I know this topic has been big in the news lately. A father got on a bus to confront his child’s bully. A college kid committed suicide after being outed in the internet. Then a few more of these were reported.

I started seeing postings on this topic everywhere. I saw an excellent essay on this topic at They Call Me Jane. I watched the Ellen clip, read the Newsweek article about Phoebe Prince.

Book Cover from Barnes and Noble.com

Book Cover from Barnes and Noble.com

But before any of those events I had been reading 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult. It was a book chosen by my book group set in New Hampshire before, during and after a school shooting. The culprit is a 17-year-old boy who has been bullied since the moment he stepped on the school bus for kindergarten.

The situation doesn’t end, ever. Not when his parents try to bolster him, not when he develops one friend and another deserts him. He is the object the ‘cool’ kids choose to grind down into nothingness. Until one day he strikes back in the most terrifying way possible.

Our point of view comes from his mother, his former best friend, her mother and him. Occasionally, we hear from his brother,  father and a detective on the case as well as the lawyer for the boy.  For me, the most heartbreaking was that of his mother. She saw the problems but never did enough. It wasn’t until the event was over that she began to understand how bad it was and that even their own home was not welcoming to him.

I cried for a week after reading this book. I wondered if my kids went through or go through this stuff now. Why do I send them to school? Would I sit back and ‘let’ it happen to this degree?

You would think that once kids get to college that life would get better. But we have seen news stories that tell the truth. People still need to be bullies no matter how old they are. Worse yet, it can go viral with no place to hide.

What really bothered me most was the story in Newsweek that seemed to give the opinion that it is wrong to punish the bullies, especially in cases where the victim commits suicide. After all, the kids we are punishing are ‘good kids.’ They are smart, privileged and going to college. These will be future leaders.

I used to work for an adult bully; I worked for several. And I am willing to bet all of these people acted the same in high school and college. They were happy to pick on anyone who was different from them, be it talent or emotional sensitivity or sexual orientation.

I do not want these type of people to be leaders. Didn’t we see enough of this behavior during the Karl Rove era? This is a man who crafted political campaigns that called opponents who were military veterans, including a Vietnam prison camp prison survivor, unpatriotic and won those contests. This is a man who secretly outed a CIA operative to columnist Robert Novak because her husband dared speak out against President Bush and his policies.

Bullies do not stop being bullies just because they grow up and pretend to mature. They just use their tactics on the playing field to which they propel themselves. In some ways, high school never ends. Never!

So while I wring my hands and wonder what I would do, I applaud those parents who do something. I applaud that dad who got on the bus and had his special needs child identify her bullies. He lectured and yelled. He let those kids know that their behavior is stupid and hurtful and NOT OK.

I applaud a mother who posted on the Newsweek article about how she took it to the principal, then the superintendent and then the school board when her daughter was bullied and it would not stop. She kept a log and noted every phone call and every bullying incident. Finally, she sued the school district to get the bullying to stop. Her daughter called her a warrior mom.

The sad part about all of this is that after Columbine, we all vowed to stop bully behavior. Rules and laws were put in to place. Life was going to be better, we were going to find a Nirvana where peaceful co-existence would be the law of the land.

I am still waiting for that to happen. And if I want that to happen, I guess in my corner of the world, I have to make it happen.