Catholic school students encouraged to respect everyone Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes, by Fr. Don LangeCatholic Schools Week begins on Sunday, Jan. 29, and ends on Sunday, Feb. 5. Catholic schools typically celebrate Catholic Schools Week with Masses, open houses, and activities for students, families, parishioners, and the wider community.

The Catholic school builds upon the relationship with God, knowledge, values, and community that the student experiences at home. In no. 2204 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says, "the Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic Church." Good families teach us to respect God and each other.

Build a service community

This year's theme is "Catholic Schools: Faith. Academics. Service." Students are taught faith -- not just the basics of Christianity, but how to have a relationship with God. Academics help students reach their potential. Service, the giving of one's time and effort to help others, is taught both as an expression of faith and good citizenship. Knowledge and deepened faith help to build Christian community from which service flows.

When students experience Christian community, they more willingly serve their neighbor in need. As a community, faculty and students pray, receive the sacraments, participate in retreats, and worship together. Students are encouraged to respect everyone as a child of God and a graced part of a Christian community.

Need zero tolerance

Recently school bullying has received national attention. Bullying is an act of violence and disrespect that hurts the mission of the school. In a Catholic school everyone should be respected and loved because they are created in God's image. For this reason, there should be zero tolerance towards bullying in public and private schools. It may be good to reflect upon bullying during Catholic Schools Week.

Bullying has been a problem since Cain and Abel. However, in recent years it has received national attention and has become an emotional and physical danger from kindergarten through high school. Though technology alerts us to bullying's dangers, it also offers new avenues for it through cyber-bullying. Now youth can bully others in chat rooms or e-mail from their homes.

Statistics of bullying

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in four children is bullied at school. Eight percent of children miss one day of class per month because they fear bullies. Pages of evidence about the damaging effects of bullying are available on the Internet and other sources.

Bullying can be verbal (making threats, name-calling), psychological (excluding children, spreading rumors), or physical (hitting, pushing, taking a child's possessions).

Grade school children sometimes bully by ridiculing the car, house, or clothes of poorer classmates. They may also call classmates cruel nicknames and exclude them from birthday parties, slumber parties, and the like. This hurts. I know. Charlie Brown said, "It's hard on a face when it gets laughed in."

Students who are sensitive and lack confidence especially suffer. According to Education.com, "Children who are bullied are at greater risk of depression and lower self-esteem later in life, prone to missing more school, and more likely to have problems with alcohol and drug use." As the media has shown, bullying can even lead to suicide.

Bullying can go unnoticed

Unlike fighting, which is more easily observed, bullying is frequently less visible to the adults in charge or is seen as a non-issue. However, it does erode discipline and student and staff morale. Furthermore, prolonged bullying can cause explosive violence. When youths are intimidated and, believing no one cares, the bullied person may retaliate with rage to oneself or to the bullies

Bullying often occurs in PE, recess, hallways, bathrooms, and school buses, while waiting for buses, or in classes requiring group work or after school activities. Students can bully others as individuals or as a group. Some forms of bullying can come from cliques. When I taught high school, some students insisted there were no such exclusive groups in their class. But others who felt left out grumbled their disagreement. Bullying can be blind.

Working together

Bullying hurts the teaching mission of the school. Grades often drop because worry transforms energy that should be spent on studies into fear that no one will sit with them at lunch or other bullying-related tactics.

Today's schools have policies regarding bullying. The policies need to be implemented by dedicated teachers and administration. Bullying decreases and stops when teachers, parents, administrators, and other significant adults refuse to tolerate it or other violence. Home and school must cooperate to eliminate bullying and teach students to respect each other.

Students make a good school better when they respect and affirm teachers and classmates. In 1Thessalonians 5:11 it says, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do."

Our youth deserve respect and the chance to learn. Bullying can weaken their opportunities for learning and hurt the common good. Let us pray that with adult example, guidance, and supervision, bullies see and repent of damages they cause, change, and mature. This would make bullied youth, their concerned families, teachers, and others who support our schools happy.


Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.