tragedy.” There’s no other words to describe the events that took place at a Bronx high school that left one student dead, another severely injured and a third, entering the prison system.
Abel Cedeno, 18, (pictured above) is accused of stabbing classmates Matthew McCree, 15, and Ariane Laboy, 16, both of whom were his classmates at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation. Sadly, McCree died shortly after the incident.
While many people will focus on the events of September 27th, the trouble didn’t begin there. Several witnesses have come forward stating that Cedeno was consistently bullied at school, “called everything from a f****t to a s**c,” and that complaints to school officials went largely unanswered. The behaviors didn’t cease and the result is absolutely devastating.
This senseless loss of life makes one thing clear: the only way to stop bullying—and the trauma that accompanies it—is to end the “not my problem” attitude.
Teaching teens to be a silent, or inactive bystander, gives bullies permission to abuse. If that doesn’t hit close to home maybe this will: when someone has a psychotic break everyone is in harm’s way.
Stopbullying.gov reports that 28% of students in grades 6-12 have been bullied—that means 72% of students are bystanders to classmates being tormented. It also means that 72% of adults have likely heard stories, anecdotes and embellished tales about a youngster’s classmate being poked fun at, pushed around or assaulted. The “not my problem” attitude allows adults to shrug, or laugh off, these incidents, and the attitude trickles down to minors. What do they learn? If it’s not you, or a loved one, there are no worries, right? Wrong. Teaching teens to be a silent, or inactive bystander, gives bullies permission to abuse. If that doesn’t hit close to home, maybe this will: if someone has a psychotic break in response to being abused at school, everyone is in harm’s way.
Being bullied is by no means a license to kill. In theory, taunting should not have caused McCree to lose his life and for Laboy to have to manage the physical challenges and emotional trauma that will likely follow him for the foreseeable future. However, it remains to be know if Cedeno felt that his own life was in danger at the hands of his alleged tormentors. Alas, while the outcome of this particular case will be decided in a court of law, we have the ability to prevent similar situations from happening in the future…but only if adults step up and intervene.
If you hear a story about bullying in school, inquire with staff there to find out what action that is being taken—following up is the only way to prevent escalation of the situation. In addition, talk to the teens you love about what’s going on around them and share possible ways they can intercede that don’t compromise their safety. Also, be mindful to ask questions about any potential bullying your favorite kid could be doing themselves–even “good” kids can be incredibly cruel, especially if they are trying to fit in.
Here are three things to share with the children and teens in your life:
1) “Bullying is NEVER okay”- Remind youngsters of their duty to respect their peers— even if he or she doesn’t agree with how someone carries himself/herself. Let them know that they have no right to question another kid’s personal choices, sexual preferences or gender expression and that all forms of harassment, taunting and physical aggression are not only unacceptable, but may also be illegal. Be sure that they understand just how bullying behavior can harm the person being targeted and the ones engaging in the behavior.
2) “Be a positive influence and shut bullying down”- Talk to your children about the power of their silence. Not everyone is built to be a hero, and it’s unfair to ask children to endanger themselves. However, there are multiple ways they can be supportive of classmates who need the help. For example, kids can send a powerful message to their peers by simply refusing to providing an audience for bullying behavior. Walking away or showing disapproval with facial reactions when someone is making rude comments lets folks know it’s not okay. Encourage kids to use their social clout as a voice to inform the masses; a simple”that’s not cool” can go a long way. Additionally, preventing physical bullies from isolating targets is another powerful way to step up—encourage kids to use groups to shield loners, walk home together, sit nearby at lunch, etc.
3)”Don’t be afraid to talk to adults”- Encourage kids to be honest with you (and another supportive adults) about what’s going on in their lives daily—especially when they feel something isn’t right. Let them know that their in-the-moment choice won’t be judged and that you are there to support. Be sure that they know that when one adult at school fails to act on their words, they should continue asking until someone else steps up.