Mean girls…do they really mean it?

This week, a 16-year-old female visited the restroom at her school and emerged in a body bag.

Mean girl bullying is nothing new and it happens to anyone and everyone. I was bullied in junior high and every time Facebook suggests that I “friend” the girl who tormented me some 20 years ago, I laugh. However, twenty years ago, I was doing anything but laughing.

Girl grudges run deep. I know this because: 1.) I am a girl; 2.) As a teacher, I witness it every day.

While adolescence sparks many hormones and emotions, some adults forget that middle and high school students often react with their emotions without thinking about the consequences. Girl problems with adolescent students may appear trivial to adults, but to the students, these issues are MAJOR. All too many times I see school personnel brush off bullying among girls, claiming girls are just “catty” by nature, or figuring they will eventually “figure things out.”

I’m not a certified counselor, but I spend a good majority of my day speaking with my female students about their girl drama. Most of the time, they bring it to me. They may ask to have their seat moved or ask advice on how to deal with a situation. Sometimes, they whip our their phones and show me the malicious cyber-bullying that affects them or their friends on a personal level.

While I’m happy these girls are asking for help, I’m sure I only hear about a tiny fraction of the bullying that actually occurs throughout the day. Additionally, I feel helpless when it comes to dealing with these issues. Did I say the right thing or offer the best advice? What more could I have done?

Mean girls and bullying exist in schools, but what is being done to combat it before it gets to the level that it did in Delaware?

Many schools lack counselors, who have the training and time to offer advice, peer mediation, social groups and much more. Thus, teachers are the next best resource for students who have peer issues. However, some students may not even feel comfortable taking their problems to a teacher. Then what? Students live in fear of even going to the bathroom at school?

Sure, some victims of bullying will seek help. But who is offering counseling to the mean girls? What is their motivation for acting out in such a malicious way?

School should not be a frightening place for students. However, for many it is just that. When I was bullied many moons ago, I could leave school and forget about it for a few hours. However, today’s social media ensures that bullying can occur 24/7. There is no offline.

While bullying is not likely to cease, schools need to step up their game when it comes to building and maintaining relationships with students. Support systems need to be in place for both students and teachers who oftentimes run short of knowledge and time when it comes to dealing with the emotional needs of adolescents.

So, do mean girls really mean it? Or is it a cry for help in a system that if failing them?