When I first heard of the recent shooting in a Cleveland, OH high school. Before even knowing exactly what happened and seeing a picture of a thin young man, I said to myself, "I bet he was bullied and could not take it anymore."
And later to only find out my feelings were correct. Once again, this tragedy was the end result of bullying. One can’t help but feel for the victims of this tragedy. In this kind of instance, however, the gunman was a victim as well.
As much as this sentence might anger some people, it is undeniable that this teenage boy was also a victim. He was described by those who knew him as a bullied outcast. What is even sadder is the fact that he felt he had nowhere else to turn other than to eliminate those who were the source of his pain.
So often, people try and make light of the pain of the victims of bullying. They say that the victim had other options. They say that the victim must have a screw loose somewhere to carry things so far. What people fail to realize is that these victims feel totally rejected and without hope. They feel they have no support in this world. They feel that their problem is insignificant to others.
Did the kids that got shot deserve to be shot? Of course not. Still, one must reflect on the behavior that led to what happened. Until society stops living in denial and starts being more proactive in dealing with bullying, what happened today is just the beginning.
The issue of bullying is not just an issue for parents whose children are being bullied; nor is it just an issue for the parents of those doing the bullying. This is an issue for every single member of society. What if your child is sitting at the same cafeteria table as the next bully who is being shot at? What if your child is the one that is killed in trying to hide under the table?
Your child may not be a bully, but chances are your child knows a bully. Only by becoming aware will you be able to make a difference. In this type of situation it really does take a village to raise a child. It takes more than prayers and well-wishes for the victims of tragedy. It takes action before the tragedy occurs. It takes time spent with these children, supporting them, encouraging them. They need to know that they matter in this world. They need to know that they have something to contribute. Only then will they stop being bullies.
We are living in a time, where neighbors and citizens as a whole don't want to get involved. But what happens when one of our children become victims? Something to think about.
I had a chance to visit Columbine High School in Colorado a year after that terrible shooting. As I was touring the school, I could not help but think about what the students and faculty had to deal with.
Even during trainings for "active shooter in a school" scenario, its never comfortable as a law enforcement officer clearing a large building with students running towards you from around corners and hearing shots from down a dark hallway.