So, over the weekend, on the heels of "celebrating" what would have been Christian Taylor's 17th birthday, came news of another tragedy. Cassidy Andel, a 16 years old at Griggs County Central High School near Bismarck, ND, committed suicide last week. Early indicators show this was a case of cyberbullying.
So, that brings the body count to 30. Thirty documented cases of bullying suicides in the last 7 weeks. And those are only the ones we know about. I suspect there are many more.
Reading the news sucked the life out of me this weekend. I guess I should be a little less emotional about it -- after all, my entire business is about preventing tragedy, but that means that tragedy has to exist in order for it to need preventing.
But what's hard is the "reaction" to these incidents. People at the school are already scrambling to put better cyberbullying task forces in place. They plan to put up posters and to wear blue wristbands as a sign of safety. Good...awareness is good. But, it is a largely helpless response; posters and wristbands matter little to people who think it's ok or even good sport to taunt, harass, or humiliate other people whether in person or through technology.
We need to solve this problem at its source and again, as typical, I see little movement in that direction.
As an indicator of how pressing this topic is becoming, the volume of requests to have me speak at schools has increased dramatically in the last few weeks, even. I am pleased and happy to do it, but I make a point of saying "while this is good and you'll learn , there MUST be more." No "one-time" shot is going to cure this disease. I may be able to share some very life-changing information about the causes and effects of bullying, what we've been doing, how well it does (or doesn't) work, and what will make a difference. But, at the end of the day, it's what we do with that info that actually makes the difference. Don't just listen -- take action. Do more than absorb the information, transform that learning into doing. And, really investigate what is effective, because so much time, money and energy is being wasted on things that have been proven over time to make little-to-no difference.
As Mark Mason of the Mark & Dave Show asked me last week during the nearly hour-long live interview in the KEX 1190 studio asked me "do you ever get depressed." Well, yes, Mark, I do. I get depressed when I get so many calls during the interview of stories of children being bullied. I get depressed when I hear of another young life ended. I get depressed when people's responses are about putting up posters or enacting another law...because we know those things don't stop the bullies.
But, I have to believe that there will come a time where people ask the next logical question: if THIS doesn't work, what else can we do? And, then, as now, I stand ready to help. In the meantime, more schools are seeing that pro-social skills education is the ticket to solving bullying in their schools and fix a bunch of other issues too. We're not at the Tipping Point yet..but I have got to believe that day will come.
I hope Kevin Jennings is keeping track of the bodies and will soon come to that point where he's asking that important question, too. When you're ready, Mr. Deputy Secretary, we'll be waiting on the callback your office still owes us:425 485 4089 for your convenience. Let's save some lives together, shall we?