I wasn't a traditional high school teacher. I had no education degree. I never intended to be a teacher. But, I was a journalist with a journalism degree -- a communicator, who loves every aspect of communications. When I was allowed to begin a journalism department in a large private high school, I looked at the classes more as if I were running businesses with employee turnover every year. I trained them to be excellent, diligent workers. The great part of what I did for 16 years were the many students who joined me as freshmen and stayed until they graduated. We won big awards and rocked the scholastic world with a news magazine, broadcast team, and yearbook. From year to year, we were a team... at times a family. The graduates cared about the teams behind them and took ownership of the legacies they founded.
Over four years, teachers and coaches become a part of their lives. We watch them grow, mature, and develop. We share their victories and their disappointments. We notice when something has gone horribly wrong, because we see them and interact with them five days a week.
Communications students, as fine arts programs, are constantly in front of the student body. I have to believe that is why I had so many students who were bullied during high school. The two worst cases both involved the anchors of the broadcast news team. But over the 16 years, too many considered suicide. I found myself in the administration office on a regular basis begging for help.
Sadly, last week in San Antonio, a young man, only 16, took his own life after he could stand no more. Here is a part of the Facebook post his brothers wrote online:
In today's age, bullies don't push you into lockers, they don't tell their victims to meet them behind the school's dumpster after class, they cower behind usernames and fake profiles from miles away constantly berating and abusing good, innocent people. The recent advances in social media have given our generation a freedom of which has never been seen before. Freedom is a beautiful thing, however as freedom and personal liberties expand (and they rapidly are), there needs to be an equal expansion of personal accountability. Right now there is no expansion of personal accountability. The households and the school systems are failing. The only way to end the suffering in this nation whether it be from bullying or discrimination is not to highlight differences between groups of people, but to focus on the importance of accountability and ultimately character. The only way to heal this country and our communities is to accept and embrace the notion that we have to begin character building from the ground up before the elementary level or our society will never recover. The healing needs to start now before we fall even further down into the pits of evil. It is my dream for the healing of this nation to be David's legacy. Please help me share this message.
The young man who died is named David. I taught David's brother, and I am gripped by the pain his family is experiencing. I have been the teacher begging people to listen... I have been the teacher who saw a child's personality completely change at the hands of bullies... I have been the teacher who was called at midnight because a student was too frightened to leave a football game because bullies said they were waiting.
It is not something alone for parents... or teachers... or administration... or government officials... it is an issue we must all address together and take seriously. Kids are leaving us too soon because they cannot cope and because adults scoff and say, "all of us have to learn to deal with mean people. It is just a part of life. They must toughen up."
I left teaching for many reasons. One of them was watching a young man I mentored for four years endure some of the worst bullying I have seen -- and even with mounds of social media evidence, nothing was done.
It is time for change. I could write a post about 10 things to do to stop bullies... but what good would that do if we are not going to get involved? I ask you, how can we finally make a difference and turn this around? It will take us all.