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.