Every year in Canada more than 200 teenagers feel alone and scared enough to kill themselves. For many, including Marjorie Raymond, life has been made unbearable by bullies.
The 15-year-old Quebec teen's suicide earlier this week, and the apologetic note she left for her mother, have prompted the province to review anti-violence programs in its schools. In Ontario, where two other tormented teens recently took their own lives, policy makers and educators are considering new laws that would create tougher consequences for bullies.
A 2009 survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that one in three students is bullied.
The ratio is even higher at the East Alternative School of Toronto. Many are here because their previous school had become a living hell, a place where they were taunted, picked on, beaten up or just ignored.
The 68 students in Grades 7 and 8 are the ages where research shows bullying is at its peak. The school provides something of a safe haven – a specialized school with a focus on social justice in which bullying is given as much attention as dodgeball or long division.
The Globe and Mail asked students to share their thoughts.
Where was I when bullying was happening? I was hiding. Hiding from the consequences that I would have to face if I reported to a teacher what was being done. I was hiding from what was morally correct. I ask myself, why?
I remember standing along with the others, watching a small girl be rejected from a game of tag. It was back in third grade. But it wasn’t the first time that this happened. In fact, it happened on a daily basis. I had the urge to tell the others that it wasn’t right, it wasn’t right to shun the poor girl. But there I stood, telling myself, “You’re not part of this. You’re not the bully!”
Tears flowed down her eyes. This was back in the third grade.
Some say that the bully should suffer consequences. To me, that’s not true. But the witness needs consequences, too. The witness is almost as bad as the bully. You’re the one that is letting it happen.
That young girl back in the third grade was the same as you and me. She had eyes, a mouth, a nose. She had feelings. She was a human. Like us all. Bullying her would be like bullying yourself. The only difference is that all the hurt, all the sorrow and frustration is handcuffed to her.
I’ve seen bullying get to the point where someone was stuffing this one girl’s clothes in the toilet. It was Grade 6, so imagine the extremes people would go to in even older grades. Our teacher got involved but he did not understand what was really happening and it didn’t change. I still feel guilt because I knew that I had the power to do something about it and I didn’t step in because I was afraid.
Now I realize that I would rather become the victim than feel the guilt. The only people with the true power are the students. Sure, the teachers can get you in trouble and tell you that it’s wrong, but that doesn’t mean that it will stop. I had the power to make an impact and maybe stop it and I didn’t use my power. That’s why I feel the guilt.
All of these feelings are horrible and bullying all around is hurtful. It is something that can crush someone and make their life turn upside down. School is a main spot where a lot of bullying happens. For some people, school is a breeze and for some people school and life is a living hell. No wonder teens commit suicide every year. It is just too hard.
I think that the government putting a law in place to stop it is a good first step to make bullies and witnesses think twice about what they do. But I think that more needs to be done as well because the bully can make the bullying action secretive. I think that teachers, parents and staff should be stricter and students should take a stand and end bullying. This is a huge issue and everyone is responsible and everyone should be involved to bring it to an end.