October 26, 2011 - By Olivia Shumaker
Special to the Review
Out of everything I write about, and I write a lot, for personal reasons the topic of bullying moves me more than any other subject.
This is why I applaud the anti-bullying efforts by Lake Orion High School and its supporters.
I know that there are people, including students themselves, who feel that the efforts are not working. I am not here to argue with them; but to be blunt the efforts to address bullying have only been in effect barely two months. Changing the atmosphere of a high school and all of the minds that populate the place takes far longer than 60 days.
But just think, for a moment, how worthwhile that effort will truly be.
According to a Lake Orion High School survey last year, 15 percent of students reported being bullied or mistreated multiple times and, alarmingly, 85 percent of students said that they had seen bullying take place and did not stop it, even though they did not like it.
In a nationwide poll from stompoutbullying.com, one in four teens report being bullied, and one in five kids admit to being a bully of some kind.
Take a moment and think about those numbers and then ask yourself: is this the kind of mentality we want in our school?
Bullying is a deeply personal issue for me. A few years ago I saw firsthand the effects of bullying on my brother. For weeks on end, he was teased and tormented in school and came home frustrated and upset. He would sometimes become so unhappy due to the bullying that he would act out, and then be punished by the school for something that was not his fault.
Why? A few supposedly "popular" students decided to make my brother a target because they were bored. It did not matter how much their behavior hurt him, because they did not believe he could do anything to retaliate. If my brother got in trouble because he was upset by their actions, they thought that was even funnier.
Today, my brother is successful more so, I daresay, than some of the people who once tortured him. In spite of what they did, the idea of malicious intent to another person is completely foreign to my brother.
Do you know why? There were people out there who felt that helping my brother and having enough character to stand up for someone who needed help was more important than a social ranking.
To this day, I am thankful to those people for being the kind of persons that really matter. As Abigail Van Buren said, "The best index of a person's character is how he treats people who can't do him any good, and how he treats people who can't fight back."
That is the heart of the Lake Orion anti-bullying program—teaching kids to have enough character to stand up for someone who is being victimized. We all know that the bullying is out there, but the key to making it stop is having enough courage to stand up to the "cool" people and say, "Knock it off."
I interviewed several classes' worth of students before I began to write this, and many students felt the anti-bullying efforts would be more relatable if they could hear some personal anecdotes with regards to bullying.
Well, this is MY personal anecdote, and if my plea to you to be the kind of people that helped pull my brother through is not enough, then think about if you would let that kind of pain happen to your brother, your sister, your best friend, or even you, yourself.
Believe me when I say when you are brave enough to tell a bully to stop, when you are, as Associate Principal Chris Bell says, "cool enough to be un-cool," you have no idea of your power. You have no idea how enormous your one act of kindness is to the victim. Everyone deserves those acts of kindness, those acts of courage and morality.
Every student deserves to come to school dreaming of the future because they are not afraid to face the day.
Do you want to know something else? If every bystander out there stood up, toook a stand and told the bullies to stop, they would.
So stand up, Lake Orion, and help someone else have a better day. Tell the bullies that, in fact, we do not do that here in our schools.