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Bullying has to stop, now!

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” Someone needs to read that quote to every person that has ever been bullied.

Seminole County schools are taking bullying seriously, and it is about time each and every one of us did as well. It is an act that should not be tolerated – for any reason.

All of us can remember the student who was bullied in school. We probably can just as easily remember the kid who was doing the bullying.  The reason many of us have these recollections of everything from cruel name-calling, physical harm and Internet abuse is because bullying is so prevalent. Statistics show that one in seven children from kindergarten through twelfth grade across the United States is bullied or is a bully.

Even though schools here and nationwide are cracking down on the serious problem, too many times it is still considered a rite of childhood, a natural occurrence in the hallways and cafeterias of our elementary, middle and high schools.  This is wrong.

The attitude “boys will be boys and girls will be girls” is dangerous when applied to bullying, and as a community we need to make certain that is not the impression we extend to our children.

We don’t need to look far to see the impact of bullying.

The fact that children are driven to that extreme is heartbreaking. It has grabbed the attention of film makers who created a movie titled “Bully.” It depicts the lives of five students who have been bullied and their families. Some stories focus on families who say their children took their own lives because they didn’t want to be a target any longer. In one painful scene captured by the movie makers, a boy who is the target of frequent bullying is beaten on a school bus.

Along with causing emotional stress and general distress, bullying also is causing children to fall behind in their education. About 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of being bullied.

Fortunately, the issue is getting more attention and schools and community organizations are trying to end the terrible practice.

It is time we put an end to bullying. It is an effort that will need the attention of everyone: parents, teachers, school administrators, community members, and most of all, students. This is one tradition passed down through the generations that must end.

This is not a failure of one group of kids, one school, one town, one county or one geographic area. Rather, it exposes a fundamental flaw in our society, one that has deep-seated roots. Until now, it has been too difficult, inconvenient — maybe even painful — to address. But we can’t keep looking away.

Some will say bullying is simply a part of life. If no one is physically hurt, they will say, what’s the big deal? It’s just boys being boys and girls being girls.

Those people are wrong, and they must be shouted down.

We must make it clear in our actions and our words that bullying will not be tolerated. Those of us in public life must be ever mindful of the words we choose, especially in the contentious political debates that have defined our modern times. More importantly, we must not be afraid to act.

How many times have each of us witnessed an act of bullying and said little or nothing? After all, it wasn’t our responsibility. A teacher or an official of some kind should step in. If our kid wasn’t involved, we figured, it’s none of our business.

It is the business of all of us. More specifically, it is our responsibility. Our mandate.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we will acknowledge our community has yet to view bullying in quite this way. It’s well past time to do so.

Stand up. Be heard. And don’t back down. Together, we can put a stop to bullying.

As Thumper, from the movie Bambi said, “If you can’t say nuttin’ nice, don’t say nuttin’ at all.”

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