The future crumbles as bullying rips childhood away


Jocelyn Moreno

The future crumbles as bullying rips childhood away

By Vivian Pina

Elementary school children in 2018 are the comical, silly kids they should be: dancing while dabbing, watching “Teen Titans Go!” and having fun. As they explore the world around them, they continue to learn basic life skills: choosing their own breakfast cereal, picking out their own clothes and studying multiplication tables.

However, recent headlines show the youthful bubble of innocence has popped too soon for many. From Aug. 23–31, two elementary school boys faced tragic conflict and were forced to make painful decisions way too early in their lives.

A few days after fourth grade began in Colorado on Aug. 23, 9-year-old Jamel Myles died by suicide after a year of bullying. The bullying escalated once he came out as gay. 

Four days later in California, 10-year-old Aiden Vazquez was hospitalized after refusing to fight his bullies. Their tragedies stem from the same evil—children preying on each other.

Vazquez’s innocence is heartbreakingly apparent in his decision to refrain from fighting back. As he told KMIR News Aug. 27, “[It is] not the Jedi way.”

This statement brought praise from Mark Hamill—Luke Skywalker himself—and other members of the franchise’s community. Although this support is heartwarming, it’s hard to forget the photos of Vazquez with tears running down his face and an open head wound. This is a kid who should be playing with “Star Wars” action figures after school, not getting stitches in his forehead because of bullying.

Myles’ story ended in the worst case scenario. The lives of his family will never be the same. His mother honored his youth by watching Myles’ favorite cartoons next to him at the funeral. No parent should have to mourn their child.

Vazquez and Myles had to face these horrors at such a terrifyingly early age. 

It pains me to my core and makes me anxious for young people. The heartbreak I feel with cases like these is a reflection of the relationship I have with my own 8-year-old brother. I see him in Vazquez and Myles—their smiles, their giddiness and their boyhood exuberance. Seeing what happened to Vazquez and Myles rips my heart in two as I fear what could hurt my brother.

The tragedies that plagued these elementary school boys resulted from societal conditions that past generations, and our own, have permitted.

This cannot continue as a norm within society. To reduce this suffering, we can provide easier access to counseling for bullies and victims, stronger anti-bullying programs integrated into school systems and a public understanding of how to treat others with respect. We can avoid becoming bystanders when we see, hear or recognize bullying.