The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

November 1, 2013

Bullying is a serious matter, whether in school or the NFL

By Lynn Saternow

- — ON A TV sitcom this past week, a strange little kid was hanging around the neighbor’s house with designs on a young daughter and much to the parents chagrin, their daughter liked the kid even though they didn’t.

So the mom said to her husband something like: “The geeks are taking over because they don’t allow bullying in schools anymore.”

While the line may generate some laughs from the general public, there is nothing funny about bullying in schools or anywhere else. We have seen children commit suicide because of bullying.

And now law enforcement officials are looking into whether they can file charges against parents of the boys or girls who take part in the bullying since parents bought the cellphones or computers used in cases of electronic bullying.

And don’t forget, the boys who participated in the school massacre at Columbine years ago, allegedly did so because they were bullied by athletes at the high school.

There is no doubt that kids can be cruel to other kids. Unfortunately, sometimes they don’t even understand the impact of their actions.

But it isn’t just in schools. It happens elsewhere, especially in the sports world.

We had a report this past week where the wrestling program was suspended at York College because of hazing of some of the team members by others.

And a story out of Florida really grabs national attention where Jonathan Martin, a starting offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins left the team after claiming he was bullied by other team members.

In the world of macho college or pro football, it’s not often that you hear of that kind of complaint. After all, fistfights in the locker room or on the field during practice occur when testosterone runs high and someone attempts to bully another player.

The league is supposedly checking into the allegations, although you have to wonder if Martin will ever be accepted back to his team or to any pro team where the atmosphere is always “What happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room.”

Martin is an adult and should be mentally stronger than young kids who are the usual victims of bullies. But the abuse has reportedly happened for the year and one-half he has been with the team.

When it comes to young people, an Associated Press story reported that one poll found that some 49 percent of all teenagers and young adults in the United States say they have had at least one problem with some kind of electronic harassment.

While that seems extremely high, it is down from about 56 percent in 2011.

Kids need to know that when it happens, one of the best things to do is go to a parent.

Bullying victims were asked what helped and 72 percent of those encountering digital abuse said changing their e-mail, screen name or cell number, while 66 percent said talking to a parent helped to ease the problem.

And while some people will regard Jonathan Martin as weak for walking away from his NFL team, if abuse has been happening he is showing strength that other victims of bullying should take to heart.

Don’t sit quietly and take it. And don’t retaliate, which is never a good answer. Make sure someone of authority knows about it.

The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday for the Opinion Page.