Sunday, June 10, 2018

13 Reasons why there needs to be this conversation

The Netflix series '13 Reasons Why' might be a controversial series, but what it did do was heighten awareness and start a conversation about the issues facing teenagers today.  Issues like bullying, cyber-bullying, sexual assault, rape, suicide, cliques, under-age drinking, drugs, homosexuality, school shootings and the adults who are supposed to be in charge having no control.  All these issues in one television series might make it overwhelming for the viewer.  But what you have to remember, is that the majority of our teenagers are overwhelmed by one or more of these issues every single day of their lives, either as a victim, perpetrator or a witness to the events.  Saying, "Kids will be kids," will no longer cut it I'm afraid.
What are we doing to help them?
Teenagers are notoriously bad at sharing what is really going on in their lives with their parents.  There are many reasons for this, but a big reason is that they don't want to disappoint their parents.  So teenagers keep secrets that sometimes they don't have the emotional maturity to deal with.  This leads them to make some bad, ill-informed choices that complicates a situation even more.  Then before you know it they are in so deep and drowning, and that's when the really bad choices are made.  And often all of this happens without the parents having a clue.
But, the school is aware 9 times out of 10.
Somebody on the staff always knows something.
I can almost feel the earth shudder as millions of educators shake their heads simultaneously in denial.  Subconsciously you know I am right.  I have been involved in education for over 30 years and I know that I am speaking the truth.
You see, in every situation there is always one or more children who can't keep a secret.  That child will pick a teacher they trust to confide in.  They might not tell you the whole story, or the story might be their truth and different to others' truth, but they will tell you something.  These children would have been the tattletales in elementary school.  Teachers will share what they were told with other teachers in the staff room.  But many times it will just stay as gossip and nothing will be done about it.
Don't say the school was unaware.  Somebody on the staff would have known something.  However, school management often choose to try and bury it as they don't want it to be known that their school is unsafe and they can't guarantee the safety of their students.  They have this attitude that if they pretend these issues are not there and not happening in their school, then all will just blow over and the issues will just fade away.  Kids will be kids, right?  Kids exaggerate, so it is never as bad as it's meant to be.  Wrong!  It's often a good deal worse.  What might seem silly to an adult can be devastating to a child.  And teenagers are still children.
As an educator, you need to know your students.
We have to take these issues in our schools seriously.
We have to give our teenagers a voice.
Nobody should feel alone and overwhelmed by life.
Dark times pass.
Support just needs to be there to help each other get through the dark moments.
We are in this world together, not alone.
The suicide rate in the United States has seen sharp increases in recent years. Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK.
Bullying in all its forms is a very big problem that largely goes unaddressed.  Bullying, sexual assault, rape are all connected.  If there is a culture of bullying in a school, chances are there will sexual assaults and rape happening in the shadows.  Sweeping reported incidents under a carpet and pretending they never happened shows the bully that there are no consequences for their actions, and that what they are doing is acceptable.
School management needs to step up and address the bullying that is going on in their school.
It is not just going to go away.  If there are no consequences it will get worse.
Our children are our future.  What kind of a future are we planning, if we are sending broken children into the world?
This is why we need to have this conversation.
The Freedom Club highlights some of the bullying that goes on in our schools.  It is a story about a group of teenagers who are tired of being victims.  They form a club to offer support to each other, so that together they can stand up to the bullies in their school.
But standing up to the bullies is not easy when you have no support from the school itself.
And it is even more difficult when the two biggest bullies are the principal's children.
And when the principal himself is a bully, you might have to go over to the dark side to get justice.
The Freedom Club continues the conversation started by the engaging, often controversial series 13 Reasons Why.
We have to do something.
Bullying must stop.
School shootings must stop.
We must do more to prevent teen suicides.
More must be done to make our children realize that sexual assaults are not just fun pranks.  The victims are hurt and emotionally scarred for life.
Rape is not only a crime committed by a man wearing a mask that breaks in through your bedroom window in the middle of the night.  
Rape is when you have sex with someone without their consent.
Many rapes go unreported.
The majority of them actually, so we have no accurate figures.
People tend to report stranger rape, but not rape by people they know.  Because somehow, even though they are the victim, they feel guilty.
As if they must have done something to cause the rapist to have sex with them.
Non-consensual sex is not okay. 
Not Telling highlights the very difficult issue of being raped by someone you know.
And if you are sexually assaulted or raped, should you tell?
Even if it will hurt someone close to you.
Do you protect them or protect yourself?
How might keeping it secret affect you for years to come?
Cindy Vine is a South African author and teacher who currently lives and works in Norway.  
She writes reality fiction, stories about the darker side of humanity.  Stories about issues many of us face each day. 
Issues that are hard to talk about.
But we have to get these conversations going.
If we are to be saved.

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