The scandal at Penn State–What does that say about our attitude to bullying?



What does the scandal at Penn State tell us?  Where are we in solving the many problems that arise from bullying?

The scandal at Penn State hits home  for a number of reasons. Bullying is a huge issue  and it seems a difficult one on which to make progress.  This incident did not happen to be a referendum on the situation of how we handle bullying in academic environments. Let this outcome serve a higher purpose.

Everyone knows someone who was/is bullied. Everyone has seen the bully in action. This range of behavior goes from the mean kid on the playground to the sports coach who allows a team-mate to bully others just because that is the “manly” way to handle things. The situation at PSU is extreme-the details are horrific. The lives of many are changed forever. All of this happening while others watched knowingly and did nothing because those involved, doing the offense, were more important than the victims. Intimidation seems to be the way of the day.

My children have been bullied in one way or another and as their parent, I stood up for them — an advocate who became the villan. It seemed I always came out as the one who was wrong and the perpetrator applauded. How dare I advocate for the rights of a child?

People in important positions such as coaches and athletic directors(especially of a major university) carry a big stick. Others are afraid to criticize. The”good ole boy” mentality takes  hold. Man up. This is how business is done in sports.

Where are the mentors? Where is the value in being a role model to a young man? Teamwork? Where are basic human rights and civility?  There are so many aspects to this story that infuriate me I don’t know where to start.  We allow the bad behavior of those who we believe to be important. We don’t want to tell because our position or our child’s status is threatened. How do we teach that this behavior is worse than wrong?  It is disgusting. It takes away something from the victims forever. Bullying has long term effects and takes many forms.

Relating to school climate, it is the thing to talk about. Social and emotional wellness dominates the conversations of many school counselors. This subject is not to be trumped by student achievement, but of course, it really affects achievement. After all we are talking about the total student. Schools have workshops and 20 minute presentations by counselors a few times a year to target the effects of bullying. There are role plays to learn how to handle a bully. What is this doing? Is it working?   Don’t we need this learning to be incorporated into what teachers do every day in the classroom?  In the locker room?  How about in the work place? We need to learn how to respectfully treat each other.

Real-life experience tells me that often the coaches and the bullies win. They go on having intimidated whomever and we don’t know what happens to the victims and how this experience affects their lives. This situation went on at Penn State a long time. Those in power (I mean REAL power) knew and let it contnue. Local police didn’t follow through because it was Penn State football….can’t go there.  This situation is the reality. If we as individuals don’t stand up and just say no more things will not change. Don’t allow this to happen to children anymore. Anywhere.

Crisis can bring change or opportunity. Let the Penn State scandal move all of us to do something. For those of you who bully or use your position or power to do what you feel like, you know who you are.  Use your influence for positive change. For the rest of us, who watch and remain silent in the guise of protecting our own children from negative repercussions, it is time to speak.

Next time: Mean Girls

A link to a recent blog on the positive power of coaching: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/the-power-of-positive-coaching/?src=tp

Categories: Bullying, mentors, social/emotional wellness, Uncategorized, youth sportsTags: , , ,

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