My heart ached for the parents and grandparents who appeared before the board of education on April 24 to beg them to take action against what they feel is a big bullying problem at Keyser Middle School.

By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
My heart ached for the parents and grandparents who appeared before the board of education on April 24 to beg them to take action against what they feel is a big bullying problem at Keyser Middle School.
They spoke passionately, tearfully, and at times angrily about incidents in which their children and grandchildren were pinched, pushed, called names, and in at least one incident, called “the N-word.”
No parent or grandparent likes to see their child so unhappy that they don’t want to go back to school … or even leave the house.
And according to the three who spoke to the board that night, proper channels were taken to try to get help. The incidents were reported to teachers and the principal but, according to one parent, their complaints “were swept under the rug.”
Another said the incidents were chalked up to “kids being kids.”
Well yes, kids will be kids, and as everyone knows, kids can sometimes be very cruel. Part of it is, as superintendent Shawn Dilly said to me on the phone, behavior that is typical of certain phases of development.
It’s been a long time since I was in child development class at Potomac State, but I do remember reading about that.
One thing that has always bothered me about the bullying issue, however, is that it has really been a problem since the first day kids were put together in a one-room school and asked to learn “the three R’s.”
In recent years, however, the issue has grown so large that it has encompassed every negative action by one child against another.
Not every unwanted or seemingly aggressive act is an act of bullying.
When I spoke to Mr Dilly recently in follow up to the April 24 plea by the parents, he shared with me an article by Signe Whitson, a licensed therapist and national educator on bullying.
In the article, she points out that there are three levels of behavior which need to be considered when determining if someone is, indeed, being a bully.
They are:
Rude: “Inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else.”
Whitson describes these actions as doing something which might upset someone but which are unplanned and “based on thoughtlessness, poor manners or narcissism.”
Mean: “Purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once (or maybe twice).”
Whitson describes these actions as intentional criticism, denigration, or impulsive words of anger “motived by angry feelings and/or the misguided goal of propping themselves up in comparison to the person they are putting down.”
Both of these behaviors fall into the “kids will be kids” category. At their stage of development, they have not yet learned the self-control needed to navigate properly in the adult world.
And the third behavior she addresses is actual bullying, or “intentionally aggressive behavior, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power.”
According to Whitson, bullying “entails three key elements: an intent to harm, a power imbalance and repeated acts or threats of aggressive behavior.”
Based on that definition, were these children at KMS bullied? Listening to the ladies, it sure sounded like it, but any conscientious administrator would fully investigate the situation and I believe that is what Mr. Dilly will do.
And I totally agree with the one parent who said there needs to be more diversity education in the school system. The teachers and administrators have been subjected to anti-bullying education, and that is certainly needed on a regular basis as they continue their education, but it is also the kids we need to reach.
Sadly, some of the rudeness, meanness and bullying behavior is learned from their parents.
Think about it: Where do you think that kid learned to call someone “the N-word”?
Much of it is also peer pressure. Little John wants to be as cool as his friend Jack, so he follows suit when Jack decides to bully Jill.
And social media certainly doesn’t help when people can get on there and lash out at someone from their keyboard … rather than talking face-to-face.
We Americans used to be proud of our “melting pot” society. Now we just use it against one another.
Diversity education is needed and needed now!