August 27, 2012
On the morning of August 27, 2012 I was in the middle of a meeting when I received word that there had been a shooting at my sister’s school, Perry Hall. Obviously a flood of emotions hit me as I wondered about my sister’s well being and the many ‘what if’ questions raced through my mind. I got teary-eyed as I considered the possibility of the worst. We tend to value people the most when there is a possibility we will not be able to see them again.
Over the course of the day, information leaked about about the shooter, the victim, the heroic actions of my sister’s guidance counselor and many other details. Apparently the 15-year old gunman’s father said that he had been bullied. Looking at court records show that this child’s home life was not what anyone would consider’ideal’ or ‘healthy’. One student was shot, a disabled student who was part of a special needs program. Fortunately in this case there were no fatalities and the student who was shot has been able to return home.
September 11, 2012
On September 11, 2012 a student at Stemmers Run Middle School brought a loaded gun to school and began waiving it toward fellow students and his teacher when the teacher knocked the gun from his hand and held the student so that a resource officer could come and secure both the student and the gun.
B3: Before Bullying Begins
It was these two incidents in our community which led my friend Pastor John Smith of FBC Essex to launch an initiative called “B3: Code Blue”. Code Blue is a code in the medical community that sounds the alarm on an emergency situation. In many cases a Code Blue refers to a cardiac arrest a.k.a. a heart attack.
As I reflected upon these incidents as well as the general condition of our culture I have found that the term Code Blue is fairly appropriate. Bullies are suffering from a condition of the heart.
I had the honor of speaking at a community rally just a few weeks ago where civic leaders, pastors and neighbors stood shoulder to shoulder to make it known that it is our responsibility to re-develop our culture so that none of our students become either the targets of bullies or actual bullies themselves.
There is an old expression I heard many years ago that changed my view toward those who cause harm in many cases: “Hurt people hurt people.”
The reality is that most bullies are victims themselves. Most bullies are insecure. Many bullies are bullied at home by their parents or siblings. A culture has been developed around the bully that trains that person to behave in such a way as to build themselves up by putting others down.
So how do we put an end to bullying?
In a word: Respect.
As a society we must raise the bar of discourse in our nation to one of respect. Respect in the family, respect in the community, respect for authority and most importantly respect for one’s self.
In the home we must teach parents to talk to their children in a healthy and respectful manner. Far too many children are living in homes where parents are passing down poison to their children.
In the media we must protect our children from images and messages designed to demean the individual. This can be as simple as a beauty magazine giving off a false impression of a healthy body image or as complex as political discourse where a child sees grown men and women angrily raising their voices with people who disagree.
In the school we must promote a healthy respect for teachers, peers and custodians. Students are far too often allowed to propagate poor behavior because adults remain silent. A more concerted effort must be made to stop disrespect everywhere we see it.
My heart is to see a day when my son or daughter do not have to worry about being bullied. I am not with my children during their entire day but if I as one adult can help to make my community better by championing the value of respect I will do so.
Respect does not mean that we will agree with all of our neighbors beliefs, respect means that we will not treat our neighbor poorly because of their beliefs.
I encourage you to work in your daily life to take ownership of respect in your community. We would love if you would stand with us at B3 by visiting our Facebook page and let us take proactive steps “Before Bullying Begins”.