Should high school teenagers be legally penalized for bullying?

Elena Cappello


    Tears stream down the young one’s face as she scrambles to retrieve the books that had been forcibly knocked out of her hands. 

     As the witnesses gather to observe, only for their own comical amusement that derives from her pain, the young girl looks up to the ceiling, almost in an attempt to find God, and wonders if it’s even worth it. If life is worth it.

     After years of torment, ridicule and abuse, Michelle Peterson was tired.

    Three days later she tied a six foot long rope that hung from the ceiling around her neck, and it snapped her neck in half, killing her instantly. 

    In her final moments of life, a smile on her face emerged for the first time—endless torture had finally finished.

     Suicide, although defined as someone who takes his or her own life, is more often than not brought on by someone else, comparable to any other form of murder. And unfortunately, bullies are often the source, accomplice and seed of this murder.

       Bullies use subliminal or blatant digs, unnecessary cruel behavior and public embarrassment to belittle, humiliate and torment their victims. Unfortunately, by the time others receive—or perhaps choose to address—the victim’s cry for help, it is too late. Bullying is essentially a form of abuse, which gives reason to the severity of its effects on those victimized. This abuse can trigger depression, insomnia, gastric pain, and mental disorders—specifically eating disorders when teased about weight. 

    FYI: Anorexia has the highest mortality rate among all mental disorders. Should we wait for all the children to die off before we start taking serious legal action?

     Research studies have proven that kids who behave like bullies are in fact very “shame-prone,” meaning they are afraid their failures or shortcomings will be exposed, so they bully to take attention away from the parts of themselves of which they are ashamed. 

   But whose fault is that, the kid who commits suicide? Since shame makes people feel undesirable and inferior, bullies—cowards—become skilled at triggering the emotion of shame in others to make themselves feel “good enough.” 

    Although it can be understood why a child might have issues addressing and expressing her inner insecurities, anything taken to the extreme is an error. Bullying can leave permanent scars that evoke feelings of anxiety, worthlessness and failure to see the meaning of life. 

    Hence, victims often feel that they have no friends and have no one to turn to. And unfortunately, one’s perception is one’s reality. Because of the daily abuse like that of aforementioned Michelle Peterson, “…suicide among bullying victims is such a staggeringly common phenomenon that it has even coined a new term: ‘bullycide,’” according to Social Issues First Hand: Bullying.

   Because bullies do not often face the proper consequences in a court of law for their abuse, society sends out a strong subliminal message to bullies that what they are doing is acceptable. 

     Otherwise wouldn’t there be proper repercussions? 

  Involuntary manslaughter is caused when a person’s own actions or inactions lead to the death of another. 

     So, if a bully’s continuous and relentless utilization of verbal, physical, and mental abuse were to lead someone to end his own life, should he not be charged under the same jurisdictions? 

     In a world where a 13-year-old gets 30 years in an adult prison for credit card fraud, can a 16-year-old actively cause the death of another, with community service as a punishment? 

    Because their conscious decisions with complete disregard for the known and detrimental effects result in the loss of life, bullies should be held responsible, just as any other criminal is for forms of negligent homicide. 

    Anyone who harasses someone else to the point of alienation should be prosecuted. They are knowingly playing with other people’s lives. For instance, take  Amanda Todd, who committed suicide in October 2012 in her Port Coquitlam home in Canada. Prior to her death, Todd had posted a video on YouTube in which she used a series of notes she had written on flash cards to tell about her experience of being blackmailed, bullied and physically assaulted.     

    The video went viral after her death, resulting in international media attention. During this media frenzy, news reporters jumped on the opportunity to interview numerous classmates and affiliates of Todd. Much to the surprise of viewers, the bullies, standing right outside of Todd’s high school following the suicide, showed absolutely no remorse, even laughing at the fact that their actions had gotten as much press as it did. 

      They were more interested in their 15 minutes of fame than the life of the victim, even after her death. In the following days during the trial, where their actions would be judged and punishment may have been inflicted (not to worry though folks, because it never is—because somehow the law thinks this sort of behavior is okay) these same bullies were seen crying their hearts out, oh-so-sorry for the “tragedy” that they had caused. This was after they were seen on national television laughing about the incident. My point is that unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence.These bullies often have no shame or regrets, until they realize the severity of their consequences, not their actions. By the time one is a teenager, he or she is old enough to understand the potential consequences of his actions and knows the difference between right and wrong. 

  When these sociopathic wrong actions become unremorseful and repetitive, to the point where someone would rather quit breathing, there is no excuse. A sort of sick persistence is needed to bully a child to the point of suicide. 

   Because of this, anyone who feels the need to thrive off of the “worthlessness” of others deserves the reality check they are sure to receive in jail. In the future, such punishment would act as reverse motivation to treat these “totally lame losers” with respect, since obviously, a slap on the wrist, combined with 150 hours of community service, isn’t doing the trick.