Friday, March 1, 2013

Easy Target

This past Wednesday was National Anti-bullying Day or Pink T-shirt Day. A few years back, in Nova Scotia, a boy was bullied at school for wearing a pink t-shirt. The next day 50 kids showed up wearing pink in support of anti-bullying. Since then, schools all across Canada have participated in this anti-bullying movement.

But on Wednesday we weren't celebrating a day of unity against bullying, we were grieving the injustice of being made a victim.

All year Dude has been a target of harassment. I wrote a while back about how he worked to resolve issues with one boy and I wish I could say that that was the end of that kind of treatment for my boy, but it wasn't. Another group of boys have been targeting him since the start of the school year and on Wednesday everything came to a head.

The ring leader sent Dude on a wild goose chase through the school and then sat back and laughed as Dude became completely undone. By the time an adult was made aware of what was going on Dude was humiliated, angry, exhausted and heart broken. He had a meltdown that was anything but funny.

When the ring leader of this stunt was asked by the principal why he was targeting Dude, he said, "His disability makes it so easy."

Those words have been echoing in my mind since I spoke to the vice-principal yesterday. My heart is broken for my boy and I am filled with anger and frustration at the whole situation. While I was muddling through my day I cam across this blog post in The Huffington Post. As I read Marc and Craig Kielburger's words all the pieces came together.

I had heard kids at Dude's school talking about how funny Seth Macfarlance was during The Oscars, well overheard actually. On Tuesday I was in the school because Crafty was too afraid of being bullied to walk down to her class by herself so I walked with her. As we walked down the hall I heard grade five and six students relaying jokes of a racial and sexual nature, all from the Macfarlane's Sunday night performance. I was bothered by what passed as entertainment these days but I was also too caught up in my own moment to put much more thought into it but today, today I had time to think.

Celebrities make a very profitable living from saying exactly the kinds of things we're trying to get kids to stop saying to each other.

From all accounts, Macfarlane went for the easy laugh. He targeted people based on their weight, ethnicity and sexual preferences. He made light of domestic violence. He went for the shock factor and received a lot of uncomfortable laughter for his efforts. He went for the easy laugh and was rewarded with high ratings.

So if this is the standard of entertainment why wouldn't a 13 year old kid target the kid with autism. Its just an easy laugh, isn't it? If a comedian can get a gig based on his ability to mock an incident of domestic violence why shouldn't a girl get mocked at school because her mother came into her room in the middle of the night and cut her hair off and then beat her? If its funny to comment on a singer's weight at an awards show then why wouldn't it be funny for one 10 year old boy to tell another ten year old boy that he's so fat he has boobs? Its all just an easy laugh right?

Folks, we're the adults. Its up to us to set the example and lead the way. We need to expect more from each other, from ourselves so that we can teach our children to be better. We need to stop going for the easy laugh, to stop laughing in our discomfort. We need need to start speaking up. Everyday should be a Pink Shirt Day for us. Everyday we should speak up for what is right and stand against what is wrong.

And by the way, the girl whose hair was cut and the boy who's told he has boobs are two spectacular kids that we know. Two brilliant, loving, hilarious, full-of-potential kids and they are anything but easy targets.

The change starts within each one of us. And ends only when all children are free to be children.
~Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children

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