Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Sticks and Stones

In the opening scenes of Kevin Emerson’s novel “Carlos Is Gonna Get It,” he details the surrounding students of “weird” Carlos and the hatred that is felt towards his strange qualities. Carlos’ classmates decide that they will prank him and knock him down into the realms of reality.

Emerson’s main character, typical middle-schooler Trina, said “that was the problem with playing this trick on Carlos. He wasn’t normal. And while most kids just figured he made his problems up to get attention, I wasn’t so sure… I had to feel bad for him for having problems… And that made me feel like I shouldn’t be annoyed by him, even when I was. Stupid guilt-demon!”

The most recent widely recognized case of bullying and youth violence is Phoebe Prince, the Massachusetts freshman who hanged herself in January after extensive bullying, name-calling and harassment. This is just the latest in a long string of high school oppression and torment.

Last fall, Michael Brewer, a 15-year-old from Florida, was set on fire by classmates after he told authorities about a group trying to steal a bike over the previous weekend. Though Brewer survived and is doing remarkably well in recovery, the mental scars will be hard to heal, especially with the recent near-death beating of Brewer’s friend Josie Lou Ratley.

In the fascinating and terrifying world of cyber bullying, Megan Meier committed suicide three weeks before her 14th birthday after being harassed by a boy over Myspace who turned out to be the spiteful mother of one of her classmates.

Eric Mohat, 17, shot himself after years of homosexual accusations because of his theater involvement. One student shouted in front of the school “Why don’t you go home and shoot yourself? No one will miss you.” Mohat was the third of four suicides committed during that school year.

Finally, there’s the situation surrounding Constance McMillen, the lesbian teen who sued her Itawamba, Miss., high school for not allowing her to bring her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo to prom. Though McMillen won, the high school canceled their official prom and McMillen became increasingly afraid to attend school. Last week, she was sent an invitation to a reinstated prom only to find that it was a front for the other gay students and two with learning disabilities. Another party was held across town for the rest of the school.

What is wrong with people? Not only are these children beyond any reasonable bounds of human decency, where are their parents through all of this? Do they notice what their children are saying and doing to other kids?

And where are the teachers and school administrators? How do they not see what’s going on? They explain it away as uncommon occurrences and sad coincidences.

I’m sorry, but four teenagers killing themselves in one school year is not a coincidence by any means.

For over three years, my younger brother was harassed and continuously tormented by classmates who disliked him merely because he didn’t fit into their perception of normal. He dressed up like Elvis on his birthday, he wore fedoras to school and he was an outspoken leader who, on the surface, blew off everything they said to drag him down. I watched him hurt for years not knowing what to do and watched my mother and father do everything they could. But kids will be kids, as we all were told.

Yet, the more they pushed, the more my brother would march to the beat of his own drum and the more he became the wonderfully unique and successful person that he is today.

But what if, heaven forbid, my brother had not been as strong as he was and, at the simple age of 13, had given up on a life he had been persuaded was worthless? He is, after all, my baby brother. He’s the boy I helped raise, love and protect his entire life. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I had lost him like that. Lost him like Phoebe, Eric, Megan and so on.

The lives of these children and their families have been forever haunted and deeply scarred by the words and actions of “kids being kids.”

We can’t continue believing that this is the norm of high school. It is not a rite of passage into adulthood, because many of those that go through it don’t make it that far. We have to listen to our “Stupid guilt-demons” and recognize the feelings of the weird, outcast, unique and just plain different.

We cannot depend on the strong to support themselves when their voices can only be so loud.

Debra Flax is a sophomore majoring in journalism. Her column runs on Thursdays.

More to Discover