“We are all to blame. We have not done enough. Not nearly enough.”
So read the stark editorial sprawled across the full front page of the Sioux City Journal (Iowa) this past Sunday.
It was published in response to the recent suicide of a 14-year-old local boy who had been bullied at school. After Kenneth Weishuhn apparently told friends he was gay, his family said the harassment began, according to the newspaper.
“This is not a failure of one group of kids, one school, one town, one county or one geographic area. Rather, it exposes a fundamental flaw in our society, one that has deep-seated roots. Until now, it has been too difficult, inconvenient — maybe even painful — to address. But we can’t keep looking away,” the editorial says.
What makes Weishuhn’s death even more terribly dramatic is that it came just as the new film “Bully” opened in town.
That film, which casts a harsh glare on adult negligence, happens to feature Sioux City. Another local boy who was bullied there, Alex Libby, has become the heroic poster boy for the film and for the issue nationally.
“A lot of newspapers shy away from putting editorials on the front page, but we feel we have to be a strong advocate for our community,” Journal editor Mitch Pugh told the Associated Press. “And if we don’t do that, we’re not sure who else is.”
The newspaper’s writers urge readers to see the movie “Bully” and also to take more responsibility for the way their children treat each other. They suggest more monitoring of social media (guidance many experts in the field suggest) and reviewing national initiatives such as stopbullying.gov.
“Some in our community will say bullying is simply a part of life. If no one is physically hurt, they will say, what’s the big deal? It’s just boys being boys and girls being girls.
“Those people are wrong, and they must be shouted down…” the editorial continues.
“How many times have each of us witnessed an act of bullying and said little or nothing? After all, it wasn’t our responsibility. A teacher or an official of some kind should step in. If our kid wasn’t involved, we figured, it’s none of our business.
“Try to imagine explaining that rationale to the mother of Kenneth Weishuhn.”