If You Don’t Think Bullying Is a Problem . . .

If You Don’t Think Bullying Is a Problem . . .

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.

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    As a former Special Education student who had to deal with bullying due to having ADHD back in the 1970s and 1980s, I'm very appalled at this incident. At least back when I was a kid the bullying stopped at the end of the school day. Now there's no respite, no break, no chance to mentally recover from things like this.

    The sad part of this is that odds are those who drove this girl to end her life will never be held accountable for their actions unless there's a significant change in the law. Further, the cyberbullying doesn't end at high school; adult bullies use such sites as Encyclopedia Dramatica to make fun of autistic people and people with other physical/mental/emotional/social/psychological problems just because they might have made some questionable (but not necessarily harmful) choices in their lives. If you've been on the Web for any amount of time, you know the kinds of people ED targets. ED has become a modern-day minstrel show where instead of white guys in blackface it's neurotypical individuals who make fun of people with mental problems by perpetuating stereotypes about them.

    To me the word "retard" to describe someone like me who has ADHD or any other mental condition is as hurtful as any racial slur out there, and being treated like we are savage animals all because of something wrong with us that was an accident of birth and not our fault is immoral.

    Remember what John Merrick, the famed Elephant Man, said in the movie: "I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!"

    Somehow I hope that those behind what happened are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but even then that won't be adequate. :-(

    Justice for Amanda Cummings!

  • In reply to Peter Guerin:

    Peter,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am so sorry for the bullying you have endured. I have written about the importance of not using the word "retarded" for this very reason. I hope the New Year brings you much happiness. Carrie

  • This makes me feel physically sick. Bullying is problem enough, add the awful possibility of technology and I'm terrified for my kids to grow up. Don't we want our children to be different?

  • In reply to Yoga Mom:

    I know, I also feel nervous about my kids growing up. It's scary to imagine that being different makes them a target of such hatred.

  • This takes me back to what I went through and did when I was 15....I know the pain she was feeling and that moment you decide you would rather die than live with the pain. My heart hurts every time I read these stories of our youth killing themselves because of bullying. It is time to stop this and make children understand they CANNOT treat other people this way; it starts at home!

  • In reply to The Queer Guy:

    Absolutely it starts at home. I hope the parents of all the kids at her school see this as a wake-up call and begin to have the necessary discussions with their kids. Sad, scary stuff. I am so sorry for the bullying you endured. Carrie

  • I never thought about killing myself, but being bullied definitely destroyed my pride, and made high school awful. I was afraid to walk certain places and wasn't always present in class as my-mind was preoccupied. Parents need to stick close to their kids to make sure it doesn't continue. It's hard to get teens to talk, but stick on them, and they will spill the beans. we need more communication and protection from bullying.

  • In reply to radstarr:

    I agree; it's hard to get teens to talk, but you are right that they will tell what's going on if we keep at it. There are other ways to tell if your child is struggling, too, and it's important for parents to notice behavioral changes. I am very sorry you were bullied in high school. Carrie

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    As a fat kid in school... I can tell you it was no picnic.
    Every day was a battle. I had to fight to stay sane.
    I was teased, pushed, hit, taunted, hit with rocks, and one point even had dirt poured in my hair.
    And that was just elementary.

    In highschool I was pushed down a flight of stairs, spit on, hit, taunted, teased, and a few things I won't mention. Some kids are just vicious..

    Sadly, 9 times out of ten the bullies parents don't even know their kids are doing it. The children being bullied don't want to be further seperated from the so called pack. So they keep it inside...in silence...

    I am 35 years old and I hold the emotional scars on my heart still. I know I would be a different person today if I had just been left alone. I cannot tell you how many times I thought about suicide as an option.

    Some people say... "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger..." In the case of bullying... It leaves you a broken fragment of the person you could have been....

  • In reply to Johana Ming:

    Johana, you are absolutely correct. And there is even research that shows how bullying affects the brain in negative ways. It sounds like you endured a lot of awful times in school. I am so sorry for your pain. Carrie

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