Steinberg: Sports can battle bullying

Steinberg Says

November 24, 2012|By Leigh Steinberg

For some of us, middle school and high school were times for creating wonderful memories of friendship, unique events and learning. For victims of bullying, the school experience can be a daily terror — mental and emotional abuse, the crushing of self-esteem, and even physical violence.

These students may carry the harrowing images and feelings with them for a lifetime, never fully recovering. School administrators, teachers, police and even parents too often ignore the ramifications of this daily harassment by peers until it is too late.

My daughter Katie — co-President of the Human Relations Committee, a group of 40 students from Corona del Mar High School dedicated to preventing the abuse of students by their peers — helped host a showing of the film "Bully" at The Lido Theatre in Newport Beach recently.


The film's director, Lee Hirsch, was a victim of bullying himself and made this documentary so that the hidden lives of bullied children would be brought out in the open. He followed students and their families in Georgia, Iowa, Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma during the 2009-10 school year. It focuses on the deaths of Tyler Long and Ty Smalley, victims of bullying who took their own lives. The film describes in great detail how the average American school kid cannot defend him or herself against ridicule.

This abuse goes on every day at schools across the country. Just this month, a 16-year-old student and football player in Omaha was beaten by his teammates so brutally that a blood clot near the brain was caused, and he still fights for his life.  

In late September, seven student-athletes in Arkansas were suspended for tying a noose around their black teammate's neck and started to hang him.

Kids are beaten up and verbally taunted on school buses, the schoolyard and in bathrooms. They are taunted in a way that may scar them for life.

In the social hierarchy of most schools, where students divide themselves into cliques, athletes sit at the top in terms of prestige and respect. Because of our veneration of sports, the feats of student-athletes, especially football players, give them top status. They tend to be better developed physically, larger and stronger than their peers.

Sports builds tremendous camaraderie and friendships, so athletes tend to congregate with each other when they have time. If there is a desirable crowd of friends to be part of on a campus, they will almost always be at its center.

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