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April 18, 2009

Lindsay Hyde – Bullied beyond belief

Part of my morning routine is some quality time with the Toronto Sun. This morning, however, proved to be less “quality time” and more “time spent being outraged” thanks to one story, reported by Michele Mandel. The article, entitled “Bullied beyond belief” struck a nerve with me so fierce I could hardly breathe. I was dumbstruck by what I read, and simultaneous grateful that Michele had the guts to tell this store, pulling no punches.

“Bullied beyond belief” told the story of 16-year-old Lindsay Hyde, a bullied student at a vocational student in the GTA. According to the story, Lindsay has been relentlessly bullied by her peers, to the point that she is afraid to leave her home. Her ordeal has included shoving, threats with bodily harm, and all kinds of emotional abuse. It wasn’t until she was assaulted by these girls on the bus that one of them was finally expelled, and the others suspended (but now back in school).

According to Lindsay and her mother, the school has been extremely negligent in stepping in to assist Lindsay, despite most of the bullying taking place on their property, thus making it their responsibility. Lindsay says, “It should have been dealt with right away when I was first seeking help … people just talk (about bullying) but there’s no action. A lot of things I went through are happening to a lot of people and nobody’s doing anything about it. I thought someone would reach out and help me but nobody did.” (p6)

I started to think about another incident, not long ago in our fair city, when a student walked into a school with a weapon and threatened some violence, before breaking down and admitting to have been the victim of bullying in the school. When that story broke, the school board was very vocal about bullying programs, intervention programs, and stronger punishments for the bullies. Here we are, looking at the same problem all over again; this time, thankfully, the victim chose to fight with words instead of weapons – her classmates are lucky, though I doubt they realise that.

The worst part, to me, came toward the end of the article, which was the school’s response to the allegations of negligent action: The school had some mediation among the girls, offered Lindsay “coping skills,” and when all else failed, they put Lindsay into a co-op so she doesn’t have to deal with her bullies in the hallways everyday. “(the school) organized a co-op for her this semester so she can limit her time at West Credit.” In response to hearing that a group of students have been seriously harassing and threatening a student, the school has arranged for the VICTIM to be removed from the school property, rather than the bullies themselves. In whose world is that justice?

We are living in a truly backward world when victims are taken out of their educational institute to avoid bullies, instead of bullies being kicked out of their schools to ensure a safe learning environment for the students. We are living in a truly backward world where bullies have a right to a regular education, but victims have to do co-op just to avoid getting beaten up everyday. We are living in a truly backward world, when school authority figures neglect their duty to protect their students, and choose to support students who are terrorizing their peers. It turns my stomach.

Lindsay got assaulted on a bus before the school took serious action: she was pelted with pens, had condoms shoved down her shirt, she was smeared with spermicide, thrown against the glass, and punched in the face. One student expelled, the rest suspended. Back to normal for everyone, probably including Lindsay Hyde. I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s time to stop coddling these badly-behaved young adults; otherwise, they are going to grow up to be VERY badly-behaved adults. And we’ll see more and more victims like Lindsay Hyde, if not worse.

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