Bailey O’Neill turned 12 on Saturday. On Sunday, he was taken off life support.
Bailey’s father, Rob O’Neill, says his son was being bullied on January 10 by a couple of kids after school, when his son was punched in the face multiple times. Bailey’s nose was fractured, and he fell to the ground, causing a concussion, Mr. O’Neill told ABC News. The incident, which occurred during recess on January 10 at Darby Township School, was recorded on surveillance cameras, the Philadelphia Inquirer says.
A few days after the incident, Bailey started having violent seizures. Doctors at E.I. duPont Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, put Bailey into a medically-induced coma.
Although officials from Southeast Delco School District, citing the age of the students and an ongoing police investigation, could not comment extensively at the time, Bailey’s dad told ABC that the boy who hit Bailey was suspended from school for two days.
To date, no charges have been filed and the school district has not released additional details about the incident, says the Philadelphia Inquirer, but the county District Attorney’s office is still investigating. According to the Inquirer, the video shows Bailey and a second boy involved in the incident. A third boy, not physically involved, is also seen.
Bailey’s story breaks our collective hearts not just because of the tragic loss of a young life, but because we feel so powerless to help. I live two miles from Darby Township School, and like pretty much everyone else in my community, I followed Bailey’s progress via a Facebook page called Building Hope for Bailey. The thing is, every time I click “like” on an anti-bullying Facebook status, I can’t help but realize that as an adult clicking “like” on Facebook, I am doing absolutely nothing to help kids like Bailey. I click anyway because it seems like it’s all I can do.
So what else can I do? What can we as parents do? I feel like there are plenty of resources out there on what to do if your child is being bullied, and even what to do if your child is a bully. We’ve taught our kids to “tell an adult” if someone is being bullied. So what do you do when your kid tells you that someone they know is being bullied?
Carrie Goldman, the author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear, says it’s important to give your child a plan–but also to take action yourself.
“Studies have shown that even the act of witnessing bullying can trigger a reaction in the brain of a bystander,” Ms. Goldman said to me in an email. ”Humans have an ostracism detection system, and when a kid watches someone else being bullied, his or her own brain sends signals of anxiety. Knowing this, advising a child to do nothing in order to ‘stay out of it’ actually fails to acknowledge that even doing nothing can cause the observer to suffer. A far better option is to teach children how to act as witnesses and allies instead of merely bystanders. It soothes a bystander’s own anxiety to feel like he or she has a plan.”
Ms. Goldman, who blogs at Portrait of an Adoption, suggests role playing with kids to help them feel confident in dealing with bullying behavior.
“We can teach kids to have a list of options to run through in their mind when they see bullying or aggression,” said Ms. Goldman. ”One option may be to quickly organize a group of people to help you pull the victim to safety. Organizing several people is ideal, because we never want a bystander to put himself or herself into danger by rushing alone into an attack. If there is no safe way to extract the victim, we can teach kids to go to their next option, which may be calling for help or sending someone for help.
“Another option that is critically important is simply for a child to make a written report of what happened, which is necessary for schools to sort out what happened and to take action. Even the act of calling or visiting the victimized person after the attack can provide immense comfort and reduce feelings of isolation. All of these are ways to act as witnesses instead of bystanders. Kids should be prepared to choose from a whole host of strategies.”
At the same time, parents who have been told about a child being bullied need to do something. Here are ten suggestions about ways parents can help stop bullying right now:
(Photo Credit: Facebook/Building Hope for Bailey)
A fundraising page to help Bailey’s family with funeral expenses and lost income (from the time spent in the hospital at Bailey’s side) is here.
What else can you do to stop bullying? Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen, creators of the 2011 film Bully, share their tips on Babble.
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