Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bullying: torture with words

Bullying once was merely teenage meanness in trying to prove superiority over weaker friends and classmates. Now it's a form of psychological torture that can lead to deaths among teens and adults.

In Massachusetts, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince committed suicide after being literally harassed and bullied out of her mind with vulgar insults from classmates, nine of whom have been arrested and charged with a chilling array of crimes.

Are parents of the accused and officials at Phoebe's school to be excused in this awful event?

Mild schoolyard taunting might be dismissed as harmless. But brutal, relentless, cruel bullying that Phoebe Prince endured should shake the foundations of every school system in the nation. Teachers, parents and administrators must find ways to detect bullying and instantly end it. Gross violations should lead to arrests.

Bullying in the workplace, too, has triggered revenge killings, sometimes en masse. For awhile, the worst of these bullying aftermaths were in U.S. Postal Service facilities.

The worst incident linked to bullying was the 2007 mass killing of 32 students at Virginia Tech by a South Korean immigrant student who'd been taunted about his shyness and manner of speech.

Bullying today is widespread on the Internet. This led to at least one teenager's suicide when the mother of the victim's rival created a phony Web site to cruelly taunt the young girl into taking her life.

Schools should not be training grounds for gangs. Persistent bullies should now be regarded as threats to the life and safety of students, not childish practical jokers.

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