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I still remember parents of a Northdale Central student who referred their grade eight son to me for some counselling.

Recently "Andrew" didnít relate to his family or seem to have any friends. Instead of going out for recess or lunch he chose to help the teachers with their computer/audio presentations.

He told me that he wanted to disappear under a very large rock: he didnít want to die but he wanted the bullying to stop. Off I went to meet with the principal, with mom and dad. The next day Andrew was told he had to go out in the yard for lunch. The principal and I watched out of the window to see two of the toughs who pushed and kicked a very scared young man. The boys parents, one of whom was a minister and the other a teacher, came into face the reality that their sons were bullies. Sadly bullying has no class distinctions.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health released the results of a survey that shows that one quarter of Ontario students in Grades 7-12 have reported being bullied at school. This represented approximately 225,000 students whose peers made their lives a living hell. More males than females reported being bullied.

When I was at Saunders we mourned the death of Brendan a 15 year old Chippewa of the Thames student. He was bullied on the very long bus ride to school every day by some of his fellow students. Hard to face constant teasing in the morning/evening with no where to find peace. Rather then confront those who ridiculed him, Brendan chose to take his own life. Death is like unto a silent cry for help to end the pain.

Why, you ask, would a young man commit suicide? My many years of counselling young people has taught me that our youth can find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place with no place to hide.

They often feel that no one can help. Tattling on the offender is not a viable alternative for teenagers; they fear that it can only make matters worse. Keeping the pain to yourself and not retaliating is the norm; hopefully the perpetrators will cease their mocking ways and find someone else to pick on.

The internet chat line allows the slurs and put downs to follow long after the end of school when the teenagers turn on their computers.

Students good marks and a boy singing in the Amabile Choir can earn praise from parents and teachers but it doesnít always impress their classmates. Hard to be accepted by the guys if you donít play hockey or football. Being accepted and liked by your classmates is paramount to teenagers.

There are warnings indicators for parents that flash if you know the signs. Young children who are victimized may complain of headaches and stomach aches especially in the morning before school. Younger children may become clingy with their parents whereas older children tend to isolate themselves in their bed room. Loaners are not often happy involved youngsters.

Please take the time to go for a walk with your children and ask them how they are doing?

Teachers should look for teens who eat in the cafeteria all by themselves and are different from the other students. The so called "nerdy" student can often be left out of the social mix.

Elementary school parents and teachers should be cognisant of the quiet, helpful, youngster who opts to stay in for recess/lunch to help clean the boards rather than kick the soccer ball around with the rest of the class. Children sometimes fake sickness rather then face the hassle on the school bus every morning.

Parents , students teachers have to emphasize that bullying is unacceptable behaviour that will not be tolerated in our schools. The Thames Valley School Board has a zero tolerance policy toward violence that has to be enforced. "Verbal/physical demeaning of students must be investigated and dealt with forthwith."

The school has to offer everyone a safe place to study and grow without the fear of harassment.

We can not afford to lose another talented studentís life to bullying/suicide. We all grieve when one of our young childrenís lives is ripped from our midst.

P.S The last time I spoke to Andrewís mother he had graduated from college and he is for the most part a happy young man.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com