This has got to stop

Bonanza Valley Voice publisher's column, May 26, 2022.

I so vividly remember a conversation I had one afternoon in the spring of 1995, when the late Terry Frazee called me in to his principal office in the newly-remodeled B-B-E high school in Belgrade, told me to sit down, sunk his shoulders and looked me in the eye before saying, "Randy, I'm gonna keep this short, I'm sure you want to get back to Mr. Gesellchen's chemistry."

Frazee looked me straight in the eye and said, "I know you meant well, but please, don't bully the bully."

I sat for a moment with my back sunk into the chair across his desk, eyes wide open, and said as I nodded with pursed lips, "Okay."

He went on to say that I wasn't in trouble, but also that I went "a little overboard" when I slammed a kid up against the window near the back of Don Segaar's bus one morning on the way to Belgrade.

I admitted to Mr. Frazee that I had snapped. I had heard enough from this kid who was running their potty mouth and putting other kids down. I'll never forget leaping out of my seat and across the aisle near the back of Don's 84-passenger, flat-nosed bus and unleashing my fury.

That was over 26 years ago, Mr. Frazee has passed away, but the issue of kids running their mouths and putting others down continues to this day.

To be clear, Frazee had a very good point. On my way out of his room, he said, "Randy, if nothing else, you can get in their face, but you can't shove them and lose your cool like that. I don't want to see you get in trouble either."

I will forever be grateful for my friendship with Mr. Frazee, who did not shy away from giving me "Come to Jesus" talks if I needed them. He deeply and richly cared for students of Brooten and later B-B-E. I am so sad that I can't pick up the phone and give him a call.

In all communities across America, We're reaching a crisis point the nation's epidemic of kids who are anxious, nervous, depressed and lonely. This should not happen where I live or where you live! No! It can't go on like this. We can start by encouraging kids to get off of their phones and use more of their time for in-person, face-to-face type of activities. You know, LIKE KIDS USED TO LIVE before screens ruined childhoods! We need to help teach children how to interact in person with one another. That just builds them up for when they are adults. Why is this such a difficult concept to understand? Why do I even have to say it?

We must also be good to one another. The practice of treating some families, adults or even children as less worthy because of their past or because of their last name or for any other stupid reason must come to an end. Please. PLEASE. This HAS to stop.

I am pleading with every single person out there: avoid this behavior. Be good to one another.

Qualities that I see are meaningful are: (1.) Are you good to other people around you? and (2.) How hard to you work and use your skills and talents? (3.) Are you a reliable person who shows up to work on time every day? (4.) Are you teachable and curious about the world we live in?

Teasing is one thing. While that's unfortunate behavior, it is part of childhood that we should use as a teachable moment if it's nixed early by peers or by adults.

Then there's another level where a child is bad-mouthing one another and tearing them down.

If these actions become patterns, then we can reach the legal definition of bullying.

Repeated teasing can be construed as bullying. Bullying is a repetitive action (words and/or deeds) and simply cannot happen in our small communities.

This column wasn't inspired by kids teasing or even bad-mouthing one another. This column was inspired by the idea that a person or a group of people can repeatedly grind someone that they see as lesser than them into the ground. This does not happen as an isolated incident but is repeated over and over and over across a period of months and years. Example: a student who may be in third, fourth or fifth grade and knows all too well the feeling of his or her peers grinding them into the ground. School staff can't police every interaction between children. Parents need to step up and become more involved in solving this issue.

After you read this, a parting comment to think about is: how do we keep bullies in check? If a person is inclined to be a bully, how do we respond to that in a legal and humane manner? (Not shoving a bully against the side of a school bus...that's assault and can't be tolerated either.)

I digress.


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