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A six-year-old bully? Really?

Can a 6-year-old be a bully? The bully label is sweeping the country, and any act of childhood unkindness becomes 'bullying.'

By Correspondent / June 19, 2012

Bully, as a label applied to any unkind kid, is losing its importance when it comes to describing actual incidents of "classical" bullying. A 6-year-old probably doesn't deserve the hyperbolic label. In this undated film image, Alex Libby is shown in the documentary film, "Bully."

The Weinstein Company/AP


Ok, folks.  I’m about to go on a bully rant here.

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is a longtime Monitor correspondent. She lives in Andover, Mass. with her husband, her two young daughters, a South African Labrador retriever and an imperialist cat..

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But first, to give you some context, check out this news tidbit coming out of Texas this morning:

A district attorney’s office is investigating a mom’s complaints that teachers at her 6-year-old’s San Antonio elementary school publicly labeled her son a bully, and then told the rest of the class to line up and hit him to “teach him a lesson.”  The 24 other kids then proceeded to wallop little Aiden Neely, whose mom says he had been simply cutting in line. 

He wasn’t physically hurt, mom Amy Neely said, but he certainly suffered emotional damage.

“My heart stopped, my stomach was in knots, I was in shock, I really was,” she told the local television station. “I just couldn’t believe a teacher would do that.”

Um, yeah.

Because...  it’s crazy.  (Even if I know a few teachers who wish they had thought of it first.)

Now, it would be easy for me to continue this post by writing about how bullying is bad, but how it’s also seriously misguided to teach kids that violence is the correct response to violence. Blah blah blah.  (And that’s apparently the message Neely’s school is trying to send; it has apparently fired one of the teachers involved and put the other on administrative leave.)

But that conclusion only scratches the surface.

The deeper issue, I’d venture, is the “bully” phenomenon sweeping America.

And no, I don’t mean that bullying is sweeping America, invading the schoolyards and classrooms and cyber-lives of U.S. children. (Although that’s the sense you’d get if you follow, like we do, news about the social lives of kids.)  I mean that the concept of the “bully,” as catch-all world to describe pint-sized boogeymen of every flavor, has gone viral.

It has gotten to the point, we’ve noticed, where any variety of childhood unkindness is labeled “bullying,” and stories about “bullies” are so common (and different from one another) that they have started to lose their meaning. Say “bully” and the word evokes emotion – omg, Mitt Romney might have been a bully in high school!  Should he be president? – but few facts.  


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