The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
Last year a Black student was bullied on a school bus during a field trip in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (the City of Brotherly Love?).
The school bus driver and parent chaperones alleged they were unaware of any problems on the bus. Since the victim recorded the incident, the bullies were suspended for a few days, with no further actions taken against them.
An African-American student in Mississippi had a noose tossed around his neck and tugged on.
Numerous cases of religious discrimination against Muslims are being reported around the U.S., and lawsuits have been filed recently on behalf of students in Arizona, New York, and Missouri alleging harassment by teachers. One student’s suit states his teacher once choked him, and that the instructor,
…showed a video clip about terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks and told the boy “that’s going to be you.”
The complaint alleges [the teacher] “snapped” at the boy, then in sixth grade, when he raised his hand during class to answer a question and said, “All you Muslims think you are so smart.”
“I can’t wait until (Donald) Trump is elected. He’s going to deport all you Muslims,” the complaint quoted [the teacher] as saying. “Muslims shouldn’t be given visas. They’ll probably take away your visa and deport you. You’re going to be the next terrorist, I bet.” – article by Richard Cano, Arizona Republic, November 1, 2016
Bullying is an ongoing problem in schools. It isn’t fair to say it’s “just kids being kids”—not when bullied youngsters are being so emotionally traumatized that it affects their ability to function, or even continue to live. Even worse, there is no excuse for abuse by adults who are supposed to protect and support students in their charge. Too many bullied children and teens try to take their own lives because they cannot live with the torment—and too many succeed.
A website called, “Teens Against Bullying,” explains how bullying differs from “typical disagreements [and] conflict that occur between friends or classmates. It’s bullying if:
- The person is being hurt, harmed or humiliated with words or behavior.
- The behavior is repeated, though it can be a single incident.
- It is being done intentionally.
- The person being hurt has a hard time defending themselves from the behavior.
- The student(s) who are doing it have more power.”
The prevalence of bullying against gay, lesbian and transgender students is alarming. According to the website nobullying.com, 82% of these youth report being bullied, and 61% of those who have suffered physical violence do not report it. Worse, 31% of those who did make reports found no response from school authorities.
With the knowledge that all of this is taking place, it was gratifying to read Melissa St. Aude’s article in the Casa Grande, Arizona Dispatch about Grande Innovation Academy’s observance of National Unity Day. She explained, “National Unity Day is a time to unite in kindness, acceptance and inclusion according to the national Bullying Prevention Center.” She also noted that the Girls in Action Club at the Academy “meets often to discuss bullying and ways to prevent it at the school.”
According to the Baha’i teachings:
In man there are two natures; his spiritual or higher nature and his material or lower nature. In one he approaches God, in the other he lives for the world alone. Signs of both these natures are to be found in men. In his material aspect he expresses untruth, cruelty and injustice; all these are the outcome of his lower nature. The attributes of his Divine nature are shown forth in love, mercy, kindness, truth and justice, one and all being expressions of his higher nature. Every good habit, every noble quality belongs to man’s spiritual nature, whereas all his imperfections and sinful actions are born of his material nature. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 60.
These students at Grande Innovation Academy are developing their higher natures. To end the cruelty and injustice of bullying, please do what you can to help endeavors like this spread to other schools in your area and beyond.