Sometimes I read stories that make me reach back to my own pubescent years to try to understand the young girls who are still so immature in thought and feelings, but are pushing hard on the doors leading to maturity, not yet grasping what that term truly means. Sometimes I can put myself in their places and remember how it felt to be teased or to tease; even if it was only good-natured kidding. Sometimes I can't understand their actions at all.
As a woman and a mom, my heart breaks across two different fault lines when I hear about the bullying of a young girl that was so vicious that she could not see past it and felt that taking her own life was her only option.
I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of 13 year-old Rachel Ehmke in Kasson, MN, on April 29th. According to the articles, Rachel was athletic, outgoing and friendly. All of the stories are accompanied by the school picture of a pretty young teen with a radiant smile and shining eyes. There is not sadness or defeat in that face; not yet.
Apparently, the taunting began in the fall; somehow she became the focal point of a group of mean-spirited, hateful, immature female classmates. They called her a slut and a prostitute; she had never even kissed a boy. Rachel and a friend had begun eating their lunches in the locker room to avoid the ridicule in the cafeteria during lunch.
These girls defaced Rachel's locker and textbooks with vulgar words and chewing gum. And most recently, they had sent an anonymous text out to many students saying that Rachel should be made to leave the school, calling for all students to force her out.
It would appear that these girls won. Rachel has left the school...permanently.
So, where were her parents during all of this? Where were the school officials? They were aware of the incidents and the harassment that was taking place, but they thought she was handling it is what they have said.
Punishment, or Lack Thereof
The last incident had warranted school officials to contact law enforcement to investigate the incident. While no charges have been filed, the investigation is still pending.
Interestingly enough, Rachel's father insists they don't want to see these girls charged. He feels that it's enough to have Rachel's death hanging over their heads as they continue on with their own.
I disagree. People like these mean girls don't see things as their fault; they don't feel remorse for their actions; they don't care about others they have deemed less worthy. It's likely that the ringleaders of these mean girls will do the same thing to another girl they deem to be a weak link, whether it's next year, 3 years from now or 7 years from now.
Minnesota has a very weak, unsubstantial anti-bullying law. It doesn't fully address the issue or how to deal with it. Regardless, I don't think there are any anti-bullying laws that will stop this problem. Young teens don't think about whether their actions are within the state law or not. Teens operate on unwritten social laws to determine whether certain actions, hairstyles, clothing, etc is acceptable or not.
Often the teens' actions are covert and not easily traced. The person being bullied is often silent about the harassment in order to avoid being further ostracized. So, even if the laws were stricter and called for reporting every incident, counseling for all parties, etc. it's likely that the school officials would not be made aware of many such incidents.
How do you stop the taunting, the harassment, the pure hatefulness of young, immature teens? Well, I'll tell my thoughts about this subject tomorrow and share how one community is handling it.
For now, I will leave you with this. Rachel left a note for her parents that said "I'm fine = I wish I could tell you how I really feel." Oh, the heartbreak! If you think your child isn't telling you everything about the hurt he or she is feeling and the turmoil swirling around in his or her world, don't let him or her tell you otherwise. You may not get another chance to help your child through this prickly, but relatively short period of time in his or her young life. Over and out...