by Ainsley Burns, Shelby Frisby, and Kyler Zuccato
Even though many people are unaware, language can harm a lot of people. Studies show that 17% of American students are bullied each year as well as over ten thousand students attempt and complete suicide each year. Most of these deaths could have been prevented if schools tried to limit the amount of harmful language and bullying that occurs each day.
America's Health Rankings, an online analytics website, shows that suicide is highest ranked among male students rather than females, but females have more attempts. They also say that Native American students are the most likely to attempt suicide along with students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. The rankings also estimate that bullying is one of the biggest reasons to attempt suicide.
Webster Dictionary defines bullying as “abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc. : the actions and behavior of a bully.” The National Centre Against Bullying lists types of bullying on their website. The list includes physical, verbal, social, and cyber. They describe verbal bullying as “insults, teasing, intimidation, homophobic or racist remarks, or verbal abuse.” While verbal bullying can seem harmless, it can quickly become a real problem and target certain parts of a student’s appearance and identity.
In spite of the fact that swear words have their place in people’s vocabularies, when used against other people, they quickly become derogatory. In instances where people use swear words, slurs, and harmful insults as a way to harm someone with knowledge and intent to hurt someone’s feelings, then it becomes extremely harmful for a school’s culture. Not only does it start to set a precedent for future generations that attend the school, but it seriously affects the students. As shown in the statistics above, school can be hard for people of minorities and by allowing things like swearing, slurs, and harmful language to raise the levels of suicide attempts.
The Hope Squad is something new at our school. It’s a group that was formed to help our school have a better culture. Something we strongly recommend for the Hope Squad is to stop bullying before it gets to a point where it sets a precedent. We also challenge you to talk to the Hope Squad if you feel these emotions of suicide, self-harm or if you are being bullied. The Hope Squad is here to give us a push in the right direction, to help us change our school culture, but they can't do it alone. They need help, and by not saying hurtful words towards others, we can lessen bullying and suicide rates. In schools that use a similar program to the Hope Squad, the students took a survey asking if the program helped make a better school culture (Nobullyingschools.com). 87% of the students said that the program did in fact help the school culture. 89% of the students said that the program helped them learn to speak up for themselves and others. These programs are helping, but the students need to be helping too. We can't just sit back and wait for the Hope Squad to make all of the bullying and inappropriate use of words go away.
So in conclusion, bullying is terrible, between calling people “dumb” to calling people “gay” (in the sense of an insult) it leads to people being depressed and killing themselves. 17% of students are bullied in some way. If we dumb that down to how many kids are in our school– let’s say 1300–that would be 221 people in our school alone, being bullied! Our call to action for you is to not only think about the words you choose to say but to let the Hope Squad help. Everybody is going through something. No matter who they are, what they look like or who they associate themselves with, everyone is going through something.