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Societal changes needed to stop bullying

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Repeatedly, we are witnessing results of what bullying can do to our children. Bullying, intimidation, discrimination, retaliation and harassment are all outcomes of a society that does not hold perpetrators accountable. Recent local events — a teenage suicide — and world events — Russia’s takeover of Crimea — show us the path of destruction that bullying starts and ends with.

Our schools across the state are riddled with inconsistencies. We expect schools to be safe, to educate our children and to produce citizens who believe in the good of the community. Yet our board of regents, legislators and governor refuse to provide sufficient funds to ensure safe environments, equal educational opportunities for all students and a curriculum that fosters learning in academics, as well as in applied vocations and the arts. We can’t keep cutting educational programs and at same time pretend we are offering our students a comprehensive education.

You may be asking: what does the above have to do with bullying? It all goes back to an old adage that states: idle hands make mischief. With all the educational program cuts across our state, we have students sitting in study halls with not much to study due to extensive cuts in curriculum. We have fewer staffers supervising our students; we have fewer student/teacher interactions due to testing; we have fewer opportunities of educational engagement for those who find learning difficult; and we have fewer programs for those who excel academically and artistically.

Democracy can only function with a populace that is educated and knows the difference between tolerance, accepting differences in a peaceful way, and indifference, which allows bullying and other ill behaviors to exist. We cannot allow bullying to run rampant in our schools, our workplaces, our politics, our military and in our homes.

Are we as a community willing to examine our own conduct? As parents, are we teaching our children acceptable behavior toward others? Are our school officials willing to hold staff and students accountable for their behavior? Are we going to hold those in authority responsible for the actions of not only themselves but of those whom they supervise? These are questions that reflect the need for change within ourselves as well as within our institutions.

Cynthia Graham

Watertown

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