Culture of bullying

Culture of bullying

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This week, Upper Darby police arrested seven teens who are accused of bullying a fellow student.

On Jan. 11, the youth allegedly threw 13-year-old Nadin Khoury into a tree, dragged him through the snow and hung him from a fence by his jacket.

One of the teens videotaped the 15-minute incident, so there isn’t much doubt as to who was involved or what happened.

It appears the youth targeted Khoury because he had a different skin tone and was of a different nationality.

Although the incident didn’t involve gay-bashing, it does reminds us that bullying is still a serious problem in youth culture.

In this instance, the police took a hard line, arresting the teens in front of their classmates at the Upper Darby High School Opportunity Center.

Policed charged the suspects, ages 13-17, with kidnapping, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint and related offenses.

Khoury said the teens had bullied him before, but he had not previously reported it.

It is fairly unusual for police to be the first responders in a bullying incident, as opposed to teachers, school administration and parents.

But maybe police involvement is a good sign — a sign that society is taking bullying more seriously. (Even though no one called police during the incident.)

It’s easy for adults who were never bullied to say that young people need to stand up for themselves and fight back, or to charge that the media has focused too much attention on bullying, or to insist that bullying isn’t as prevalent or as damaging as some say.

Or even that the world is a harsh place and children need to toughen up.

Perhaps that’s true.

But, more likely, bullying is similar to the broken-window theory in criminology. In brief, the theory contends that greater attention to low-level crime precludes more violent crime.

With regard to bullying, this means that if school administrators, parents and police pay greater attention to bully behavior in schools, it may preclude more violent habits — and crimes — from the perpetrators in the future.

While it’s true that the world can be a harsh place, that doesn’t mean that society must tolerate intimidation of its youth as a right of passage.

Nor is it required that children be treated with kid gloves, coddled or spoiled.

But a happy medium must exist, where students are treated with fairness and dignity, so they can grow to be adults who treat others with fairness and dignity.

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