Parents are outraged after Brighton Grammar School shared a blog post victim-blaming bullied kids
Bullying is a serious problem among school age kids, and most parents and administrators are scrambling for a way to stop it, but a UK private school is in hot water after sharing a post on their blog that seems to suggest it’s victims who really need to take responsibility for the part they play in getting bullied.
Brighton Grammar School recently published an essay on their school’s resource blog written by counselor and resilience coach Melissa Anderson. In it, Anderson asserts that while bullies certainly have their issues, no one is “lily white and blameless” — not even victims — and it’s important that bullied children “own your part of the problem, no matter how small, no matter how unfair it may seem.”
Writes Anderson, “If your son is currently being bullied, in the spirit of cleaning up your side of the street: Is he part of the problem? Even 5%? Is he a whinger, a complainer, self-absorbed, an exaggerator, loose with the truth, a passive doormat, displaying negative body language, an approval addict, a try hard, critical or a bad sport?”
That’s right: apparently if you’re not a perfect human being or have any negative qualities whatsoever, you totally bring bullying on yourself. Now, I know what you’re thinking: what if you’re child is bullied for being overweight, having a speech impediment, having a disability, or for some other factor beyond their control?
Well, in that case, Anderson still basically says suck it up. “You might say but how can my son clean up his side of the street if he is the target of cruel taunts because he has buck teeth, acne, a disability or a lisp,” she writes. “Of course, it’s not his fault, but owning his part… may be learning to stand up for himself, developing grit, steely self-belief, strong self-esteem, choosing his friends wisely and reminding himself that the bullies are dealing with their own demons and that the problem lies principally with them and not him… Time to own your part, and stop playing the victim.”
Since the post went up, parents have understandably brought out the pitchforks and voiced their concerns to school officials. Dozens of them left comments on the blog’s Facebook page accusing both Anderson and the school of victim-blaming. One mom even asked pointedly, “So I should tell my son who has autism that he should own his being bullied?”
Amid the controversy, Brighton’s Headmaster, Ross Featherston, took to Facebook to clear the air. He said the school was canceling a planned presentation by Anderson, adding that he’d like to “unreservedly apologize” to anyone distressed by the post, but also believes it’s a “school’s responsibility to be proactive about bullying.” As such, he says the post was meant to be one of many resources the school provides to help parents and students understand “respectful relationships, bullying and such issues.”
Whether the school was endorsing it or not, Anderson’s message is disturbing in many ways, and it’s not something already vulnerable children need to absorb. Kids who are bullied already feel broken down, insecure, and like there’s something wrong with them. Whatever issues a bully might have, it doesn’t give them license to take those issues out on other people. Teaching victims to “take responsibility” for their part in their own victimization is just another way of excusing dangerous and unacceptable behavior.
Kids can only toughen up and turn the other cheek for so long, and no child should ever be made to feel like being bullied is their fault. Sure, “grit” and “steely self-belief” are useful qualities, but let’s stop blaming victims and focus on stopping bullies instead.