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Paul Coughlin Christian Blog and Commentary

Bullying, School Shootings & Promise of Redemption

  • Paul Coughlin

    Paul Coughlin is a former newspaper editor and is the author of numerous books, including the No More Christian Nice Guy, and Raising Bully-Proof Kids. He is the Founder of The Protectors: Freedom From Bullying—Courage, Character & Leadership for Life, (www.theprotectors.org), which provides a values-based and faith-based program that combats the cruelty of adolescent bullying in schools, summer camps, Sunday School, and other places where bullying is prevalent.

    He is a popular speaker who has appeared on Good Morning America, Nightline, 700 Club, Focus on the Family, C-SPAN, The LA Times, FamilyLife Radio, HomeWord with Jim Burns, The New York Times, Newsweek and other media outlets. He is a regular keynote speaker with Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conferences.

    His freedom-from-bullying program is used by hundreds throughout North America as well as in England, Australia, Uganda, New Zealand, Brazil, and South Africa. The Protector’s has partnered with Saddleback Church’s Justice & Trafficking Initiative in creating the first-ever Justice Begins on the Playground seminar that helps both faith-based and values-based organizations diminish bullying.

    He is a Boys Varsity Soccer Coach in Southern Oregon, where he was voted Coach of the Year twice, and where he is also a member of the Board of Trustees. He and his wife Sandy have three teenagers and live in Medford, Oregon. Contact him at: paul@theprotectors.org

  • 2012 Dec 13
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Survivors of Columbine shooting hug soon after rampage. According to the Secret Service, most school shootings are the result of ongoing bullying. 

 

While school shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold continued their killing spree through Columbine High School, one student, Cassie Bernall, hid under a table and prayed fervently to God. "Dear God! Dear God! Why is this happening?! I just want to go home," reports the girl who crouched next to her. Klebold peered under and said sardonically, "Peekaboo." He then killed Cassie. 

 

Fourteen-year-old Michael Carneal, a bespectacled ninth-grader, walked into Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, carrying a large parcel wrapped in a quilt. He lied and told a somewhat suspicious teacher that the bundle contained "props for a science project." 

 

Shortly before 8 am, just before the first bell rang, this son of a respected lawyer and church elder put down his bundle, inserted earplugs, drew a weapon, and fired twelve shots into a circle of students gathered for Christian prayer in the lobby. Students screamed, clutched their own faces and each other, crying hysterically. Soon two girls lay dead. A third died a short time later. Five others were hospitalized; two partially paralyzed for life.

 

"I'm sorry," Carneal calmly told principal Bill Bond. According to Bond, Carneal's school essays and short stories revealed a recurring theme: The nightmare of bullying. He felt "picked on, weak, and powerless." He "had been teased all his life" and "just struck out in anger at the world."

 

School shooter, 16-year-old Luke Woodham, wrote in his journal before murdering two students and injuring seven others: "I am not insane. I am angry. I am not spoiled or lazy.… I killed because people like me are mistreated every day.… I am malicious because I am miserable."

 

Like innocent Cassie Bernall, our nation continues to ask: Dear God, why is this happening? The Secret Service knows why. It interviewed 37 school shooters and asked them why they did it. Nearly all of them said they murdered due to ongoing bullying. The Secret Service concluded that many cases met the legal definition of harassment and the moral definition of torment.

 

Bullying is about unequal power, not common conflict. And what history and today's headlines continue to tell us is that some will eventually reach for a weapon to level or exceed this gross imbalance of power. It's not about guns, knives or related weaponry. It's about unchallenged abuse, neglect, injustice and related afflictions. For people of faith, it's about leaving our spiritual Switzerland: our love for comfortable but faith-damaging neutrality while the war for human dignity rages onward. Bullying is preventable as the following Protectors success story demonstrates.

 

The sound and fury of a bullet ripping through a school's hallway is almost always the language of target rage: of the unheard, neglected, scorned, humiliated and abused. Sometimes it is a plea of a confused and tormented youth at the end of his rope, of someone who can no longer withstand the daily humiliation set around his neck like the millstone that it is.

 

Targets of the intentional and systematic abuse called bullying sometimes choose another drastic measure to relieve themselves of psychological turmoil. They attack themselves. This week The Protectors was contacted by the community of Fenton High School in Michigan for help. This is where around lunch time on November 27, senior Josh Pacheco quoted Bilbo Baggins on Facebook: "I regret to announce that this is the end. I'm going now, I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye."  Josh was found unresponsive in his truck, which was running in the closed-up garage. He left a note: "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be strong enough." Few adults are strong enough to endure what we expect our youth to endure.

 

Help us Help More Children

Help us answer Cassie's haunting question: "Dear God. Why is this happening?" Because hundreds of thousands of children are having their God-given dignity, value and worth stripped from them everyday. These children are made in the image of God, yet some treat targets as if there is no God at all. And due to the unique dynamic of bullying, many targets are incapable of self-rescue.

They need a protector, which is what we do. We're defending them through our unique, faith-based solution. We're raising up a generation of bold, courageous and faith-filled youth who will no longer remain silent when they witness such cruelty. They are Protectors, like Melody, who witnessed bullying on her playground. Melody used assertive but non-violent words straight from The Protectors program, which ended the verbal attack immediately. Now Melody and the former bully, together, protect other children in their Tennessee school.  

 

When Melody (above) shared her Protector's victory story with her class, her 5th grade teacher says, "Her fellow students spontaneously, without my direction, stood up and applauded herThis is one example of how this program empowers students in my class to do the right thing…Thanks for sharing your God-inspired wisdom."

 

We want to create more courageous Protectors like Melody throughout the world. Numerous organizations contact us needing help right away, but they cannot afford our current program. So we've created an inexpensive but still powerful resource just for them. It's called the Hero in You Faith-Based Anti-Bullying Program and our fundraising campaign to complete this life-saving resource ends in just 20 days. To help rescue more children from this intentional but preventable form of abuse, click hereHero in You Faith-Based Anti-Bullying Program.