Many years later when I was in middle school I had a similar experience. A couple of girls a few grades older passed me on the sidewalk and threatened to hurt me. That incident occurred just after school somewhere east of the Post Office on First North, as I recall. I barely knew those older girls, nor why they took cause to scare me. I’m pretty sure they got some sick satisfaction at bullying me. Again I got away as fast as I could. I will never forgot those girls, and to this day I avoid one of them who still lives in Moab. But I would bet that while I’ll never forget the event, she probably doesn’t remember it at all.
I experienced a third and similar occurrence years later in college when I got sideways with a dorm-mate who I suspected of stealing something from me. I spent the last weeks before summer looking over my shoulder to make sure her threats of bodily damage and death didn’t come true.
That fear, of one person’s harm on another, is unfortunately alive and well these many years later. Most school districts, including ours, have had anti-bullying programs in place for many years in an effort to stem the tide of fear among students. It is heartening to know that it is acceptable and even mandatory to report activities that constitute bullying. But more can be done.
An assembly at Grand County High School last week featured several students who spoke openly about the fears they had faced because they were bullied by others. Self-mutilation, thoughts of suicide, eating disorders and other maladies were identified as behaviors that were caused by their emotional trauma. Now this week, local high-schoolers are further traumatized knowing that two local 16-year-olds are being charged as adults in connection with the murder of a 33-year-old man.
This is a small town. There is talk in every circle about how this could happen, and there is sorrow for the families of the victims and the families of the suspects. There is sorrow even for the suspects. This stuff is about as heavy as it gets for any human being to take in, let alone young people who are challenged by the complexities of just being young.
Faculty members are wading through their own emotions in the wake of these events, and many are finding that their jobs as educators are sometimes expanded into being counselors and advisors.
These are difficult times for our youth. Growing up doesn’t seem to be getting any easier despite our efforts to keep kids feeling safe and sound. I’m pretty sure that when I was little I didn’t tell my parents I had been chased down the street. Why not then? Why not now? I hope there is more we can do as a community to listen to the hearts and words of our youth, and I appreciate the effort our educators have taken to make our schools safer.
This is a strange time in our community. Let’s take many moments to listen to our kids, and offer solutions and comfort where possible.