The Power of Words Part 2: Jeff's Law
My apologies for the late post. I saw a documentary on TV a couple of weeks ago and have only been able to dig up its name a few moments ago.
The show is called This Emotional Life. It is a documentary that traces different emotions accompanying aspects of being human. I saw the first episode, Family, Friends & Lovers. In this program, the filmmakers followed a couple, a group of friends, or a family facing adversity. Whether it was navigating a marriage in rough times, or learning how to support a son who has Autism, the documentary provided fascinating insight into the intricacies of the mind and human relationships. I would highly recommend it.
One story in particular struck a chord with me. It was a story about a boy named Jeff, who committed suicide as a freshman in Florida, after he had been bullied for two years. It was unclear as to why Jeff may have been singled out by his bully- the reflections his friends provided painted Jeff as a fun person, the life of the party, who made High School more bearable.
Both Debbie (Jeff's mother) and his friends said that Jeff never returned his bully's violence.
Jeff's mother brought the case of her son's suicide to the courts and got a law passed called Jeffrey Johnston's Law that gives schools more power to intervene in bullying.
Something that really struck me was Debbie saying that one step of intervention taken was to sit Jeff down with his bully, something she likened to "having a rapist sit down with his victim to justify why she deserved it." I can't even imagine having to do this.
"Kids can be so mean."
It's true. I've been a bully, half-unconsciously, half-knowingly, when I was younger. A strange sense of power came along with that. I've been bullied. Results: a sense of sinking, hopelessness, helplessness.
Jeff's bully spread rumours about him, and hacked into an internet game he had been working on for months to replace its content with hurtful words.
I'm not sure which comes first, but from what I've seen hatred breeds hatred, and I admire Jeff for not attempting to retaliate against his bully. Some people may see this as weakness, but I would argue that Jeff displayed a remarkable amount of strength. Much respect to Jeffrey and Debbie for sharing their story.
This Emotional Life Website
Hotline for Youth