The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 16, 2013

Who’s a bully?

It’s not just the playground jerk who is hurting other kids


— The Associated Press reports that two Florida girls, ages 14 and 12, were arrested Tuesday and charged with third degree felony aggravated stalking after 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick hurled herself to her death from a tower after being repeatedly bullied at school and online.

Police say the two and perhaps at least a dozen others were responsible for the bullying.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said he moved to charge the girls now, more than a month after Rebecca’s death, because the older one posted Saturday on Facebook, admitting that she bullied Rebecca but she didn’t care that the girl killed herself.

“We decided that we can’t leave her out there. Who else is she going to torment, who else is she going to harass?” Judd said.

People used to think bullying was just a part of growing up. Today, more people see bullying and cyberbullying for what they are — physical violence and mental torture.

We cannot understand why the adults who surround these bullies don’t work harder to stop them. The elder girl’s father has said he is “100 percent” sure what the police say about his daughter is untrue.

That is the attitude —even when faced with proof of the child’s actions — that helps keeps the bullying cycle alive.

Children often say hurtful, hateful things one minute, then innocently take them back the next. We get that.

But we are afraid that when those who have the ability to instruct their child on the difference between such innocent reactions and a bully’s willful mental or physical torture, don’t teach the lesson.

We suggest that parents pay closer attention to what their children text, tweet, Facebook and otherwise digitally say.

We also suggest that they sit down with them and have a serious conversation about what bullying is, its possible consequences, if they know anyone who is being bullied, if they are being bullied — or if they are bullying someone.

A website, stopbullying.gov, holds a wealth of information about what bullying and cyberbullying are, who is at risk, prevention and how to get help.

Parents and children alike should check it out.

Don’t think the old stereotype of the mean playground kid reflects what bullying is all about. It doesn’t.

Take action and help stop the bullies.