An epidemic of bullying has taken over our schools, said Claudia Puig in USA Today. More than 13 million children and teens this year will be subjected to heart-breaking cruelty, gay bashing, and harassment. That’s the message of the documentary Bully, which opened last week amid controversy over its “disturbing” content, rough language, and R rating, which prevents kids under 17 from seeing it. The film follows five children who are taunted and even physically abused, while school officials fail to recognize the “dire and insidious problem” that is all around them. Digital technology has extended bullies’ reach right into the victims’ homes, said Zorianna Kit in Reuters.com, where they are tormented 24/7. As a result, untold numbers of shy or “different” young people suffer from shattered self-esteem and depression; some, like Rutgers’s Tyler Clementi, even commit suicide.
This “bullying crisis” is largely a myth, said Nick Gillespie in The Wall Street Journal. Studies show that by most standards, kids today are “safer and better-behaved than they were when I was growing up in the 1970s and ’80s.” Adolescent mortality, accidents, sex, and drug use are all down from their levels of a few decades ago. Acceptance of homosexuality is up, and the percentage of students who reported “being afraid of attack or harm at school” has declined from 12 percent in 1995 to 4 percent in 2009. This crisis has been ginned up, because now that schools are “peanut-free, latex-free, and soda-free, parents, administrators, and teachers have got to worry about something.”
Easy for you to say, said high school student Katy Butler in TheDailyBeast.com. When I came out as a lesbian in middle school in Plymouth, Mich., my entire class of 200 turned against me. Kids pushed me up against walls, and called me fag and dyke. One bully “slammed my hand into a locker” and broke my finger. Students all across Michigan have told stories like mine; nationwide, 43 percent of teens say they’ve been bullied, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day rather than face their bullies. As the movie Bully demonstrates so powerfully, this is not a mythical epidemic, said Mike Huckabee, also in TheDailyBeast.com, nor is the fight against school bullying a liberal or conservative cause. Surely we can all agree that at school or on the Internet, “no child should be subjected to harassment, humiliation, or violence.”