New policy on bullies offers hope



Campus Times
March 16, 2001


by Alisha Rosas
Editor in Chief

Bullying has always been around. Someone from the "in" crowd finds someone to depict and label as a loser, and they are simply fair game from that point. Silent voices, which wish to protect such victims, are hidden in laughter due to insecurity and fear of being next. The game is vicious, and until someone new comes along, to the "picked on," it seems to last forever.

I do not really recall who the bullies at my high school were. They seemed to blur by in the hallways as I made my way to class. I do, however, remember their victims. They were the students who held their notebooks tightly across their chests. Always with nervous eyes, pleading eyes, which told me that they wanted to be anywhere but at school.

Many such students numb themselves and graduate, having nothing but horrible memories of their high school years. But there are some students who decide that they cannot take it anymore. Andy Williams, the 15-year-old who shot up his high school in Santee, Calif., was one of them. The dramas of high school have not changed in regard to the struggle to fit in, however, a common denominator in all high-school shooting cases thus far, is that these children have access to weapons and decide, at some point, to retaliate against the biggest enemy in their lives, which seems to be the bullies.

High-school students have no business handling guns. Despite how angry they get or how sad they feel, lost children should not have access to kill their tormentors. That makes sense and should be obvious. However, members of society cannot blame the music or the video games anymore. It is far beyond that. Sometimes, even the killer's parents are shocked, simply because they felt they were good parents.

High schools are also not death zones waiting for our youth. According to Time magazine, 99.99 percent of public high schools have never had a homicide of any kind, let alone a mass killing. So what can members of society do now that another two lives are lost at the hands of a 15-year-old?

An Orange County school board is taking a step in the right direction. The only way to recover from school shooting tragedies is to aim toward prevention. According to the Los Angeles Times, a zero-tolerance rule was approved earlier this week, making it so bullying would be added to the list of offenses covered under the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. Although, I find many zero-tolerance policies merciless, this may be different. Such a policy promises to protect the victims of bullying, which has never been done before.

A good example is how Santana High School officials decided to transfer students, who had heard Williams' threats before the incident, to other schools to avoid other students from harassing them. Such actions only give bullies more power because they know that officials are aware of what they do on a regular basis.

The zero-tolerance policy is at least worth a shot. Experts claim that in recent years, bullying is much more vicious than it has ever been. In fact, the National Association of School Psychologists estimates that 160,000 students skip school on any given day because they are bullied. What ever happened to being tolerant of one another? One thing that new parents should bestow upon their children is the beauty behind common courtesy. It is not difficult to teach our children respect. In Williams' case, peers tormented him, calling him "Ethiopian" because he was too thin, "albino" because he was pale. They physically took his shoes from him and he was quiet, until the day he fought back from behind a gun.

There are many Andy Williamses in the world. Some will deal with the torment, many may hide from it, and others will fight back. It is time for bullies to be punished. It is also up to the experienced, the wise and the loving to look out for such victims and steer them clear of false stereotypes for the need to fit in. Kneeling on the bathroom floor, a small voice was heard. "It's only me," said Williams when he surrendered to police officers. My dear boy, how much safer we would feel if it were.

Alisha Rosas, a junior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at rosasa@ulv.edu.