The first few weeks of school are a confusing time of navigating new schedules, getting to know new teachers and even making new friends, but one thing no kid should have to deal with is being a victim of bullying. Students at a Nebraska high school are outraged and appalled after a deaf student was targeted by bullies during an incident in their school cafeteria last week.
Alex Hernandez, who's been deaf since age 1 and wears a cochlear implant, set his backpack down on a chair in the Burke High School cafeteria while he went to get some food. In the time it took him to get through the lunch line, two boys stole his backpack and dumped most of his belongings — including his English project, his debit card and a spare battery for his Cochlear implant — into the toilet.
Hernandez reported his bag missing as soon as he got back to his lunch table, and administrators reviewed security footage that showed two male students walking off with it. It wasn't until later that another teen found Hernandez's belongings stuffed in the toilet, and now students at the school say they're disgusted and horrified that anyone could be so cruel. Some of Hernandez's friends even set up a GoFundMe to raise money to replace his things, and they've gotten about $830 so far.
The response to the incident is heartwarming, but it doesn't change the fact that Hernandez never should've been victimized in the first place. Kids should know better than to steal from, harm or humiliate their classmates, especially by the time they've reached high school and are mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions. The conversation about bullying is one every parent and child should be having, as early and as often as possible.
According to the Department of Education, around 28 percent of students in grades 6 through 12 have been victims of bullying, and about 30 percent of kids in that same age group admit to being bullies themselves. Even more troubling, only about 30 percent of bullying victims actually turn to adults for help. It can be embarrassing to admit you're being bullied, and often kids feel like no one will really listen to or believe them. That's why it's so important to stop bullying before it starts.
We talk to our kids about sex, drugs and alcohol during every possible opportunity. We need to be just as willing to talk to them about treating others with kindness and respect and stepping in when they see someone in need. No child should ever have to go through what Hernandez faced last week, and the fact that two high school students thought it was in any way acceptable to be so cruel to one of their peers only proves that each and every one of us needs to do better.
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