was one thing I never did. The truth is, we all have something weird inside of us–some just hide it better than others. And those who are better at hiding it, pick on those who are weaker.

I know what it feels like to be insulted in school and have the entire classroom go silent. Staring. Your heart races and your body heats up. You feel like no one cares how you feel. I could only imagine how those poor kids who killed themselves felt before they decided that taking their own lives was the best way out.

I’m not campaigning to fully eradicate bullying; it’ll always happen. But parents can teach their children acceptance, and not hate. Prevent the problem before it happens. It could save a life.

Michael Hansberry is a reporter for The Record. He can be reached at 256-772-6677 or by e-mail at michael.hansberry@themadisonrecord.com.

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