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Michelle Turnberg, Published August 28 2011

Turnberg: It’s hard to forget bullies

The first day of school generates the same excitement and apprehension in me as it does in my kids. When I was their age, I had my clothes laid out and Trapper Keeper ready a week early. I loved so many things about the new school year – the new tablets, new teachers unaware of how much I liked to talk in class, and brand spankin’ new tennis shoes. The new school year was a chance to start fresh, see old friends and make new ones.

I have great memories of grade school and high school, and seeing my own kids begin a new school year had me reflecting on my years at Dawson-Boyd. When I hugged them goodbye (thankful they still let me), I reminded them to be nice to the younger kids because they will be remembered for the way they treat others.

While going back to school is exciting, it can be scary. Kids can be mean; no parent wants to see their child suffer. Think back to your school days and how you were treated by other students. I asked friends last week if they remembered being picked on. They did, in vivid detail. The memory of being bullied doesn’t go away.

I grew up in a small town where the high school was grades 7-12, which was intimidating for a 12-year-old. I remember each bully I encountered. The one on the school bus, the one I punched in the nose and the one on the track team. I made the varsity in seventh grade, and it made one senior girl angry. I wasn’t afraid of her, but her meanness stuck with me. To this day, it’s what I remember when I see her.

I remember Darlene. She was a senior and an amazing runner but treated me as an equal. She made me want to be like her when I was the senior.

Minnesota and North Dakota have anti-bullying laws on the books. The debate on the merits of the legislation continues, but I applaud schools for taking a proactive approach to bullying. I hope the laws can save some children from the anguish.

Aristotle said 2,400 years ago: “One thing that no state or government can do, no matter how good it is, is to make its citizens morally virtuous … but it can encourage and enable them to try to live well.”

A child’s behavior typically comes from the home environment; children learn what they live. Our best bet at curbing bullying may be taking a cue from Dorothy Law Nolte’s words:

“If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn. If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight. If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy. If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty. If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient. If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence. If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate. If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice. If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith. If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself. If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.”

Hopefully, when people look back on how you treated others, they remember you as someone they can emulate.


Turnberg writes a Sunday column for The Forum.