BULLYING MORE SERIOUS THAN PEOPLE THINK

(This Op-Ed appears in the December 16, 2017 issue of Florida Today newspaper.)

Bullying is a nightmare for many kids, a problem which schools, government officials, and yes, some parents, do not take seriously enough. It can impact a person’s future forever. In some instances, it can cause death and destruction within families.

I know something about bullies. I remember a slightly built boy in seventh grade nicknamed Squidgie who didn’t realize that other kids thought he was a “fairy.” A bigger boy named Stanley and his followers began taunting Squidgie daily in hallways, bathrooms and school yards, belittling, screaming, laughing, pointing and humiliating the child to the point that he began to withdraw into his own world. His mother (widowed) was perplexed, unable to crack through the shell that Squidgie withdrew into.

One day, a gaggle of boys and girls played dodge ball after school with Squidgie as the target in the circle center until he fell. From there, came the pushing, hitting and kicking. The kids took his violin from the case and threw it in the bushes, all laughing and screaming, “Squidgie is a fairy” over and over. The world became a lonely place for that child.

The boy had been a stellar student in grades one through six, being thrust by teachers to skip fourth grade because of his advanced progress. Then, the bullying began.  Squidgie failed the seventh grade, mostly because of chronic truancy and failing to turn in homework. He pleaded with his mother to drop violin lessons, despite his advanced musicianship. His image to other kids meant everything. 

Today, such youths are not only victims of in-person assaults. The cyber world has added a new dimension to the problem and perhaps more far reaching.

The group National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment, the National Institute for Mental Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have assembled some stark statistics regarding this issue:

• Suicide is the third highest cause of death among ages 10 to 14. Bullying undoubtedly plays a major role in such cases;

• Every seven minutes, a child is bullied in the U.S. 

• Bullied students tend to grow up more anxious and with low self-esteem, requiring mental health services throughout life;

• Only 7 percent of parents worry about bullying even though 33 percent of teens have been subjected to cyber bullying;

• One million kids are subjected to cyber bullying every year 

• An estimated 160,000 kids miss school every day for fear of bullying.

Cyber bullying should not be ignored just because no physical violence is involved. The many examples of such assaults include: text bullying; pictures/videos; phones; chat rooms and instant messages. These are harder to detect because it lacks physical contact, but they can be just as devastating to the self-esteem of victims.    

The key people who must be fully aware and ready to intervene in these situations are mostly parents and teachers. Such reports should never be ignored.

We often hear the term “PTSD” associated with people who are psychologically disturbed from traumatic events like war. Bully victims can be equally afflicted, and in some cases live their entire lives altered from the impact of such assaults. But there are no statistics that address the long range ramifications.

Squidgie tried everything to avoid violin practice then made a fool of himself trying macho activities: boxing, wrestling and football. When he grew older, he quit high school to avoid failing. Instead of joining a symphony, he joined the Marines. From there, he entered into a life of law enforcement, carrying a gun, and matching up to other “men.”

Who knows what future may have lied ahead for Squidgie in the world of music. He had the talent. But, sadly, the bullies prevailed.

Yes, I knew that kid. He was me.

25 Responses to BULLYING MORE SERIOUS THAN PEOPLE THINK

  1. VERONICA Helen HART December 16, 2017 at 9:15 am #

    This brought tears to my eyes.

  2. Valerie Allen December 16, 2017 at 9:21 am #

    Well said!
    Just read a great short story about this very thing – bullying, “A Tooth for a Tooth.”

  3. Rico December 16, 2017 at 9:33 am #

    Wow, and look at you now Marshall. A pillar in our community! A gifted author, writer, musician, and military veteran. I wonder where the bullies are today? I look back at the bullies in our school, and realize that none that I am aware of were successful!

  4. Bob McGavock December 16, 2017 at 9:41 am #

    Thanks, Marshall. Takes a big man to overcome what you endured. I was one of those kids who was worse than the bullies. I just ignored what I saw. Not too proud of that.

  5. Laura Petruska December 16, 2017 at 9:55 am #

    Every teacher realized it and does try to do something about it. But this one takes a village to solve. Good article and you’ve done well for yourself despite the odds! We like you!

  6. Don Gilleland December 16, 2017 at 9:56 am #

    I’ve never been bullied so I don’t have your appreciation for how serious it is, but I know it can have a life altering affect on a young kid. Good article.

  7. Peter Aydelotte December 16, 2017 at 10:07 am #

    I was bullied with the nick name of super skinny, filled out my junior year in high school and then stood up to bullies and protected victims I saw being bullied, like you, I joined the police force and protected many more people.
    The bullying affected my grades so a 1.9 grade average out of high school was not promising , however ended up graduating college with a 3.7 grade average, like you I overcame the bullying but still have thoughts about those years of being bullied and still question why?

  8. Helen Bennett December 16, 2017 at 10:21 am #

    Sorry you didn’t become a concert pianist, Marshall, but I think your outcome was for the best. You are a recognized writer and community leader, as well as a fine violinist who entertains mightily. (By the way, the verb in your last paragraph should have been “lay,”not “lied.” Can’t help myself, as and English teacher.)

    I used to teach college students not to bully. But some insisted that bullying is what makes their victims “strong.”

    • Bob James December 16, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

      Helen,

      The last sentence in the first paragraph of your comments should read, (“Can’t help myself, as an English teacher.”) You used a coordinating conjunction, “and” instead of the indefinite article “an.” However, the sentence itself is really an incomplete thought and needs to be clarified. Sorry Helen, I can’t help myself, I dislike grammarian bullies.

  9. Art Martin December 16, 2017 at 10:25 am #

    In an ironic twist of fate the bullies ended up “squidged”

  10. Ron Fischer December 16, 2017 at 11:57 am #

    This is a great read. Bullies have been around for a long time. I’m 73 years old and I remember bullies when I went to school. I was a big kid and I didn’t mind stepping up to bullies even when they were bullying another kid.

    I don’t know of one single bully that ever succeeded after the school years. Bullies don’t seem to be particularly stable themselves.

    I am proud of you Marshall. You have acquitted yourself very well in this life.

  11. Ron Fischer December 16, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

    Bye the way, my dad was an only child of the Jewish faith, born and raised in New York. He had plenty of experience with prejudice and bullying as a kid himself. Consequently he had absolutely no tolerance for prejudicial behavior or bullying.

    My dad encouraged me to insert myself on behalf of people that were being bullied – and I did so with his blessings. I have passed the lesson to my own children and the kids in my neighborhood. So far, so good and I’m proud of all of them.

  12. MichaelSBartlett December 16, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

    Excellent article, I thought the child being described was you from the first few lines. You have truly had a remarkable career and life! It is a pleasure to have known you and been friended by you. Hope you all have the best of Holidays!!

  13. jkr December 16, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

    Good article.

    Bullying has always existed and the internet has made it easy for persons to display terrible actions, prejudices and lies while remaining relatively anonymous. It has made it easy for those who create rumors and false accusations for political reasons or simply to hurt another. The effects of cyber-bullying are often much more devastating than are one-on-one actions, as one cannot adequately respond to or refute such actions.

    While bullying certainly exists, as evidenced in your article, I believe that the term is now frequently used when persons become offended when things don’t go their way; and that, in effect, waters down the term.

  14. Helen R. Frigo December 16, 2017 at 4:04 pm #

    Countries bully on a large scale as well. The strong bully the weak that’s how empires were built .The Romans, French, British,Spainish,even ours. Our forefathes bullied Native Americans and stole their country,broke almost every treaty we signed, they bullied Africans into becoming slaves as well. because both were different ( not White or Christian ) and weak.
    After 60 years we are bullying Communist Cuba and have made their lives misable out of pure meanness, yet we deal with Communist China because she’s strong and Communist Vietnam because it defeated the French and America. Our navy in the China sea is a bullying policy. We tried and are still trying to bully North Korea ,but she developing an equalizer, plus China won’t put up with us interfering in her sphere of the world. We have a president who has been a bully all his life, and still does when things don’t go his way.

    • Jkr December 16, 2017 at 7:09 pm #

      Thanks Helen. Your comment is a great example of the point made in the last paragraph of my comments.

  15. Dr. Jack A. Milavic December 16, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    Marshall,

    Excellent article. Like you I was once bullied by a girl. I retaliated and broke her nose. Although she was a well known bully I was somewhat disciplined for defending myself.

    • Rico December 18, 2017 at 8:51 am #

      This is funny, as it brought back a long, almost forgotten memory, of a girl bullying me in grammar school, when I fought back and won, she became enamored with me and we became fast friends. (I didn’t get in trouble) :o)

  16. Patrick Brickman December 16, 2017 at 6:46 pm #

    Well written and to the point! Thank you.
    I think most people meet a bully in their lives and notice that other people try to ignore. The problem is the one who suffers from the bullying doesn’t ignore it but his (her) buried in to their hearts! It becomes a cancer on their psyche and damaged their self esteem! Those around these situations have to stand up the bully and turn it around to make the point of ignorance’s…..

    Patrick

  17. freewoman December 17, 2017 at 12:38 am #

    Thank you Marshall Frank for this article. Communicating with my two granddaughters am learning that bullying in our schools is rife.

    Thank you also, Dr. Jack A. Milavic, for relating your story. When my son was in his early teens he found himself being consistently harassed by and physically hit on the school bus by a girl who lived in our neighborhood. This placed him in a dilemma, since I had raised him not to hit girls. The bus driver could have cared less about what mayhem was occurring behind him even though it was clearly witnessed by other students around the two of them. Having shared what had been happening with me, told my son that the next time that she hit him, to hit her back. An incident occurred the following day, he hit her back. That evening an entire posse comprising of her family arrived at our home to report to me that my son had hit the girl, demanding that he be severely punished. Told them that I was aware that the girl had been hitting him (which she did not deny but rather attempted to look pitiful) and that he had my permission to hit her back. She never harassed or hit him again.

    The sad thing about the entire situation is that her family clearly failed to recognize that her behavior was a cry for attention and help and apparently little or nothing was done to set the girl on the right path. About ten years later she was arrested with a group of eminent attorneys at a high end restaurant downtown snorting coke.

    Yes, Marshall Frank,
    “The key people who must be fully aware and ready to intervene in these situations are mostly parents and teachers. Such reports should never be ignored.”

    but we parents, grandparents, other trusted members of our family or extended family, along with teachers, have to make every effort to keep the lines of communication open between young people – who live in a totally different universe from that which we grew up in – and ourselves.

  18. Frank Mussoline December 17, 2017 at 5:46 am #

    Great article Marshall, how fortunate that you were able to overcome this and become the man you are. Glad you did and we became great friends because of the career you chose.

    By the way, did Helen take over for Reality in writing meaningless tripe?????

  19. Jan Siren December 17, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

    Say, Frank,

    when did you start bullying women verbally? Is this a lifelong thing with you?

    And don’t be fooled by my name – I’m a guy. If you try it with me let me know how I can find you.

    Jan

  20. Christopher Jones December 18, 2017 at 8:41 am #

    SMH that someone would take your poignant story to rail on Trump. Liberals do not get it I guess.
    I was not a big guy until college so I do know about being the recipient of bullying. But instead of returning the ugly behavior when I suddenly towered over everyone, I spoke up for the bullied, and was their advocate.

    Merry Christmas to all….even to the ones who don’t get it.

  21. Helen R. Frigo December 19, 2017 at 10:40 am #

    Frank Mussoline? Have you seen old films of Benito Mussoline, and/or read facts about his “flip-flop” in political philosophy? President Trump’s posturing just reminds me so of him. And Marshall writing like” “I could have been somebody” from “On the Waterfront”, blaming others for his own lack of faith in himself, and persistence. Our nation was so afraid of Communism, that John Edgar Hoover was able to bully how many people? “Trumbo” the movie with Brian Cranston, doesn’t mention he was a war correspondent who saw true heroism, not the fake John Wayne, and/or Ronald Reagan. “Trumbo”, the documentary, by his son, shows how Trumbo’s young daughter also, was bullied in school because adults hated her father. Yes, bullying of all kinds is all around us, and always has been. We dropped cluster bombs on Laos, and now have decided they still can be used against human beings. How is that not relevant, to all children required to proclaim that we are a Nation Under God?

  22. Helen Frigo December 26, 2017 at 2:41 pm #

    Just saw the movie “Hidden Figures” for the second time. Those women were bullied, as were their children, on a grand scale, for a long time, under “Jim Crow” laws. Not to take anything away from Marshall’s experience, but their persistence was truly amazing. Thank you to John Glenn.