Friday, December 3, 2010

Guns, Knives, and Words: Student Safety Goes Beyond a Metal Detector

By: Alexandra Manrique

When I was young my father used to tell me stories about his childhood; days where kids attended school to learn and have fun. School was not associated with harm or harassment, but with education and sports. Nowadays, things are a little different; schools are still associated with education but also violence, drugs, and bullying. Yes, there are metal detectors to detect weapons, police to stop fights, and dogs to sniff for drugs, but what stops poisonous words and harassment? Students are dying, not only from real weapons and harmful substances but from hurtful words and extreme teasing, and school officials must address this situation and fast.

The days when teasing meant that the teaser had a crush on the teased are long gone. Now, teasing and bullying must be taken seriously. Bullying affects all students, from elementary school children to college students, recall the tragic death of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi. Teasing, harassment, and bullying all have an adverse, and possibly deadly, effect on the victim. The reasons for bullying vary, but some reasons students are bullied are race, religion, and sexual orientation.

Recently, due to the suicides of many gay students, there has been a campaign to raise awareness on bullying. Many influential actors, politicians, including the President himself, and ordinary citizens have videotaped an “It Gets Better” message. These short films assure the viewers that being gay and out will become easier. It is a positive and hopeful message and a good show of support for victims. However, more must be done. 

The Department of Education did distribute a letter to schools across the country stressing the importance of anti-bullying measures, and highlighting federal anti-discrimination laws that may be violated due to bullying. However, I still think more should be done; Schools should follow the example set by the school district in Helena, Montana. The school district in Helena, Mont. set new guidelines for teaching tolerance to students. Although these guidelines received criticism for appearing to promote a “homosexual agenda” and changes were made, the school board eventually worked out a curriculum to teach acceptance and respect to students. 

The actions of students can be dangerous. School officials must make sure that every student is protected from harm while in the school’s care. Guns, knives, and drugs are forbidden. Likewise, bullying should be forbidden as well. Bullying is just as harmful to students as the presence of guns, knives, and drugs in a school environment.

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