From Leather Jackets to Keyboards

Thomas Wysocki, Reporter

The school bully: once portrayed as burly, leather-jacket-wearing, cigarette-smoking rebels who demanded lunch money. Nowadays, that intimidating picture has come to include anyone with enough spite and anger in their veins to humiliate, embarrass and berate their fellow classmates. It could be the person sitting in the back of the class, or right up front. They could be boys or girls, athletic or nerdy, in person or behind a keyboard. With the advent of technology, bullying has been able to take newer forms and assume newer faces.

People seem to laugh it off or just not talk about bullying like it doesn’t exist. Clackamas High School student Jayne Smith said that people don’t really take bullying seriously, “Because if you’ve never experienced it before, you don’t really see it as a problem. We currently live in a culture that promotes insulting others; diss tracks and roast battles among other things are an example of that.” A recent SAFE survey reports that students between 6th and 10th grade are the most likely to be involved in bullying-related activities and that 1 in 4 students in the United States is bullied on a regular basis.

Jayne made a comment regarding the anti-bullying measures currently in place at Clackamas High School, claiming, “They’re not really effective, if you ask me. I mean, we all know that we shouldn’t be mean or racist, but just saying that we shouldn’t be isn’t going to stop someone from being mean or racist.” Posters taped to the walls outside of bathrooms and commonly-traveled areas, banners hung from open spaces in the commons don’t really make an impression. Last year (2017-2018), there was an anti-bullying club at Clackamas High School that, along with the equity “lessons,” were the butt of many jokes, from the student body; it was viewed as unnecessary and redundant.

But it appears that this joking, mostly-carefree attitude towards bullying isn’t shared by teachers and other district employees. In the midst of an interview with North Clackamas School District employee Anneke Abma, the question of the attitude of students came up. Her response was that “There’s the old saying that kids will be kids; boys will be boys. A lot of them just blow it off because they figure the bully doesn’t really mean it, along with the attitude that people today are oversensitive. However, as a school employee, I have to be sensitive; to be aware of what’s going on between the kids. I think it is important”

There are organizations and hotlines that prevent bullying in the North Clackamas district, but there is one that seems to fly under the radar: the school counselor. In elementary schools, the counselor is a resource to help students talk things out, and to teach about concepts like bullying. At the high-school level, while they are “Certified to give advice on emotional issues,” it would seem that counselors are just thought about as help for colleges and schedules. This attitude raises the question: why don’t students talk about it?

According to a study by the Education Development Center (EDC), most bullying goes unreported when it only consists of verbal incidents and is more likely to be reported if it’s physical. This lack of communication makes it hard to narrow down where and when this kind of thing happens. According to Ms. Abma, it exists because “it’s an embarrassment, maybe. Kids themselves don’t talk about it unless it’s happening, but they’ll tell their teachers or they’ll tell me about it. But you have to understand that being bullied isn’t just a one-time thing; it’s a constant happening.”

A lack of communication, and a lack of understanding; people who don’t understand what it really means to be bullied. This problem, according to Abma, is due to a lack of trust. “In middle school and high school, the counselors and the teachers need to gain the trust of the students so they know that they (students) will be taken seriously, and they should be educated as to what bullying consists of.” Nowadays, all it takes to be a bully is a computer or cell phone, and a social media account. At the same time, however, all it takes to stop bullying is for someone to listen and pay attention.