The images of a mother sobbing at the bedside of a child fighting for his life after a brutal attack by his classmates is enough to send shivers down your spine. But for Valerie Brewer, the mother of 15-year-old Michael Brewer, the pain and agony have become her reality.
Last week, Michael was doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire after he turned in another teen for trying to steal his father's bicycle. As a result of the attack, he suffered burns over 80 percent of his body.
Sad as the story may be, it's easy for us to disconnect ourselves from the pain they are both feeling and think we are worlds away from that type of violence - after all we are hundreds of miles away. But that assumption could not be further form the truth as a new generation comes of age in an ever-changing society.
The institution of violence is not new and bullies have been around since the dawn of time. Society being what it is, it's doubtful they will become extinct any time in the near future.
Individual, familial, peer, school and community factors can all contribute to why a child feels the need to bully. We can argue that factors such as his or her environment, lack of discipline, parents who seemingly don't care or are too busy, the decrease in church attendance, etc., compound the issue- but the truth is there is no real reason for the nonsense.
Bullying is a way to gain power. But in the long run it only creates a lose-lose situation. It's a different philosophical stance to try to gain power over a person through bullying, versus negotiating or discussing a matter in order to come to an agreement.
Sad as it may be, bullying can begin as early as kindergarten. Children do it in school, in the classroom, in the restrooms, on the playground, in the cafeteria and even on the bus. And there are several different types - physical bullying, relational bullying by spreading rumors or gossiping, peer sexual harassment, stereotyping based on race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender, and thanks to technology, we have cyber bullying by email, instant message, text or other digital means.
Violent actions and crimes inflicted against young people, by young people are not too far from reality, even in Tyler County, as recent events have shown.
As adults, parents and school administrators we should listen to our children's fears and concerns; we should talk to school officials to make sure supervision and structure are in place; and we should help our children's self-esteem by letting them know they are valued and cared for.
Children should never have to face the effects of a bully and mother's should never have to grieve themselves over a bully's actions against their child.
There has to be another way.