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Bullying, Silence, and a Culture of Protection

Last night, the teen brought to my attention a horrible social media account designed for bullying. It was an Instagram page titled [School Name] Sluts which featured edited pics of students with rude messages, rumors, and a price tag. It was just awful. So I did what I do.

I reported it for bullying, then tweeted the link so others could do the same. And I was chastised by a school employee for “publicizing the link” because adults sharing the photos would “harm the victims.” Um, no. It publicly says “This is not okay” and shows the victims that there are adults who will stand up to bullies, support the victims and act on their behalf.

I was told school administrators had been working on it all day. Yet, we got it shut down in under an hour. By making noise and taking action, rather than whispering about it behind closed doors. Keeping it hush-hush only serves to make victims feel ignored and ashamed and afraid to come forward.

I know because my daughter was on that page — and she doesn’t even go there. My daughter was tormented relentlessly for 6 months before we finally figured out what she wouldn’t tell us. Now that we’ve pulled her from that toxic environment, she has felt safe enough to tell us everything else. She feels safe enough to stand up for others.

There is a huge bullying problem at the school that no one talks about. Sadly, it seems to be a nationwide epidemic. But I know these kids. It isn’t just a story in the media anymore. I know their stories. I know their backgrounds. I know their struggles with depression and eating disorders and self-harm. I know how very dangerous the bullying can be.

But keeping it quiet doesn’t protect the victims; it protects the bullies. It says “It’s okay, we won’t tell anyone what you did.” It says “Don’t worry. No one will know the horrible things you said.” It tolerates this kind of behavior and creates a culture of secrecy that allows the bullying to escalate.

Silence shows that you’re more interested in protecting the schools reputation than protecting the victims nWe have to call out the bullies. We have to draw attention to the poor behavior. We have to shine a light on what’s happening to our children. Otherwise, it’s the victims we leave in the dark, feeling alone and ashamed and unsupported.

And that is not okay.

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