DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in response to the letter from "A Mom Who Loves Her Son, Anywhere, U.S.A." She arranged counseling for her angry son, and she wrote hoping that publicity will be given to counselors specializing in adolescents. She also mentioned that the apparent reason for her son's unhappiness and anger was that he "felt intimidated and threatened by groups of older students at his large suburban high school."
This behavior has a name. It's called BULLYING, and it victimizes millions of schoolchildren every year. Presumably, if the son had not been bullied, he would not have become so angry and would not have NEEDED counseling. Surely this is a perfect example of why there is a need for "prevention" –- the elimination of bullying.
"Mom" wrote in response to the tragedy in Littleton. Immediately after the tragedy, young people themselves also responded by identifying bullying as a serious problem in our schools.
Students in Hillsboro High School in Nashville, Tenn., created the "I WILL PLEDGE" and urged fellow students to sign the pledge not to mock or bully others who dress, act, look or talk differently. At the time, these student observations and efforts were reported in the media. Now the media no longer look to these young experts for input and advice, but have reverted to reporting and quoting only adult "experts" who appear not to have heard the youth. While gun control and violence in the media certainly must be addressed, the adult policy-makers and administrators do not seem to grasp the urgent importance of dealing with bullying consistently over the long term in a public and publicized way.
Only with raised awareness of the widespread and devastating consequences of bullying will society be able to rid itself of the attitude that teasing and taunting are "just something to put up with." Only with raised awareness will educators and school personnel realize and accept that only they can accomplish zero tolerance of the bullying that occurs daily in classrooms, restrooms, hallways, cafeterias, playgrounds and on school buses. Only with raised awareness will millions of silently suffering children from elementary school through high school be spared this humiliation and pain. –- ANOTHER MOM WHO LOVES HER SON, ANYWHERE, U.S.A.
DEAR MOM: You have expressed it beautifully. Your thinking parallels my own. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I am 12 years old. Starting in the fourth grade, no one in my class really cared for me. A boy named "Tom" and a girl named "Megan" were the exceptions.
After fourth grade, Megan gave in to peer pressure, so Tom and I were the outcasts. At the end of the year, Tom moved -– so I spent the first half of the sixth grade as the lone outcast.
My family and I moved to Iowa about a year ago. I enrolled in school and for the first few days I was accepted. Then one day I said or did something that offended the other kids and my old life came back. I am haunted with the name-calling and teasing and feel like I'm going crazy.
I came home from school crying, and have even mentioned suicide to my mom. The teachers have helped some, and I've spoken to two counselors. Today I thought of having a train hit my arm, with the intention of breaking it, to prove my seriousness. Please help me. -– 12-YEAR-OLD WEIRDIE IN IOWA
DEAR 12-YEAR-OLD: You are not alone with this problem; you have lots of company. Suicide is not the answer, nor is breaking your arm. You need intensive professional counseling immediately. Please ask your mother to write to me so I can advise her more fully. I promise that your situation will improve.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600