Bullying is a hot topic nowadays. It’s always existed in the periphery of public consciousness, but it’s been given a name in recent years and political weight. Unfortunately, efforts at reform are generally just that – political – and fail to emphasize the need for real-world solutions that go beyond ribbon-wearing and fund-raising walks for awareness. Well-meaning campaigns avoid the nasty reality that children can be cruel to each other in the absence of tireless parental supervision and social involvement. The ability of modern children to navigate through and inhabit virtual spaces to which parents have little access is helping to create a generation of children operating with less guidance than there has ever been.
And yet, there are elements of bullying, which is harassment and abuse by any other name, that are very old-fashioned and very easy to see. While online influences may aggravate the difficulties that today’s child faces, the end result is observable in real-time.
Recently, a thirteen-year-old boy in Manchester was bullied to the point of suicide. His name was Vijay Singh, and his legacy is a poem that he submitted to his teacher, for which he received excellent marks. This poem outlined the abuse that he was experiencing at the hands of other students. The poem was a litany of daily affronts with a heartbreaking conclusion. Vijay Singh wrote:
”Monday – my money was taken; Tuesday – names called; Wednesday – my uniform torn; Thursday – my body pouring with blood; Friday – it’s ended; Saturday – freedom.”
Vijay was found by his mother in their home, hanging at the end of a scarf that had been tied to the banister. There are no words for the horror that any parent would experience in a situation as untenable as this.
There is a hierarchy of offence here – that a child died, having been pushed so far as to believe – at such a tender age – that death was a viable option. And then there is the fact that a child submitted a piece of writing like the one above and it alerted no one to his situation. It was academic – a literary curiosity. While he may not have shown his work to his family, his teacher necessarily had to have seen it, and that it went unaddressed is obscene. That the school did not reach out either to Vijay or his parents is a travesty. And nowhere in any of the articles outlining Vijay’s death is there mention of any judicial body holding Vijay’s bullies to account.
Now, whether or not this is a polite conclusion, all of the ubiquitous campaigns and ribbons and sponsored walks in the world will not bring that young man back. They will not erase the image of his hanging body from his mother’s psyche. And they will not rehabilitate the classmates who felt free to torment Vijay physically and psychologically to the point of suicide. This, to us, as members of communities, whether parents or not, is unacceptable.
An unfortunate reality is that children are subjected to ostracism and persecution in schools, and, as Vijay discovered, this routinely goes unresolved by teachers or management. Where schools could easily instate policies by which parents of both bullies and those bullied would be brought together to create constructive solutions, lip-service is given to zero-tolerance approaches.
Krav Maga boasts the only true zero-tolerance approach to violence. At The Academy, we teach our kids that there are eight steps to take before making use of KM training. These include:
- Tell a teacher what is happening – twice.
- Tell the vice-principal and/or principal – twice.
- Tell parents – twice.
- Tell your KM instructor – twice.
Now, if each step fails, then a child cannot possibly be considered not to have done his/her own due diligence in trying to mitigate the problem non-violently. If, after having repeatedly spoken to a variety of adults, a child is still experiencing abuse, there is a problem that extends far beyond a single bully. There is mass culpability here, as what the adults in the child’s life are really saying, through inaction, is that what is happening is ok. For a child pushed to the limit of his/her suffering, this could very well be the final straw, as it was for Vijay. If only the school system took children as seriously as the legal system does plaintiffs and defendants, we would be discussing the issue of notice, which is critical to legal action. If bullying were given legal ramifications, then any child following the above steps would more than have provided required notice. Sadly, our children are not heard even in the confines of their own classrooms – the judicial system is far out of reach.
Our belief is that every human being – including oft-overlooked minors – has a right to defend the integrity of his/her person. When non-violent means have been attempted but have failed, then it is entirely appropriate to use defensive force for protection. Thus, if your child demonstrates signs of seeing the summer vacation as a reprieve from a torturous school year, it is time to consider self-defence training. Not only will he/she learn critical physical skills, he/she will also develop the vital self-confidence necessary to see bullying for what it is and to refuse to accept it in any form. If the schools are reluctant to act in real and constructive ways, a child appropriately trained in self-defence will always have the discernment, strength, and drive to behave proactively in his/her own best interests. As was discussed in class only today, the time to act is not once a problem has become entrenched – training must occur in advance of difficulties in order to prevent them. Summer training is an ideal way to prepare a child to return to school with a sense of well-being.
Our heartfelt sympathy is with Vijay Singh’s family and the families of those whose children suffer similarly. We hope to offer all families a safe haven in which their children can learn to be safe, happy, and part of a healthy community.
The Academy Team