When I was in the sixth grade, I dealt with bullying that became so bad that I had to go to dozens of meetings with the principal and other teachers to handle the situation. The boy who was bullying me found ways to make the situation so drawn out and difficult, I eventually wished that I never spoke up in the first place. I remember the bullying, but I mainly remember the way it was handled so poorly by adults who were in positions designated to help and protect students like me. My close friends came to my defense, but witnesses and other students didn't want to offer help, maybe out of fear of being bullied themselves, or being called a snitch. It also could have been uninterest or a lack of empathy.
It never felt like the school cared that bullying existed within their community. To me, it looked as if they cared more about squaring away the issue in a timely manner, and without making too much of a scene. If bullying is treated as an issue to push out of the way, cover up or move on from, it won't ever truly be over for the people being victimized.
That's why it's time to re-evaluate and change how bullying is tackled as a whole, and as a society. And in order to do that, we must shift our mindset from the negative to the positive. And no, I don't mean 'look on the bright side' because there isn't a bright side to the sad nature of bullying, and the harm people are able to do to others. But rather looking at society as a whole, and the communities within to find ways to create an environment of real respect, unconditional kindness, and a desire to stand up and to support those around them. This means teaching and instilling a community of support that goes beyond direct friend groups that often cause exclusion within themselves.
The BRAVE movement represents this idea perfectly. BRAVE, an acronym standing for Building Respect And Values for Everyone, calls on students to be stand-byers instead of bystanders, meaning they stand up, defend the victim and offer support, instead of watching and doing nothing. It also encourages kids to strive to be more inclusive to their peers, going out of their way to show kindness, and pay attention to everyone around them.
It's easy to understand why preventing bullying is important. The damages of bullying are long-lasting and traumatic. Alternatively, bullying is often the first step in a road of violence, and fostering respect and compassion could ultimately prove to be a critical part of a bigger need to end the dangerous cycle. While legislation and school policies can always be improved upon and strengthened to better address bullying, it is also a responsibility that lies on society, communities, and individuals.
Flipping the 'script' on bullying to address the foundation could prove remarkably effective, or even create a bigger impact that goes beyond schools, into a world plagued with a lack of compassion. A world where simply standing by your peer, neighbor or even a stranger could change, or save their life.