Hearing about the tragic fate of Gabriel Taye, an 8 year-old black boy who took his own life as a result of being bullied, broke my heart.
Not only is Gabriel among the youngest suicide victims I have heard about, but it points to a serious social problem that has turned deadly over the years.
School bullies have been around forever, but what has changed is its reach and intensity. There are now more ways for bad guys and girls to intimidate their victims thanks to the Internet, social media sites, cell phones and videos.
Gabriel hung himself with a necktie after being knocked unconscious in a school bathroom in January, according to reports. Now his parents, who claim they were never notified by the school until receiving a call from the school nurse who advised them to take Gabriel to the hospital for evaluation after the incident two days before he died.
His mother said she knew nothing about previous incidences of her son being bullied until a lawsuit revealed surveillance footage. The school is accused of a massive cover-up. Other parents at Carson Elementary School, where the incident happened, say their children have also been bullied and that the school is not safe.
The lawsuit further states that in a report on bullying released by the Cincinnati Public Schools district, which includes Carson, the assault on Gabriel and its aftermath were never mentioned. The school district has previously said that school officials didn’t know Gabriel was attacked, that he initially told a nurse that he fell, and that there were no visible abrasions or reports of a fight.
With a new school year just around the corner, it’s time for parents to prepare their children for school, and that means emotionally as well as academically. Kids, especially younger ones, are often afraid bullies will beat them up if they tell adults what is going on.
They need the help of adults who will have their backs and work with schools and police whenever bullying occurs. Other than monitoring your child’s social media activity and paying attention to any changes in behavior (withdrawal, ditching school, physical bruises, etc.), parents need to take advantage of resources which may not have been around when they were in school.
Websites like eyesonbullying.org and stopbullying.gov, and bullying expert James Gavsie’s book,The Renegade’s Guide to Stopping Bullies, offer safe ways to tackle this problem. Keeping your child safe is the responsibility of parents and schools. Get off to a good start this school year by helping your child feel safe and protected.