The annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) was held in Chicago earlier this month. Several of us headed downtown to wander the exhibits, meet with attendees, and attend some sessions.
I was lucky enough to attend a program entitled “Stop the Bullying,” which featured a number of specialists and celebrities in the anti-bullying world. We heard the stats and the studies about what works best. We learned about some books that might help — Teri Lesesne introduced us to some newer novels. I sat in on a round-table discussion of novels featuring “Bullycide” by CJ Bott.
But the highlight of the session — and indeed the part that I am still unable to process completely — was a talk by Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother.
This small, soft spoken woman talked to her fellow teachers about how hard being the classroom really is — she made them understand that she understood their issues first. Then she said that the murder of her son is what happens when “bullying goes unchecked.”
I wasn’t taking notes, so this might not be her exact words, but there was silence when she softly said:
Am I saying that the teachers have responsibility in Matt’s death?
Am I saying that the school has responsibility in Matt’s death?
Am I saying the whole community has responsibility in Matt’s death?
Am I saying we all have responsibility in Matt’s death?
To be honest, I don’t remember much of the rest of the speech. A week and a half later, I’m still stuck in that moment.
When I’m ready, I think I’ll go read some of those recommended books. And in the meantime, I recommend seeking some out on your own. Here is a list of our titles on bullying for a start.