Friday, August 07, 2009

Bullycide and the Mutilation of a Child's Spirit.

Second update: The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new policy statement (pdf file) on June 29, 2009, recognizing the serious threat bullying poses to kids’ health and safety, and increasing the involvement of pediatricians when it comes to dealing with bullying.

Listen here to Dr. Robert Sege, one of the report’s authors and chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, and Sirdeaner Walker, the mother of 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hovver (pictured below) who hanged himself last April after being relentlessly bullied at his Springfield, Massachusetts elementary school.

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Update: Another 11-year old, Jaheem Herrera, frustrated with bullies calling him "gay", "ugly", and "the virgin", took his own life.

His mother found him hanging by his belt in the closet."He used to say Mom they keep telling me this ... this gay word, this gay, gay, gay. I'm tired of hearing it, they're telling me the same thing over and over," she told CNN, as she wiped away tears from her face.

But while she says her son complained about the bullying, she had no idea how bad it had gotten.

"He told me, but he just got to the point where he didn't want me to get involved anymore because nothing was done," she said.

Bermudez said she complained to the school about bullying seven or eight times, but it wasn't enough to save him.

"It [apparently] just got worse and worse and worse until Thursday," she said. "Just to walk up to that room and see your baby hanging there. My daughter saw this, my baby saw this, my kids are traumatized."

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The parents of Eric Mohat a 17-year old, who was "harassed so mercilessly in high school that when one bully said publicly in class, "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself, no one will miss you," he did", aren't seeking monetary compensation; "rather, they are asking that the high school that their son attended recognize their son's death as a "bullicide" and put in place what they believe is a badly needed anti-bullying program."



In another case, 11-year old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover's mother found him hanging by an extension cord on the second floor of their home Monday night after, as his mother said, "he had endured another day of taunting at New Leadership Charter School, where he was a sixth-grader." Carl left behind a note for family members. He would have turned 12-years old on April 17.

The perception that a child is violating stereotypical gender roles by other children plays a significant role in bullying behavior. Students taunted and threatened both Eric and Carl on a daily basis, often referring to them as "gay," "fag," "queer" and "homo", and in Eric's case, and possibly Carl's, often in front of teachers. Both Carl's mother and Eric's parents tried to intervene and called the school repeatedly to complain about the situation, but nothing changed.

In one national survey, the reason most frequently reported by victims of bullying for being harassed was the student’s appearance. The next most cited reason for frequent harassment was sexual orientation ( A National Report on School Bullying).

In another report, students in middle school reported remarks about someone’s presumed homosexuality or gender identity as one of the most common forms of verbal harassment. In addition, a new review of studies from thirteen countries from Yale School of Medicine, have found signs of an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide.

Bullying, all too often, occurs with the full complaisance of adults - teachers, coaches, parents, etc - especially when it comes to perceived sexual orientation of boys, in particular. Young girls who don't conform to gender roles (tomboys) are accepted and even desired up to a certain age, whereas boys who don't conform are not at all accepted and almost certain to experience some form of bullying.

When children grow up in a society that preach and teach that gay people are not acceptable, hence, encourage this group to hide (Don'tAsk Don't Tell, closeted people in the public eye: politicians, Hollywood actors, etc.) who they are, and to hate themselves, it's no wonder that 30% of GLBT youth take their own lives and why the bullying of this group of children, in particular, occurs.

I can't let anyone find out that I'm not straight. It would be so humiliating. My friends would hate me, I just know it. They might even want to beat me up. Any my family, I've overheard them lots of times talking about gay people. They've said they hate gays, and even God hates gays, too. It really scares me now, when I hear my family talk that way, because now, they are talking about me .... Sometimes I feel like disappearing from the face of the this earth. - 16-year old Bobby Griffith *
This reason - the bullying and high suicide rate of GLBT youth - alone, is what makes the neoconservative long-term plan of targeting gay people, in order to generate "moral" panic - going as far as to suggest that our civilization is "at stake" - in order to secure their greedy agenda, just plain evil. Ironically, our civilization is "at stake" not because of gay marriage, but because of their greedy agenda.

If these same adults, complicit in the bullying behavior, were faced with the threat of potential law suits, they might change their tune. If that's what it takes, let the law suits begin.
"Someday, maybe, there will exist a well-informed, well-considered, and yet fervent public conviction that the most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child's spirit." Erik Erikson
* Bobby Griffith, quoted in Miller, B. Jaye, "From Silence to Suicide: Measuring a Mother's Loss," in Blumenfeld, Warren J. (ed.). Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price, Boston: Beacon Press, 1992, pp. 88-89.

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