Bullying comes in all forms and in all parts of the U.S. It comes in all ages, in all races, and in all economic strata. Yet when it occurs in a quiet, upper middle class community -- as it did recently at a high school in Sayerville, NJ -- where the median income is +15 percent above the U.S. average, and when that bullying affects a state championship football team, the outcome is inevitable: "It is just kids being kids," they say. Parents are "frustrated" that their wonderful team cannot continue to play because their boys are so dedicated; the players are also "frustrated" because they want to continue to play football; while those who broke the scandal have to run for cover for fear they will be bullied even more...or worse.
Jalen Arnold is just 14 years old and he understands bullying from personal experience. He was born with an alphabet soup of challenges: Asperger Syndrome, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder and Tourette Syndrome. Because he is decidedly "different" he was teased and bullied from his earliest years. He really "gets it" and he knows that you don't fight bullying with fists and epithets; you fight it with education, and that is why he was selected as one of the 2014 World of Children Youth Award Honorees.
Jaylen Arnold is the founder of Jaylens Challenge Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting awareness and prevention of bullying through education and community service. Jaylen knows that bullying is not a rite of passage. Jaylen knows that the bullied person really hurts. Jaylen knows that the leading cause of suicide among children is bullying. Jaylen knows!!!
Sayreville, NJ, is a small borough not far from New York City. Its population is about 42,000 and it is fairly diverse racially, with 67 percent white, 11 percent Black and 13 percent Latino. It is a community that is kept clean and relatively quiet. The crime rate is roughly 30 percent of the national average so this scandal is all the more difficult for the residents there to accept.
However, the football team in the little borough of Sayreville allegedly took bullying to such a level that at least 7 of them face charges of sexually abusing, assaulting and embarrassing the newest players on the team. They probably see it as "acceptable hazing," or "growing up," or "becoming a man." Witness what one parent said at a meeting to discuss the problem:
"No one was hurt. No one died. I don't understand why they're being punished. I think that the forfeited game was punishment enough."
But Jaylen knows better. He knows that the scars being left behind are not transient, they are forever. The coaches, staff and administration at Sayreville could take a good dose of Jaylen Arnold, and indeed they should hear his story and his urgent message of "Bullying No Way!"Additional Sources: