In response to the letter “Make a difference, students: Be a friend to the outcasts” (March 16, Page A8):

Bullying is a problem, indeed – it is one that our kids have been screaming at us to do something about for ages – but “walk up, not out” conflates equally important but non-identical issues. The kids of Sandy Hook, for example, could not have saved themselves somehow by being nice to their classmates. An adult with a rifle took their lives. That’s why this conversation is about guns.

The kids protesting understand and have clearly articulated what they are protesting – it’s gun violence, period. We adults don’t get to co-opt the protests for our own purposes, nor do we get to change the dialogue to something we are more interested in or comfortable talking about, whether it’s mental health or bad parenting or bullying.

Yes, each child is responsible for how they treat others. But I remember being bullied at school, and as angry as I was at the kids who did it, I also knew that many of my attackers were just as torn up inside as I was, and I blamed the adults when they didn’t step in. The responsibility for addressing bullying rests ultimately with those who have the authority to intervene – us adults.

The children in our schools are not social workers, and they are not professionals in conflict resolution. They are children. They must bear a child’s responsibility, not an adult’s. And, when someone – anyone -– comes into their school with a gun, those kids are not responsible for being shot. We are the adults. That’s on us.

R. Aileen Yingst


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