In the Suburbs / Time for everyone to call out bullies
"Students call Greenwich High a breeding ground for bullying" / Connecticut Post, Oct. 15
Connecticut Post reporter Brittany Lyte's recent article about bullying struck a chord with me because she focused on what's not happening to offset this epidemic.
She began with the Greenwich High School student who had been relentlessly bullied for years and killed himself after the first day of school.
"What unnerved the town," she wrote, "is that the bullying of 15-year old Bart Palosz went unchecked for so long in a community prized for its class, wealth and excellence -- a place that families like the Paloszes make sacrifices to settle in so their children can have a top-notch education."
Pardon me, but I find it hard to believe that people in Greenwich, of all places, would find it surprising that this kind of bullying goes on there.
Here in Fairfield, the issue is a regular center of focus, and our schools at all levels are going out of their way to address it. It's chronic. It will never go away, and it should always be front and center.
Right on the heels of Lyte's piece, two girls were found guilty of cyber-bullying a 12-year-old girl before she committed suicide.
I applauded when I heard the verdict and that the crime was a third-degree felony, not a misdemeanor. Thankfully, that judge sent a strong message to the bullies.
In Lyte's piece, the Greenwich school superintendent pointed to a general lack of compassion in town. At an anti-bullying forum, he said he has seen bullying behavior among adults -- specifically parents and politicians.
I was bullied as a high-school student. I attended a fine Chicago high school, where I fell victim to several guys who enjoyed taunting me about my late-to-deepen voice, my bumbling athletic skills and my less-than-trendy clothes. Most of the bullying was verbal, but a few people pushed me in the halls or tripped me.
And I wasn't alone. Many boys and girls were victimized.
But what shocked me the most was attending my 35th high school reunion and watching the same group of bullies -- most married and with families -- still taunting and making fun of a classmate named David, a victim throughout his high school years.
A bunch of us finally yelled at this trendy-looking group of guys to knock it off. And their wives just stood there. Shame on us.
Over my 35-year career in public relations, I occasionally worked for a bullying boss who could reduce me to emotional rubble with destructive criticism of my writing, account management or my approach with news media.
There were times when the stress level became almost unbearable, but I toughed it out until I could find a better job.
The reality is that adult bullies are mostly the same men and women who bullied in high school. Many now relish in bullying their children's teachers and coaches and people in service industries.
Is there any kind of a solution?
In Lyte's piece, Kirimi Fuller of the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut said that for any change to occur, everyone in a school would have to stand up and say something when they witnessed bullying -- janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and faculty.
"That takes a lot more than putting up a banner that says `This is a bully-free zone,' " Fuller said.
Fuller hit the nail squarely on the head. Where bullying is concerned, no one in a town like Fairfield should remain on the sidelines.
We owe it to all bullying victims -- children and adults alike, to step up and never ignore the problem.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: email@example.com.