On Sunday, January 13th, George “Buddy” Peterson surrendered to the nonstop bullying he’d been subjected to. At age 13, he ended his life.On the facebook blog page, one of Buddy’s relatives described him:
Buddy was an amazing kid..almost to a fault….He was such a cute, witty, funny, talented true friend
The accolades don’t end there. The online obituary for Buddy had this to say:
Buddy had such a thirst for knowledge and discovery, he was always ready to invent “the next greatest thing”. He loved to draw and had an amazing talent for art, and had great computer ability.
Buddy was a bright, shining star in the lives of his family and friends. He had a life full of enormous potential and possibilities ahead of him. But, like many of those who went before him, he couldn’t get past the bullied he endured.
If ever there was a case of bullying and bullycide that screamed for investigation and accountability, this is the one. There are a few very disturbing facts involved that require full attention:
- It is known by the school, who was responsible for the relentless bullying that Buddy endured.
- His parents did everything the right way and was at the school regularly. They were told that the boys responsible for the bullying would be removed from the school. That never happened.
- Because of technicalities in the Utah school districting laws, Buddy was not permitted to change school districts until the end of the school year. Instead, he was forced to stay there and continue to endure the abuse he was receiving.
It goes even deeper than that, actually. In what is becoming a disturbing trend, it appears that Buddy’s mother took all the right steps, reported everything that needed to be reported, was persistent in trying to protect her son, but the school system failed her. And, ultimately, Buddy.
Earlier, there was a bit of a debate about bullying on the facebook blog page. A couple of people were voicing the opinion that those who are being bullied should “get a backbone” and “stand up to their bully”, that would make the bullying magically disappear. That’s a great, macho response. And, perhaps, it’s worked for some. But, rest assured that that is not the way we’re going to overcome this menace that’s claiming so many lives. Buddy Peterson is a prime example of why that mentality, that “solution”, is grossly ineffective. Buddy Peterson was a second-degree Black Belt in the Martial Art of Tae Kwon Do. A second degree Black Belt. Being able to defend himself was certainly not an issue. Yet, the bullying he endured was too much for him to handle. Why? Simple answer: the bullying Buddy Peterson endured had nothing to do with physical bullying. He wasn’t being physically attacked or pushed around. Rather, his torture was of the psychological and emotional brand.
“All he wanted to do was go to school and fit in”, said his mother, Karen.
It’s time to have a very open and honest discussion about bullying. I don’t mean engaging your CAP LOCK and typing “BULLYING SUCKS” or “STOP BULLYING”. We’ve seen how effective that is. It’s time to really have a much deeper, broader conversation about:
- What bullying truly is;
- What are the long-term effects of bullying;
- How do we prevent it?
It’s obvious that the bullying prevention programs that are currently in place in schools today are largely ineffective. Zero tolerance has proven to have no meaning. It’s still going on on a regular basis, little-to-nothing is being done about it, and these young people are still ending their lives because of it. I’m not okay with that. No one should be!
One thing that’s become obvious is that bullying has many different faces. It’s not just the name calling, it’s the physical abuse. It’s not only emotional warfare, it’s exclusionary actions. Talk to 10 different people, you’ll get 8 different answers. That’s the U.S. trying to tackle Al Qaeda. We know it’s there, we see the devastating harm it does, there’s no specific place to go to fight and eradicate it. In the homes? In schools, with better bully prevention measures in place? In schools, with more, and more stringent!, accountability for the school staff? With the students?
As I see it, the starting point is no mystery, actually. THIS HAS TO START WITH THE ADULTS!! What we’re seeing in the schools with the young people is simply a manifestation of what they are learning, either directly or indirectly, from the adult influences in their lives. It’s. That. Simple. What’s not as simply, however, is expecting all adults to simultaneously and instantaneously change their behaviors so that they’re being better, more positive role models for the young. Negative, spiteful people will always be around. So, to combat this at its core, it has to be done in the homes. That is where the ball is being dropped. Period. And, that dropped ball is costing lives.
There’s still more that needs to be done. Starting in the homes only attacks the head of the beast. Meanwhile, in every single school across this country, and around the world, there’s bullying going on right now, as I type this. And, at least one of those cases of bullying will lead to another teen suicide! Will…not “might”. This war on bullying will be won in the homes, with the parents. However, this war’s “battlefield” is the classroom, the school bus, the school yard, the cell phone, the Internet. That’s where it needs to be “contained”. And, the only way that’s ever going to happen is we must get serious about ending this path of destruction we’re on.
- School officials must be held accountable for what’s happening inside of the schools and classrooms;
- The bullies, especially when the bully or bullies are readily identifiable, must be held accountable. That’s an absolute;
- More, and better, resources must be readily available for those who are being bullied;
- And, if my child were being cyberbullied, that’s an easy one: their computer usage if restricted to “in common area only” and is heavily monitored. Period. Their cell phones would no longer have texting capability.
It’s a matter of life and death. To look at it any differently is to invite this to continue to escalate. I, for one, don’t want to see that happen. This is war. The battlefield is the classrooms, the hallways, the school yard, the school bus, the Internet, the cell phones. The troops on the front line are your kids!!!
The U.S. is winning the war against Al Qaeda. We’re going to win the war against bullying. It’s time to stop shaking our collective heads and saying “this has to stop” and get busy with the business of making it stop.
Rest in peace, Buddy. The world lost a bright, shining star.