It’s been ten years, but I am still haunted by the memory.
It was in Ottawa, Canada. I had just finished giving a keynote address on bullying to a large group of educators. A gentleman was quietly waiting by the stairs of the stage to speak with me.
As I approached the man, he silently handed me a picture of an adorable eleven-year old boy. With tears in his eyes, the man thanked me for my speech and explained that the photo was his son who had hung himself because he was bullied.
The father said he had to talk to me. He’d listened to my talk and said he knew that if people had only listened to what I said about bullying, his son would be alive today. He asked me to please keep warning parents of the horrific consequences. I promised that father I’d never give up, we hugged, and then he quietly walked away.
I’ve carried that child’s photo with me every day since. I’ve shared it with hundreds of parents and educators everywhere I speak. It’s my reminder that adults need to take bullying far more seriously. We must tune into our children closer, listen and believe them, and then step in if necessary so a child does not have deal with cold-blooded cruel attacks alone.
And we better quicken our pace.
Studies find that 160,000 children skip school every day because they fear being attacked or intimidated by other students.
A recent study prepared for the American Psychological Association showed that 80 percent of middle school students admit to bullying behavior in the prior 30 days.
Research shows bullying is escalating and bullies are more likely to be aggressive and could carry a weapon.
There is also another danger. The United States Secret Service studied over 30 school shootings. Could they develop a profile of a school shooter? The answer was no, but they did find one commonality:
Each school shooter had been bullied intensely by peers, and no adult ever intervened.
Bullied children can become bullies.