America’s Solution to Bullying: Punish the Victim!

I stumbled upon an story today that reported a young girl in Florida was going to be expelled from school because her (natural) hair was distracting. I thought it a bit odd, so I jumped in to find out more, and what I read was disconcerting, to say the least.

It turns out that the Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, Florida, has some kind of policy on hair, which states that it has to be the natural color and must not be a distraction. But what, pray tell, constitutes a “distraction?’ Well, according to the story, that would be when other kids start to make fun of something (or someone) for the difference in style. If that’s the case, then the school should be ashamed.

According to what I read, the student, twelve-year-old Vanessa VanDyke, has not only been going to the school for over four years, but she is an honor student and is interested in the arts (learning to play the violin, to be more precise). This tells me that she is dedicated and smart with a thirst for knowledge. So when her parents inform the school that she’s being bullied because of her hair, it’s only right that the school officials punish… one of its star pupils? Wait… what’s wrong with that picture?

For all of the speeches and rhetoric and time spent on attacking the epidemic of bullying, it sure seems that more often than not, official representatives have been practicing a backwards approach in their attempts to do what they constantly argue to end. Instead of focusing their efforts on the source of the problem, they look to stop it by attacking the one being afflicted—simply for being different! Which in and of itself is a form of bullying.

By forcing Vanessa (one of their top students) to change her hair so that it conforms to the standards of “normalcy,” all the school is doing is perpetuating what they’re trying to put a stop to. They are bullying her into doing something she doesn’t want to do, simply because they don’t have the guts to do what’s right—expelling the kids for going against the doctrine that this “Christian” school should be teaching its students.

I put Christian in quotes because, even thought he school is called the “Faith Christian Academy,” they clearly are not teaching true Christian values at their school. You know: tolerance, respect and that age old adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (also known as the Golden Rule). By attacking the victim and forcing her to be something she’s not, all the school is teaching its kids is: if someone doesn’t conform to what we consider “normal,” it’s all right to pick on that person until they do.

If the school were truly teaching Christian values, they would support Vanessa for actually following the rules (her hair may be big and vibrant, but it is her natural hair), and scold those kids (and parents) for not showing respect for their peers, no matter how different they are. Now I know, kids will be kids, and there will always be those who will tease you and pick on you and cause you nothing but grief; that’s life. But as an official representative of an institution, you’re only condoning the problem when you join the bully’s side, a practice which will only lead to more bullying; if someone gets away with it once, they will believe it to be acceptable.

And the problem doesn’t stop at the schools. More and more we are seeing dishonesty and disrespect being rewarded instead of truth and integrity. What happens when only the lawful are punished? If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’re seeing the effects in full swing. It’s a sad state of affairs, and until we, as a nation, stop punishing the victims of abuse, bullying (and, in effect, intolerance) will only continue to grow stronger and more abundant. It’s time our official representatives in all levels of society start teaching what they’re preaching.

Actions really do speak louder than words.

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