By Frank Lewis
Brenda Strickland is an educator, but everyone who knows her knows she has a passion. She wants to completely do away with bullying, so schools bring her in to teach on the subject, and though progress is being made, Strickland says it just takes an incident, such as the one which occurred this week involving a local child, to set that progress back a step.
The Scioto County Sheriff’s Office is not drawing any conclusions yet as to any factors that may have resulted in the child’s death, telling the Daily Times it is much too early in the investigation to draw any conclusions that bullying may have been involved.
However, widespread reports that a 12-year-old Minford student reportedly committed suicide as a result of bullying is just the kind of incident Strickland dreads.
“This is one that is close to our home,” Strickland said. “It is Minford where he is from and we’ve seen it on the news on the media, all these stories. But I believe that as far as I can remember, that it has actually been told it was from bullying. It’s our first case of it in our area. It finally is here. It’s in our face now. It’s in our community. It just saddens me.”
Strickland has always supported teaching children the consequences of bullying should begin at the earliest age possible.
“It’s my belief that we need to teach our children younger,” Strickland said. “Waiting until middle school and high school is sometimes too late. And what I like to do is educate even the elementary on the effects of bullying, what can happen to one’s spirit. And this is a prime example with (this child victim). Maybe if we could teach them younger how to treat one another and that words do hurt and do cause pain.”
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, close to half of all children will experience school bullying at some point while they are at primary or secondary school. At least 10 percent of children are bullied regularly.
The Daily Times asked Strickland if social media is making bullying more prevalent.
“I believe it is,” Strickland said. “Just from watching. Most kids, no matter their economic background, seem to have access to the internet in their hand and you see it all the time and it’s so easy just to blurt something out and not think about it.”
Strickland said children don’t think long term, so they often do not consider the eventual ramifications of their words, but to children like the one who took his own life, those words are devastating. She knows that dynamic and teaches to that premise when she is contacted to speak to students.
“When I have done the assemblies and different teachings, I bring in people who have been bullied and also who have been a bully as someone to stand there and say this is real,” Strickland said. “I also use information from the internet to show stories and tragic stories that have happened to people.”
Strickland acknowledges that, as a teacher, you have to know how much to show a student or how deep to take the subject.
“Just this past year I shared with a class that people die. Kids take their lives,” Strickland said.
She said there is a segment of society that believes the mentioning of bullying causes bullying. She disagrees.
“I don’t believe that,” Strickland said. “I just believe that they have more courage to step out and say this is happening to me once they are educated.”
Strickland is careful not to promote her services which she makes available to schools, but does believe more schools need to devote more resources and time to the subject to try to prevent what happened this week in Scioto County.
“For me, as an educator, as someone who has been in different school systems teaching this, it is very needed,” Strickland said. “Our teachers are overwhelmed. They have the OAA, all the testing they have to cover, all the standards, and it makes it hard for anything this important, which is life-altering, to be able to have that time to teach it.”
A call to the administration office at Minford Middle School for a comment was not immediately returned.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.