Time to act upon the cycle of inaction

In grade school, it is not uncommon for one student to bully another. It is so commonplace that school officials often turn a blind eye to the tormenting and let it go unpunished. We are far beyond the days when chastisement and a pat on the hand would suffice.

On Jan. 14, 2010, a Massachusetts teenager committed suicide by hanging. Phoebe Prince was a recent immigrant to America from Ireland and was only 15 years old when her life was cut short. America is supposed to be the country where dreams come true; for Prince,  the victim of vicious bullying, America was a place of nightmares.

We, as Trojans, hold the power to change the course of the lives we lead and the lives around us. It might never be possible to stop bullying in schools; however, it is possible to make it known that bullying is wrong. If we are volunteering in the community and see children picking on others on the playground, it is our responsibility as members of the Trojan Family to report the bullying or stop it ourselves.

USC students volunteer over 700,000 hours of community service during a single school year. Many of those hours are spent in elementary, middle and high schools. Massachusetts might seem distant from our California lifestyle, but bullying is all around us in the schools where we spend our time.

What happens if the next suicide-related death reported all over the news takes place in our surrounding neighborhood?

What happens if it is a student you worked with who killed himself because of the torment and teasing at his school?

What could we, as student leaders, do to stop this?

Bullying might be a very common phenomenon; nonetheless, action must be taken to stop it. Parents either ignore the complaints of their children or are met with indifference from school officials when they bring it up. School administrators take no action because either the bullying isn’t reported or they don’t have a way to punish it in their disciplinary system. Peers don’t speak up to either or they turn a blind eye to the torment. It is a vicious circle of inaction.

Peer inaction is as much a cause of a fellow student’s unhappiness as is the bullying itself. It is the responsibility of students to stand up against students tormenting each other. The words of adults mean nothing compared to the approval and feedback from fellow students. If Prince’s peers would have come to her aid against the torment that she was experiencing at school and online, then she might still be alive today.

By taking a few minutes to stop the torment, you could be saving a life. It’s possible that Prince never had someone who was willing to stand up for her and tell her tormentors that what they were doing was “uncool” or “messed up.” She never had someone report the abuses, and she never really had a chance at life. Her peers were as much accomplices to her death as her tormentors were the cause.

As volunteers, we should encourage students to stand up for others, not just because you would want them to do the same for you but because doing so might save a life.

Melanie Mathis is a sophomore majoring in political science.

5 replies
  1. (T)Eddy
    (T)Eddy says:

    The same kind of cycle of inaction is really perpetrated in American society in all forms, from our very own government imposing ‘democracy’ in other countries, or it’s IMF sanctions etc. The violence undertaken here affects us on a micro level. If we weren’t so quick to take violent action toward another country and actually have alternate means of foreign policy, then American society would probably reflect a similar sentiment altogether. It’s not a ‘softer’ approach but smarter in the end.

    Perhaps the solution is not to take violent means like My Bodyguard suggests, but (depending highly on the situation – may be physical chastisement, or verbal) to really consider ourselves as Mentors/role models whenever we our volunteering in the community, and everywhere for that matter. Most often our volunteer efforts aid those who seek the help; most often these students may not be the perpetrators of the bullying. Yet, it’s not difficult to speak to the power of words to dispell an altercation when we see it.

  2. My Bodyguard
    My Bodyguard says:

    is that cowards talk smack behind your back. Then nobody wants to take your side. You become a loner because people are afraid of you, even if the good people can see the good in you. My middle school years were like this. I was a pretty good brawler with this being an understatement, and no one dared to pick a fist fight with me again. But I was lonely because I didn’t let a bully pull my punk card.

    My practical solution: develop in you excellent cardiovascular conditioning and join a boxing club.

    “Talking it out” or “turning the other cheek” just perpetuates the bullying. “Modern psychology” and the likes are just as futile. Sometimes, you got get ghetto with it to get respect; you gotta put your fist in.

  3. My Bodyguard
    My Bodyguard says:

    I totally agree with you Melanie. But why didn’t you offer some practical solutions to stop bullying?

    In our high-tech information age, communication is instantaneous and abstract. I’m talking about Facebook and the likes. I read about that poor girl Phoebe Prince in the LA Times, and believe it started with ugly rumors on Facebook about her dating some guy.

    I agree with you that parents, school authorities, and sadly, society in general, brush these kinds of incidents off as growing pains or rites of passages. I disagree. People are aloof and don’t want to become involved. It’s because these same people are socially inept themselves, and don’t grasp the delicate

    I know from personal experience, that someone tried to bully me, I beat him up. No, I don’t carry myself around like a toughguy with chip on my shoulder. But what happens after you beat up a bully i

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