On My Soap Box: Stop Blaming The Victims

It’s always a little awkward, writing a blog post after a long period of silence. I decided that instead of trying to explain my absence, I would come back with a regular Soap Box feature. About once a week, I would find something that made me feel outraged, and I would vent about it.

With that decision made, all I had to do to kick off my weekly Soap Box was look for something that would rile me up.

Cue the #WalkUpNotOut movement.

#WalkUpNotOut arose in response to the US national school walkout led by kids who are understandably fed up with their schools being shot up. The call to action takes various forms, but the general gist is this:

Instead of staging a walk-out to protest the fact that the lack of sensible gun laws makes schools inherently unsafe, students should walk up to some kid in their class who is bullied or ostracized, and be nice to them. This is based on the idea that the perpetrators of school shootings are kids who are bullied to the point where they finally snap and pull out an assault weapon.

Look. I’m not arguing with the validity of teaching kids to be kind to one another. On the contrary, that should be an inherent part of life. If I ever caught my son being a bully, he would be in the most unbelievable amount of trouble. Fortunately, I don’t have that problem, because empathy is one of his dominant character traits. He is the kid who defends those who are being picked on. He is a staunch advocate for his autistic brother – indeed, for anyone who is in any way “different”.

So, yes. Let’s teach our kids to be kind. Let’s encourage them to stand up for others, not only on #WalkUpNotOut day, but every single day.

I am fully in support of that.

What I am not in support of is blaming the victims of gun violence for not being nice enough to the people who killed them. If some kid is angry enough, desperate enough or just plain evil enough to pull out a gun and murder people, he or she is probably not going to be deterred by a friendly conversation in the cafeteria.

Yes, kids are responsible for not behaving like jerks to other kids. But in no way, shape or form are they responsible for preventing mass murder in their schools. Why? Because they are kids, and keeping them safe at school is the job of adults. It’s up to the grown-ups to ensure that adequate mental health services are provided, that bullies are appropriately dealt with, and that killing machines are not readily available to those who are unhinged enough to use them.

I am fed up with the victim-blaming that I have been seeing. I am tired of seeing social media posts that say, “These kids who are marching for gun legislation can’t even be bothered to stop bullying their peers.” I mean, that’s a pretty sweeping statement. It’s reasonable to assume that the protesters include a broad spectrum of students, from the bullies to the bullied and everyone in between.

Every single child has the right to go to school with a reasonable expectation that they will not be shot in their classroom before the day is out. Every child – and yes, that includes the bullies.

So let’s teach our kids to be kind and decent human beings. But let us not take away their right to expect a safe educational environment. To the kids who are speaking out, keep it up. Make your voices heard, long, loud and clear.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Jeffrey Bary. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

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Copyright Kirsten Doyle