I’ve thought a lot about Carl Walker-Hoover in the past few days, as I’m sure you have, too. After reading my post on Tuesday, several people have contacted me asking me for guidance on what they can do to help keep another tragedy like this from happening again. I don’t have all the answers, but there are several things you can do, whether you are a parent, teacher, student , or concerned adult. The number one thing you can do if you see bullying occurring is to speak up. Unfortunately, that’s also often the hardest thing for many people to do, but that silence is perceived as approval of the behavior to the bully. Actually, it’s perceived that way by both the bully and by other members of the community, who figure if you didn’t say anything then it must be okay with you.
I found two good websites that have information that can help. The first is GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). There’s plenty of information there for all of us, and if you’ve never checked them out I encourage you to do that right away. Specifically, the page entitled Four Steps Schools Can Take to Address Bullying.
If you are a student, you may feel pretty helpless when you witness bullying or when you are the victim of bullying. At a site called Stop Bullying Now! there’s a page for kids called Tip Sheet for Kids: How Can You Help? You won’t be able to do it all, but hopefully you can get some ideas about things you can do. Please know that there are adults around who care very much about you and who want to help.
When I taught middle school, I had a poster on my wall that was, yeah, pretty darn hokey. But it was also at the very core of what every good teacher should believe — and I think what every member of our society should believe, as well. If you’re a teacher or you’ve spent much time in classrooms, I’m sure you’ve seen this one. But now try to think of it in the context of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover.
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?
You can’t make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said … “I made a difference for that one.”
Tomorrow would have been Carl’s 12th birthday. Somebody could have — should have — made a difference for him.