Sometimes you see or hear a story that is so unsettling it causes blood to boil or to visibly become disgusted. This happened to me the other day when I saw a short news story that was a blip on the radar, but was very significant. Bailey O’Neil, a young boy who just turned twelve, was removed from life support. He was not in an accident or suffered from a debilitating disease. Instead he was a victim of a school playground attack that is being reported as an aggressive bullying attack. This is another incident in a growing list of victims who have suffered at the hands of bullies, and in a growing number of cases, some victims commit suicide.
Bailey was essentially attacked on the playground during the school recess period. Two individuals beat him, leaving him with a broken nose and a concussion. Days later, he complained of dizziness and experienced seizures and was placed in an induced coma. He was then removed from life support the day after turning twelve. Bailey was not a victim of an accident, he did not die of a heart defect, and he did not die of a wasting disease. The police investigators are still looking into the cause of the seizures, but evidence points to a reaction to the injuries suffered from the attack.
Bullies come in all ages, shapes and sizes, but there is a common trait they all share. They are cowards. They may be bigger and stronger, but are a coward all the same. They have such an unfavorable view of themselves, and rely on bringing others down to make them feel better. Instead of trying to make the world a better place, they resort to bullying traits to bring the world down to their level. When I was young, bullies were basically the same as some things do not change. However, the social media and online aspects of bullying today magnify the demeaning and embarrassing nature of the act to larger proportions. Victims today experience an entirely different bullying experience, and it is extremely important that all parents and adults realize how things have changed. The effects of a bully on a child cannot be overlooked and it will be wrong to assume they will work it out on their own, or use the “once they get out of high school, they will be ok” logic.
The loss of Bailey can never be fully quantified for the family and friends of this young boy. It is heart breaking and so infuriating as this was such an unnecessary loss. The family will never be the same. I can only hope the two other children who were behind the attack will realize the error of their ways and make amends. I pray that they will work for the greater good and in their own way, but it will not bring Baily back. They will have a lot weighing down on their conscious for the rest of their lives. Hopefully it is a hefty weight, but one that can be used for positives down the road.
I hardly feel bullies are born in a vacuum. Children are not born racists, homo-phobic, or are bullies from birth. They are a byproduct of their environment and parents (or lack thereof), a learned behavior. Right now, the children who attacked Bailey should be investigated and punished accordingly. Those who have children need to be listening and watching them. Unexpected behavioral changes, possible bruises that are not fully explained, or an increase in agitation all can be signs that things are not at a normal state. Parents who talk to their children, but also as trusted confidents can hopefully glean necessary information and take action before the child feel there are no other ways to deal with being the victim other than suicide. For those who are parents of bullies, they need to look at themselves in the mirror and actually look at actions that may be enabling their children to be a bully. Most of the time, words spoken by these parents are literally interpreted by impressionable children, who view these statements as an approval to manifest their own insecurities in violent ways.
Everyone needs to fight this battle not only for their own children, but for the good of all. Parents may not be able to be there all the time for their children, but teachers, school administration, or security officials need to step in when these actions are reported or witnessed. Simply going through the motions and half-way reporting bullying actions is not enough. Bully actions should not be tolerated and simply suspending a student for a day or two may not be nearly enough. The victims of bullies are not simply being inconvenienced; sometimes it is a literal fight for their life to protect from direct harm for a bully or in many cases to hopefully prevent a suicide.
These are not simply pictures or faces, but names. They were bright young children who saw no other way out than to end their life. How many other shining lights that go out need to happen before people begin to look and see, not simply brush aside actions as those of “kids will be kids”. It is a new world now, to which those who experienced bullies when they grew up may not be able to fully appreciate. No longer are there just a few witnesses, or an isolated event. In many cases, it is persistent bullying that takes place in person, but also takes place digitally on social media. The burden the victims bear is not isolated, but constant. The weight may be too much to bear for long periods of time. Suicide is final. Bailey and others who have suffered deserve our best, and we should never let them down by turning a blind eye or brushing instances of bulling under the rug. If we do that, we are allowing this cycle to continue.
R.I.P. to Bailey and all who have suffered and saw no way out. You deserved much better.