When I was a pre-teen and an early teen, I was sometimes teased for not being as blessed in the bosom as some of the other girls in my class. Boys called me Great Plains because of the flat lands there. I know, stupid and not very creative nickname, right? Did it bother me? Of course it did. But my personality wouldn't allow me to hide and cry so instead I would come up with clever nicknames for my tormentors, make faces, and in extreme situations, stuff my size AA bra.
Massachusetts General Laws define bullying in schools as "the repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a victim that: (i) causes physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to the victim’s property; (ii) places the victim in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property; (iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the victim; (iv) infringes on the rights of the victim at school; or (v) materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. For the purposes of this section, bullying shall include cyber-bullying."
So was my teasing considered bullying? I don't think so. There is a very fine line now for what used to be considered teasing to now be a criminal offense. I work for a criminal defense attorney, and can attest to this fact as I read police reports and Facebook pages and text messages all registered as evidence when one person doesn't like another person or has a dispute or argument. Small things become big things many times, and these big things can leave permanent black marks on one's record, a record that is checked when someone applies for a job, when someone wants to accompany their child on a field trip, when someone wants to coach a youth sport, when someone wants to become a foster parent or adopt a child, just to name a few.
Tonight I am attending calling hours for a 14 year old boy who is rumored to have taken his life as a result of bullying at school. I don't know whether that is true or not, and I don't want to speculate. However, some of his grieving friends seem to believe that to be true as is evidenced on his Facebook page, and perhaps through their hurt and emotional words and musings, they too are hurting more than we know. Are some of them being teased? Are some of them being bullied? What can be done to prevent another young child from feeling that his or her life is so bad that he or she just doesn't want to do it anymore? Is a child who cries "bullying" overly sensitive? Is it just teasing? No matter the question, the answer is clear: No one should be made to feel that their life is worth so little that they wouldn't be missed if they were gone. And there are so many people who are missing this boy, remembering good times shared and expressing their sorrow, and my heart breaks not only for this boy but for those he left behind.