Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bullying: Not Child's Play

I am still trying to internalize the idea that an 11-year-old boy hung himself in his home due to chronic bullying and gay slurs. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover’s mother found him hanging by an electrical cord from a beam in their home.His mother, Sirdeaner L. Walker, reports that on the day of her son’s death, Carl reported that he was being suspended for five days for an altercation with a girl at his school.

His mother also reports that for the last six months she had been calling officials at New Leadership Charter School to report that Carl was enduring daily bullying and threats of violence. Some of his classmates believed he was gay and taunted him mercilessly for that. Ms. Walker says she never received appropriate support from the school and her child ultimately suffered due to their lack of responsiveness.

I’ve read various newspapers, blogs and online journals about this tragic incident, and what has been as upsetting as Carl’s death is the response by those who comment on the story. I am appalled by the number of people who see bullying as a rite of passage or that somehow Carl brought on the bullying because of his perceived sexual orientation. One commenter was especially perturbed because “those people who want to teach our kids about being gay are now using this situation to promote their agenda.”

Are people on crack?! Are you telling me that folks are only willing to protect kids from bullying as long as they are not gay? Or that being shoved around or kicked or embarrassed by a peer in math class is just what some of the “weaker kids” have to put up with?

That is unacceptable! That is crazy! That is irresponsible!

There are very few people who can report a pristine educational experience, but I believe it is more than reasonable that each child that attends school (charter, public, private) should have the expectation that their school day be free from violence. That the people put in charge of their education and safety do their jobs! That whatever your baggage is you leave it at the school house door and do your job! No child should feel sick to their stomach at the thought of having to go to school because that is where they can guarantee they will be harassed and threatened for whatever differences they bring to the school yard.

School officials should take a “zero tolerance” approach to ALL forms of bullying. If hurtful or disparaging language is used, it is to be stopped in its tracks. It should not be allowed to escalate or become a burden for the child who is being victimized.

We have no idea if Carl Joseph Walker–Hoover was gay, but we do know that he is dead and that is unacceptable.

1 comment:

Deb Powers said...

I've been reading the reactions to the book about the Columbine shooting with a sinking feeling. It's an excuse for all those people who believe that bullying is an acceptable and accepted part of childhood to point and say "We told you so! Everyone overreacted because they thought the bullied kids would get guns and come shoot up the school."

The sad part is that those who endure bullying are far more likely to take their own lives than those of others - and then be held up as "weak" or "damaged".

You're right - children have a right to a bully-free school and an atmosphere of respect for all students and teachers. Anything less is shameful.