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SIMMONS: Anti-bullying success begins with parents

- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 21, 2010

OK, Dear Readers, the topic of the day is bullying, and for those of you who prefer to remain deficient in personal responsibility, feel free to flip the page or click the mouse right now.

Now, here goes.

Our poor little lambs have lost their way.

They have forgotten the golden rule. Heck, some of them may not even be aware of it — "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

It's a moral maxim that needs to be repeated in the home because it is the foundation of any real solution to the intimidation problem among our youth.

We've all read or heard in recent months tragic stories about bullied victims, but our knee-jerk reactions aren't moving in the right direction.

We're mistakenly trying to legislate our way out of the problem by placing the onus for corrective actions on our schools.

Teaching right and wrong must begin at home.

True heartbreaking story: A Florida middle school girl sent a topless photo of herself to a boy; the photo made the rounds of her school, and the girl was taunted relentlessly. The girl found the resultant intimidation unbearable and hanged herself.

Now ask yourself a few questions.

Does the gender of the victim matter? What about her age? Where she lived? What about the fact that she was heterosexual? What about the age, gender and sexual orientation of the bullies?

What's the point?

In the aftermath of that girl's suicide a year ago and numerous stories about similar cases, we find our legislatures trying to legislate the problem away and gay organizations trying to label the problem as "hate crime."

C'mon people. Let's be real.

After being legislatively bullied into taking prayer out of schools, we are trying to legislate our way out of a failure of personal and familial responsibility.

The D.C. Council is following the lead of Florida and other states that are relying on schools to solve the problem of bullying. The D.C. bill, called the Harassment and Intimidation Prevention Act, would mandate that city schools and libraries, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the University of the District of Columbia establish policies and prevention programs to discourage bullying and similar offensive behavior.

"Schools and institutions of learning have a very important role to play, along with parents, in teaching tolerance, respect for diversity and coping skills that can help defuse incidents before they reach the boiling point of tragedy," presumptive Mayor-elect Vincent Gray said Wednesday.

But the problem isn't an institutional problem; it's a problem of how people behave.

That true story about the middle school girl who took her own life? Well, the school did intervene.

Suspecting that cuts on the girl were self-inflicted, school counselors had her sign a no-harm contract and promise to talk with an adult if she felt inclined to hurt herself again. What they failed to do was reach out to her parents, the very people who most could have aided the overwrought girl.

And what about the bullies? Dollars to doughnuts they and their ilk will continue to sext, e-mail and act in an offensive way unless and until parents take matters into their own hands.

It has become impossible even to drive to and from work without noticing that everyone is yapping into a cell phone, despite laws that say it's illegal. The phone isn't the problem; the people are.

The lack of personal responsibility is a killer.

Just ask the parents of that Florida girl who took matters into her own hands.

Let's stop kidding ourselves.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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