If you don’t think bullying is a problem, consider this:
Two days after Christmas, fifteen year-old Amanda Cummings of Staten Island killed herself by stepping in front of a bus. Cummings, who was suffering from a romantic breakup and who had also been ruthlessly bullied at school by a group of mean girls, lingered for six days from her injuries before dying.
Even as she was dying, some cruel kids from her school continued to cyberbully her, posting comments on her Facebook page such as “LMFAO she jumped in front of a bus.”
For those of you who aren’t up on your Internet slang, LMFAO means “Laughing my f*ing ass off.”
Now, when I read that a young girl purposefully stepped in front of a bus, I had a number of reactions. Sickened. Saddened. Ever more committed to the book I am writing about bullying. Horrified. Depressed.
But in no way did I feel like laughing.
The Cummings family has had the hideous task of trying to remove hateful posts from Amanda’s memorial page, from her Facebook page, from cyberspace. The girl who was taunted and tormented in life is being taunted and tormented in death, too.
I think of her parents, and I cannot imagine their pain, their agony, their helplessness. Where have we as a society gone wrong, when some of our children are laughing at the news that another child has taken her life?
How did kids become so desensitized to the violent image of a girl being broken apart by a huge moving vehicle that they responded by laughing? Was it too many violent video games? Was it too many over-the-top TV shows or movies, where people are attacked, killed and maimed to the jeers and cheers of the audience?
Is it the anonymity of the Internet that allows people to access the very base -- the very darkest parts-- of their human nature, without fear of recrimination? Do kids think that you can get away with anything in cyberspace?
Think again. Cyberbullying can be illegal. There have been criminal prosecutions in the bullycides of Phoebe Prince and Tyler Clementi. In the case of Amanda Cummings, the police at this point have stated that there is no preliminary evidence of harassment.
But Cummings’ friends have begun to speak up about the bullying she endured, particularly at the hands of one girl who was the ringleader.
Even if the culpable kids change their ways, it won’t bring back Amanda Cummings.
Amanda Cummings, who was taunted for being different --she dyed her blonde hair black; she pierced her lip; she wore her own style of clothes and make-up. Amanda Cummings, who received vicious text messages and Facebook posts—“Once a ho, always a ho.”
Amanda Cummings, who will never celebrate her sixteenth birthday, never finish high school, never see another sunrise.
Bullying is no laughing matter.