An adult male caller had frustration, and later anger, in his voice. He described on my voicemail how he was “bullied” from grades 3 through 10. He went on to note he had been beaten repeatedly by this bully until 10th grade, at which time he (the caller/victim) left home.
A Caller’s Personal Story
The bully the caller described was reportedly his father. The male stated his father, a police officer, beat him and his mother. He said he wanted to kill his father with his father’s gun, but he didn’t do it because the “bully” was still his father.
The caller went on to say he never got help because when he called the police, they didn’t do anything because his father was one of them.
The caller’s reason for calling me: He is upset that my recent letter to the editor to Cleveland’s Plain Dealer newspaper about bullying did not address his belief that bullying starts at home, not at school.
Is the story true? I have no way of knowing. I have no reason to believe it is not true, though.
And it is my typical policy not to write or respond when people do not identify themselves. I’m open to criticism and I encourage debate. It makes me wiser, the blog stronger, and all of us better if we have thoughtful dialogue, discussion, and debate. But I think it’s only proper for the participants to identify themselves, their positions (if they’re affiliated with an organization or advocacy group, in particular), and/or some relevant identifier.
Bullying at Home
But this caller’s point was worth an exception to my policy. His story was convincing and his points had validity: There are many cases where bullying does start at home. Even if this particular call had been a complete hoax, we have not heard a lot of conversation from this perspective.
How we treat our children, how we allow them to treat each other, and how we allow them to treat their parents and other adults is very relevant to the discussion on bullying. Behavior is learned. And bullied children often grow up to be adult bullies.
I am pleased to hear the caller say he did not raise his children in this manner. I am concerned, however, with the emotion and anger in the caller’s voice. It is clear that his concern that no one is talking about bullying at home is a sore spot for him and, his tone and increasing anger in his voice communicated to me a lot of pent up anger and the need to resolve some issues.
Reinforced Points on Mental Health and the School’s Role with Bullying
The caller’s story also reinforced a number of other points I have made in discussions on bullying including:
- What many describe as “bullying” may constitute bullying on one level, but in the bigger picture the behaviors may also constitute a crime. In the caller’s case, the “bullying” today would be called the crime of “domestic violence.” It is possible, from the details shared by the caller, that “domestic violence” was not actually a crime on the books at the time it happened in the caller’s family. Certainly the crime of assault was on the books, though? Of course, in the caller’s story, this crime was not going to be pursued because of who the alleged offender was professionally.
- Mental health issues must be the focus. I am concerned about the mental health of the caller. Has anyone given this person a chance to talk through his personal experiences? The anger is clearly still there. Maybe he has dealt with it and is simply passionate in conveying his point. But maybe there is more. And the call (actually two separate messages) reinforced to me how we have to deal with the broader mental health aspects associated with the many complex issues being broadly labeled today as “bullying.”
- Many of these issues of “bullying” and related mental health concerns go far beyond the schoolhouse door. The caller himself indicated this is not an issue that starts at school, it starts at home. While we know bullying certainly occurs at school, his comments and perspective reinforce that contrary to what some special interest groups, legislators, and others on the bullying bandwagon are advocating, schools do not solely “own” the bullying issue. In this caller’s case, the behaviors centered around the home. As the caller alluded to, this was a home issue. What can we reasonably expect our schools to do? Right now, our legislators and special interest groups appear to want schools to take the bulk, if not the entire, responsibility for solving bullying throughout our society.
A Final Thought on the Caller
I don’t know the answer to whether this caller has fully addressed his anger and pent up frustrations. He didn’t leave a name and number, or send an email. I hope he’s reading and realizes people do recognize the bullying goes on at home. And I hope if he hasn’t already done so, he takes advantage of the opportunity to have conversations with the right professionals to navigate through the understandable anger and frustration he carries. It sounds like this is the least he deserves.
Visit School Security Blog at: http://www.schoolsecurityblog.com