By: The Global Diplomat Writer
Image credit: Forbes
For a long time, a voice would always loom in my head-“You will never admit how malice your sins were; your lives are filled with so much boredom that you wish one more person will die in this world.” This is a quote from the protagonist of the movie “The River of Sadness,” which talks about school bullying. I still can feel the pain in my chest as I watched the protagonist scream out the words until her voice gets hoarse. The scene switches back and forth between the desperate protagonist on the river bank, attempting to commit suicide, and the laughing folks behind her, watching casually as if enjoying a drama on the stage. Under the spotlight, however, stands a wounded, bloody person with her last few breaths and beside her, a steel knife sparkles with deadly yet fresh blood. The blood hasn’t cooled yet, and it’s still telling the story of every one out of five students in the U.S.
Though not everyone who is bullied commit suicide, everyone can be the wounded victim on the stage, or one of the laughing folks behind her, consciously or unconsciously. According to statistics by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day for fear of bullying in the U.S. Almost half of the suicides among teenagers are the result of some form of bullying. School bullying is one of the most common forms of bullying that a student may face, and as social media develops rapidly, students become even more vulnerable since they have more channels to get harmed. The six most common types of bullying are physical bullying, prejudicial bullying, sexual bullying, verbal bullying, relational aggression, and cyberbullying. School bullying has negative effects on the bullies, those who are bullied, and those who witness the bullying. The victims are more likely to suffer from poor mental health and missing school; the bullies are more vulnerable to substance abuse and tend to offend people who are close to them; the bystanders, similarly, are reported to have an increased risk of being traumatized.
As school bullying is happening all over the world, some groups of students are more vulnerable due to their races or personalities. For example, black people, Asians, indigenous people, those coming from low income families, and introverts are more likely to be bullied. During the COVID pandemic, Asians have become a target of school bullying. Since the start of the coronavirus, Asian students have been accused bluntly at school for starting the pandemic. Asians have been attacked for wearing masks in New York subway station and I, as one of them, have personally been accused rudely by a random stranger on the street. One of the more serious case happened in Los Angeles before public schools shut campuses in mid-March, when bullies accused a 16-year-old Asian boy of having the coronavirus simply because of his race. They beat him badly enough to send him to the emergency room. Even after classes migrated online, hate crimes persisted. In April, unknown intruders disrupted a high school Chinese class held on Zoom in Newton, MA. They bombarded the teacher, Lan Lan Sheng Chen, and the students with several minutes of racist images and slurs. No one should be accused for the commencement of the pandemic, and the questions left behind are: who is responsible for the harms that Asian students are experiencing from day to day? How would people notice that under the veil of the peaceful ambience, school environments can hurt so many students? By what means can we stop this, or is it ever stoppable?
One of the most daunting facts about school bullying is the lack of effective regulations to mitigate the situation. School bullying is an issue with lots of grey areas and a broad definition. While most reported school bullying cases that have been dealt with in court involve physical attacks or serious violation of human rights, actions that are widely considered as “normal teenage behaviors” are much more prevalent but often neglected. Exclusion, gossiping, and cyberbullying, for instance, result in irreversible damage to teens’ mental health. Most schools have rules to regulate bullying. However, it’s often hard to deal with an incident effectively as the students’ conversations and lives outside of school are hidden from administrators. The victims usually would not make a report to the school either because of their desire for inclusion or genuine friendship, which isn’t something that the school can provide by simply talking to or punishing the bullies. In other cases, the victims are threatened. What has been proved to work are not rules but education of equity and rights, mental health support, reconciliation between bullies and victims, and global awareness .
I have seen people around me being excluded, but I could do nothing other than keeping friends with them when they are not accepted. I stayed silent in fear of being the next victim under the spotlight. However, is this how a school life should be? Healthy school life is desperately called for. Stopping school bullying with a finger snap is hard, but effective reformation and awareness by the government must take place.