New Efforts Against Bullying Miss Big Picture, Students Say

Feature StoryBullying has been a hot issue at Wilde Lake for the past few weeks. Around the school hang signs to remind students to “Stand Up” and not “Stand By.” Mr. Fowlin‘s compliment, “You Are Beautiful,” is now a lingering whisper through the halls. On the surface, bullying seems a problem Wilde Lake can solve.

But in another world, the online world of messaging and commenting and posting pictures, bullying remains rampant, according to Senior Julia Brouwers.
“I think students are bullied mostly online . . . The school does a good job monitoring the amount of bullying activity at the Lake, though who knows how long it will last,” said Brouwers.

Sophomore Wade Keith believes that Mr. Fowlin’s message had a positive influence on students’ attitudes and behavior, but he is skeptical about the permanence of that impact.

“It helped a lot. It’s not gonna last though, they never do. At least not for some people.” Though he feels, “It’s definitely made a big difference in my behavior.”
In his seminar, Mr. Fowlin defines his idea of bullying based on personal experiences.

“I don’t use the word bullying because it’s mainly the idea of cruelty . . . Instead of bullies, I classify people as thinkers and non-thinkers,” said Fowlin.

In the classical sense, bullying is “unwanted negative attention. It can be verbal or physical. It’s an uneven, negative relationship,” according to Mrs. Dixon.

But bullying has evolved past the physical and verbal into the electronic. It has taken a new face, one that many students feel has yet to be recognized: cyberbullying.
Brouwers believes that the public nature of online bullying makes this form more dangerous and damaging.

“It feels like you’re being attacked by everyone when you are being bullied online . . . When you see it online it feels like the truth because it’s out there in writing and anyone can see it,” said Brouwers.

According to guidance counselor Mrs. Macer, one of the biggest problems is the difficulty of tracking and resolving issues concerning online bullying.

“Bullying online is not something the counselors or administrators can really monitor or do anything about. It is only addressed if a parent or students brings it to the attention of the guidance or administration,” said Mrs. Macer.

But, according to Brouwers, the most disturbing part about this topic remains that students do not realize how their words and actions can impact others.

“We’ve been exposed to it so much that our generation is desensitized to the effects of it . . . Students don’t realize when they are being mean to each other, and ultimately how they are hurting others.”

Mr. Fowlin, as well as several other staff and students at the Lake, agree that, “It’s the technology. When we become disconnected with each other, it becomes easier to say things to people that you would otherwise be afraid to say straight to their face.”
No matter how much bullying evolves or changes, the school will always attempt to inform the students and prevent them from becoming disconnected from the consequences of their actions, according to Mrs. Malloy.

“Howard County recognizes that this isn’t a new thing, and that is why schools bring in people like Mr. Fowlin to raise awareness and help students understand what bullying really is,” said Mrs. Malloy. “Tolerance, civility, and acceptance . . . If you promote these, bullying would take care of itself.