COLUMN: Romney’s response fails to address growing bullying issue

By Justin Colman

On May 10, Jason Horowitz of The Washington Post published a story about how five of Mitt Romney’s peers at Cranbrook School recalled when they bullied a 17-year-old John Lauber.

Romney, according to the report, led the charge against Lauber. Romney was disturbed by how Lauber looked. With bleached blonde hair that slightly covered an eye, Romney said that Lauber “can’t look like that.”

Several weeks later, Romney’s peers isolated Lauber, then pinned him to the floor and Romney, with a pair of scissors in hand, cut Lauber’s hair.

Bullying has always been an issue, but it was not addressed in the media as much as it is now.

With increasing news coverage on bully-related suicides, the Republican Presidential nominee could have made a stronger statement than what he said to Fox News Radio.

“As to pranks that were played back then, I don’t remember them all,” Romney said. “But again, high school days, if I did stupid things, why, I’m afraid I’ve got to say sorry for it.”

Romney’s statement was rather disappointing. While bullying was not as serious in 1965, it is an important and ever prevelant issue in 2012.

A survey was conducted by bullyingstatistics.org in 2010 said that one in seven children in the K-12 education system has either been a bully or a victim of bullying.

Those in school believe that the trend is getting worse, as 71 percent of students said bullying is an on-going problem.

In addition, 42 percent of these children said they have been bullied while online, with one in four being verbally attacked more than once.

Children in the school system see bullying as a problem, but Romney doesn’t understand how much worse bullying has become in schools.

“Bully” director Lee Hirsch invited Romney to see his film that documented bullying in schools, so he could see what is happening in the school system now. Romney did not attend to view the film. Hirsch saw this moment as a chance for people to rally around Romney.

“He could have said, ‘Forty years ago, we as a society looked at bullying as ‘kids will be kids’ and ‘boys will be boys.’ The reality is that this is no longer OK,’” Hirsch wrote in a Businessweek column.  “He’d have such enormous support if he said, ‘The way we looked at it then isn’t acceptable anymore.’”

With the news media, film industry and students in schools believing that bullying is problematic, one would think that a man such as Romney, a presidential candidate, would address this problem. Instead, he gives a mild response that shows he believes that bullying in 2012 is the same as bullying in 1965.

If Romney had made a statement that not only acknowledged his incident at Cranbrook, but also made a promise that he would increase efforts to eradicate bullying, he could have really helped his campaign.

Romney had a chance to make a good statement but did not. He downplayed the incident, offered a simple apology and moved on.

While this will not likely have any major role in the election, it would be nice to see Romney (and Obama as well) talk about things that are not on their platform.

That way, people could see that the candidates have something other than their platforms to talk about than what’s just on their platform.

It should be the President’s responsibility to ensure Americans that their children and their children’s children can have a good future.

That starts with the school systems and the need to provide children with a safe, hostility-free environment.

Unfortunately, this has become a growing problem that Romney has deemed “mild” and Obama has not addressed.

 

Justin Colman was a victim of bullying thoughout middle school. 

Contact him via email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter

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