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The Sioux City Journal newspaper made headlines of its own after it published a full, front page editorial in its April 22, 2012 Sunday edition decrying bullying. The editorial was published in response to the suicide of a victim of bullying. The 14 year-old high school student Kenneth Weishuhn—a fun kid by all accounts—was bullied not long after coming out to his friends as gay.
The Journal’s editorial staff was quick to point out that it feels that all of society plays a role in bullying. From teachers and other school staff, parents and other adults, the Journal staff suggested that many people and organizations take a passive role in stopping bullying. According to the editorial, the time has come for all adults to advocate for the victims of bullying.
Although anti-bulling statutes were adopted in Iowa in 2007, according to the article, “Iowa school districts, on average, reported less than 2 percent of their students had been bullied in any given year since the state passed its anti-bullying law in 2007.”
The editorial staff emphasized that schools are not the only places that bullying occurs and that eliminating bullying is not the sole responsibility of the school system to enforce anti-bullying standards. The piece calls on adults to take a more active role in ensuring that bullying will not be tolerated. The editorial suggests that parents monitor their children’s use of cell phones and the internet, watch the documentary “Bully,” and recognize the deeper meaning of the words they are using, and the words that are being spoken by those around them.
In keeping with the desire to be a strong advocate, the Journal staff said, “This is not a failure of one group of kids, one school, one town, one county or one geographic area. Rather, it exposes a fundamental flaw in our society, one that has deep-seated roots.”
Bullying is not only a problem in Iowa, but a problem faced by young people all across America. A 2008 study by researchers at Yale University suggests that the link between bullying and suicide is very strong. According to the study, victims of bullying are 2-9 times more likely to consider suicide.
According to the bully watchdog organization www.bullypolice.org, most American states have adopted anti-bullying statutes in response to episodes of suicide as a result of bullying. Punishments for violating anti-bullying statutes in various American states range in severity from counseling the bully and the victim to criminal prosecution.
Although not unprecedented, the use of the entire front page of the Sunday edition of the newspaper indicated the strong feelings that members of the Sioux City Journal staff have as community advocates. Coverage of this publication has made national headlines indicating that much of the American population is taking bullying very seriously. Subsequent reports indicate an overwhelmingly positive response to the front-page editorial not only by Sioux City residents, but also by readers all across America.