We've all seen those cheesy anti-bullying campaigns where the big kid knocks the books out of the hands of a smaller kid and laughs just before the hero comes in and lends a helping hand. I cannot tell you how many anti-bullying assemblies I've attended in the past ten years alone, and although the message they spread is good, their data is all wrong.
The stereotype of what a bully is remains the standard for many anti-bullying groups across America, which is where I believe they lose their audience's attention. Although I'm sure there are a few bullies left whose go-to move is something physical, the biggest and baddest bullies are the ones who simply shut their victims out.
I've seen this happen dozens of times growing up, but I never realized what an impact this form of bullying actually had until my last two years of high school. Basically, here's what happens: a group of kids decides that a certain person is to be given a label, which then dictates that person's personality. It happens without many people noticing, and then all of a sudden that kid who you heard is a huge weirdo tries to sit with you at lunch, and you suddenly think twice about letting him.
Believe it or not, most bystanders fall into this trap. You may know nothing about the victim, but you've heard some weird stories that sound pretty true about them, and now you're not sure you want to be friends with them. You'll watch them eat lunch alone and be left out during group projects, but you just don't want to take the chances on those rumors being true.
The bullies in these situations are always very cunning. They target the kids who you know come from low-income families, the kids who wear the same sweatshirt a few times in one week, or the kids who maybe aren't the smartest. The victims know what's happening, but it's hard for administrators to tell if these kids are being bullied or not because what's happening doesn't look like skits in the assemblies.
So, here's my call to action for administrators and anti-bullying groups alike; forced isolation is real, and it's not going anywhere without your help.