About 160,000 students, afraid of being attacked or harassed, skip school every day. Bullying begins in elementary school, peaks in middle school and lessens in high school, but it does not stop there. It has recently moved from inside school hallways onto the football field. Though evidence is still coming to light, it’s clear that a Miami Dolphin lineman, Richie Incognito, acted inappropriately toward a vulnerable teammate, Jonathan Martin. The fact that the resulting investigation has made hundreds of headlines is no surprise: Bullying is a significant problem. The fact that many children admire NFL players makes it critical for locker room behavior to be honorable.
Although we applaud the media for giving this story so much attention, we urge a resolvable ending: A lesson needs to be learned. No one should tolerate the maltreatment of others for any reason. Incognito, Martin’s teammates, coaches and fans can learn from this incident to prevent acts of harassment from happening in the future.
How? By the use of healthy communication strategies — a solution-based approach employed by the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding.
So how can a person be truly heroic, not only on the field, but also off? By seeking restorative justice in all scenarios. It seems likely that the Incognito case would have ended differently and that the bullying of students would decrease if peace-building techniques were used earlier. As our country flourishes, we not only need to recognize scandalous behavior, but offer supportive solutions! The RPCP has organized workshops, marches and compelling events to raise awareness for peace in all forms. In the near future, we hope this knowledge will continue to grow, not just in Gainesville, but around the world.
This letter to the editor ran on page 7 on 11/20/2013 under the headline "Bullying is a pervasive problem in our society"