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Mayor Vincent Gray signed an anti-bullying measure into law today, making the District the 18th jurisdiction in the nation to make being mean to other kids a crime. Supporters hailed the law as a great move for the city’s kids, so we figured asking the kids what they actually thought about bullying might be a good idea.
Jason Cedillos, 13, attends Oyster Adams Bilingual School in Woodley, where he says there isn’t all that much bullying. “There’s a little bit, but it’s not really big,” he says. Asked what should happen to the bullies, he says, “I think they should just talk to the kids and see what’s causing them to take their anger out.” And when he says “they,” who is he talking about? “A counselor, a teacher, someone close to [the bully].” No mention of bureaucratic involvement.
Seven-year-old Emma and nine-year-old Luke Morehead are from Delaware, but the siblings say they have no bullies in their school. If he did encounter a bully, Luke says he would “tell a teacher, walk away.”
Javate Joseph, 12, insists there are no bullies at Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science. The school teaches its students about bullying, though, and Joseph is an expert. He recites three kinds: verbal, physical, and cyber-. “They tell us not to bully and show us clips of bullying,” he says.
When asked, Joseph says he thinks bullying should probably be illegal. “It can kill people and it’s harmful,” he says. “You can hurt somebody’s feelings and they can want to kill themselves.” But the kid says he’s never encountered any bullying; everyone at his school is nice to each other.
Of course, some kids do encounter milder forms of bullying. Madison Byrd, 7, says there are two bullies in her class at Jennifer Elementary, presumably the one in Waldorf, Md. “They talk about other people, like, ‘their clothes don’t look cool,’” she says. “Bullies are mostly telling people to change their life and be cool, but they’re not cool.”
Byrd’s friend Ajah Hawkins, 8, agrees. Hawkins goes to Harriet Tubman Elementary in Columbia Heights, where she says she has been bullied. She says bullies should be suspended from school. Byrd and Nikaya Richardson, an eight-year-old student at Garrison Elementary in Shaw, nod in agreement. But when the idea of the government preventing bullying comes up, their answers aren’t so simple. “No,” Byrd and Hawkins say when asked if bullying should be illegal. But Richardson says yes, and then Hawkins changes her mind.
At her school, Byrd says, the teachers talk to the kids about bullying, but the kids can handle it on their own, too: They just annoy the bullies. “I annoy them too because sometimes they be mean to me,” Byrd says.
Hawkins has a counterintuitive solution to the bully problem: Give them their own school, and let them bully each other. “I think all bully kids stay in a group and see how it feels,” she says.
The bullies at Marie Reed Elementary School in Adams Morgan, where 10-year-old Jordan Waldroa goes, mostly pick on the younger kids. He doesn’t like the bullies, but he agrees with his 15-year-old friend Jamil Key, who points out that bullies aren’t bad people through and through, that circumstances can push them into mean behavior. “Sometimes they might have been bullied themselves,” Key says. “It’s not their fault.”
“It’s not their fault, but it really is,” says Jordan’s 13-year-old brother, Michael, who goes to Lincoln Middle School in Columbia Heights. “Even if you did have bad parents, you shouldn’t take it out on others, though.” Assigning blame and beating out the bullies might not be quite so simple as the politicians would have it.
No bullies could be found for comment.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery