I grew up in Calgary, attending schools that had hundreds of students. There were the bullies. There were the bullied.
With this week being Bullying Awareness Week, I took some time to think back to my school days, to bullying I had either witnessed, or been a part of. I have to say, I really had a hard time thinking of anything of significance that directly affected me. Then, I remembered Ryan.
It was 1992. I was in Grade 11, and the incident happened at Thomas B. Riley Junior High, the school I attended from Grades 7 to 9.
Thirteen-year-old Ryan Garrioch was fatally stabbed by a 15-year-old classmate in the school yard on his way to school the morning of May 11. The news of this death traveled fast in the tight-knit community of Bowness, as well as throughout Calgary. Ryan's father, Stu is recorded as saying he never knew to what extent his son had been bullied.
The 15-year-old was found guilty and sentenced in adult court to life in prison without possibility of parole for 10 years for murder. He was one of the first offenders to be tried under new, tougher penalties added to the Canadian Young Offenders Act after his crime.
It is an infamous case of bullying in Calgary.
Ryan didn't take his own life. His life was taken from him at the hands of his bully. What made that kid believe he had the right to take Ryan's life?
This was an extreme case of bullying.
Bullying isn't a new concept, but is it a crisis? I don't think so.
We shelter our children.
Schools are peanut-free, scent free, latex free, scoured and sanitized. Grades have been taken away and replaced with 'meeting expectations,' leveling the playing field for all children and giving them nothing to strive for.
This is the generation of the pushy, overbearing helicopter parent, too overprotective and thin-skinned when it comes to matters of their child.
Our problem is we've turned this world into one where the bullied are convinced they are powerless victims.
I am, by no means, defending the bully, but with all the hype surrounding anti-bullying campaigns and government legislation will the minor offences be lumped in with the major incidents?
There has to be a line. Where do we draw that?
I don't want to field a phone call from the principal telling me he received a phone call from a concerned parent that my kid stepped on her kid's foot. That doesn't warrant a phone call.
But to the other extreme, I also don't want a phone call like the one the Garroichs' received that fateful day in May, 1992.