Have you heard about the 16-year-old Michigan girl who was voted to her high school's homecoming court as part of a so-called "prank"?
According to various media reports, Whitney Kropp is a student at West Branch's Ogemaw Heights High School, north of Saginaw.
At first, Whitney was excited and surprised. By her own admission she's not part of the "in" crowd and couldn't imagine why she would have been nominated in the first place.
But then she was told the truth, and the news broke her heart. Her name had been submitted as a joke. Some classmates thought it would be funny to embarrass her by doing this, especially given her quiet and reserved nature.
Whitney's mom, Bernice, recently told the press her daughter was being lampooned in and around school after the vote was tallied and the results were announced.
Mrs. Kropp said her daughter is a gentle and friendly girl who doesn't have enemies. Yet, that didn't stop some kids from being mean.
"She was getting ridiculed in school and on Facebook," Mrs. Kropp said.
Fortunately, that's not the end of the story.
When word began to spread, several people came to the young girl's defense. A grassroots effort of sorts was launched via social media venues. A "Support Whitney Kropp" Facebook page is closing in on 100,000 "likes." Businesses in and around the farming community are going to cover her expenses for this Saturday's dance, from the cost of the dress to the cost of doing her hair.
This incident has a "happy" ending, but Miss Kropp will still carry this experience into adulthood. For good or bad, we are all a product of the lives that touch ours.
Where I come from, a prank is a water balloon or some other innocent and frivolous act. Jokes do not tear a person down. Good humor should always lift a person up.
This is bullying, plain and simple.
That the community has responded so favorably is reassuring, but we cannot let our guard down when it comes to instilling in our children an appreciation for treating all people with dignity and respect. Are you having intentional conversations with your kids about keeping an eye out for the child who is made fun of, excluded or always on the outside looking in? It's important that we encourage our children to see every classmate as a person of inestimable worth, and to reach out to those on the margins.
Victims of bullying often suffer in silence, whether out of embarrassment or fear.
So keep the conversation going with your kids. Get them talking. Get to know their friends, too. Try and make your house the hub of the party, and that way you'll be more naturally aware of the ongoing social dynamics around school.
Were you ever picked on as a kid? Or do you regret the way you treated others? If you were the one being picked on, did someone stand up for you? What about your children? I would love to hear your story.
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