NEW YORK – It’s a hard video to watch, especially for parents with kids: a bigger, physically more daunting girl punches, kicks, eventually overpowers the petite-looking 10-year-old Ashawnty Davis, a fifth grader at the Sunrise Elementary School, in Aurora, Colorado. The victim tries in vain to fight back with some puny punches, looks defenseless, vulnerable.
Davis got into a physical confrontation after being relentlessly, mercilessly bullied in school. She decided to tackle her bully after school hours, came off worse for it. What she didn’t know was her abject trauma was going to get much worse. A student watching from the sidelines took a video of the fight, posted it on an app called Musical.ly.
That was in October.
The taunting and bullying after the video was posted intensified, the likely peals of laughter accompanying the teasing in school corridors and grounds shattering the little girl’s hope for any succor after trying to reckon with her bully.
“She was devastated when she found out that it had made it to Musical.ly,” Davis’ mother told Fox News.
Two weeks later, Davis came home, and hanged herself in her closet.
Doctors tried to save Davis’ life, put her on life support. It was in vain. She never woke up; died after two weeks at the Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Her parents say Davis, who wanted to be a WNBA star, died of “bullycide,” when a person died by suicide after being the subject of bullying.
Bullying, which children of immigrant and minority community face increasingly across the length and breadth of the country, is a vexatious issue. There are no set rules or regulations for it, schools have often total discretion over incidents.
Take the curious case of the mother of a fourth-grader at the Ocean View Elementary School, in Norfolk, Virginia, Sarah Sims, who was charged with felony – intercepting wire, electronic or oral communications – and would have got five years in jail, after she secretly sent a recording device in her daughter’s schoolbag to try pinpoint bullies, the perpetrators who made her daughter’s life miserable in school.
An arrest warrant was issued for Sims on November 1. After she turned herself in, she was arraigned in court on November 8. She posted bond, and a court date was set for January.
Better sense prevailed, however, after Sims went on air on CNN this week to recount her travails. Virginia prosecutors said Wednesday they had dropped all charges against her.
Sims decided to take matters into her own hands after her daughter had the previous year, in her third grade, “been kicked in her stomach and hit with a jump rope on the playground.” The school didn’t notify her then. Her daughter became “very anxious about attending” school, felt like she wasn’t “protected.”
Bullying is not likely to go away anytime in the US, unlike hazing on campuses where there are stricter rules to punish violators.
For brown folks, it’s getting harder, especially with President Trump’s recent salvo of tweets targeting Muslims, retweeting anti-Muslim propaganda videos.
Ishaq Pathan, INGYouth Manager of the Islamic Networks Group, a non-profit organization who counter all forms of bigotry through education and interfaith engagement, in a column in USA Today, noted: “Muslim students are being bullied at a rate of two to four times that of other student populations.”
Comments like, “Do you have a bomb in your backpack?” and “Make sure not to drive on the bike path” are faced by elementary-, middle- and high-school students alike.
“And it’s not only students who perpetrate this harassment. Muslim students tell of facing discrimination from their own teachers and staff — the very people charged with preventing bullying in the first place — which puts them in a tough position. Feeling unsafe on the bus, at lunch, in the hallways and even in the classroom, Muslim students often have nowhere to turn for help,” Pathan wrote.
The Huffington Post noted earlier this month that the American Sikh Council presented a turban to all the attendees of the International Bullying Prevention Association conference. Attendees were encouraged to wear the turban and walk around, gauge the reactions of strangers.
Half of all Sikh-American children face bullying in schools, and even more so if the child is wearing a turban. More boys are targeted than girls, and the American Sikh Council notes that some Sikh children are excluded from sport activities.
Bullies in school are racists. For them Muslims, Sikhs, people with brown skin, are all the same, victimized alike. If schools across the US don’t act as a unified force against bullies, there will be many more children like Ashawnty Davis who would rather die than face degradation every single day in school, a place meant for learning and fun.
Last year, an Indian American woman, writing under a pseudonym, in Elite Daily, described the bullying she suffered in high school, the psychological trauma she faces to this day.
She wrote: “You brown piece of sh*t. I’ve done everything I can to try and forget those words, but they will never leave me. Because inside of the wiser, grown-up me, there’s still scared, little-girl me. Whenever someone looks at me and stares a beat too long, I wonder, Why is that person looking at me? Is it because I’m brown?”
Perhaps, states across the US need to implement at the earliest ‘Jacobe’s Law’ to protect vulnerable children.
The New York state Senate this summer passed legislation known as ‘Jacobe’s Law,’ which requires schools to notify parents when a child is being threatened by a bully. It’s yet to become law though.
‘Jacob’e Law’ is named after 13-year-old Jacobe Taras who took his own life, like Davis, after being a victim of bullying.
How many more children need to die before states and school wake up, do something about it?
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: email@example.com Follow him on twitter @SujeetRajan1)