"Bad Person"

So there I was, standing in the checkout line at Giant Eagle with a grocery cart full of lactose free, gluten free, low carb delights. The person in front of me pulled out the coupons, and I realized it would be a long wait. Checking my email on my phone, I saw a message from ETSY, and I immediately got a jag of hope. Maybe I sold something from my shop. Geekteacher is a new enterprise of mine, and I still await each message eagerly.  Imagine my surprise when the title line is “THEFT,” in all caps, and the message is a woman berating me for “stealing” another person’s artwork and “selling it for profit,”  and being a “bad person.”

To make a long story short, I investigated, and this woman claimed she had seen a fabric pattern I use featured on another site.  I did a little research and confirmed that the artist, Karen Hallion, had indeed designed the artwork, and she had legitimately posted the pattern to Spoonflower.com, a print-on-demand online fabric store, from whence I purchased the fabric. Everything was, as I had known, above board, legit, legal, etc.

Still, being accused of theft by a faceless and furious woman didn’t sit well. I am mature, secure, and stable, and I still had a few quick palpitations, but I confronted the issue like an adult, resolved the problem, and received copious apologies from the now quite humble accuser. All’s well that ends well.

But, tonight I was at the YMCA trotting along on the treadmill when a news story came on about Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old who took her own life as a result of cyberbullying, and I, who have been to what seems like a million professional development classes on the danger of bullying, finally made an authentic connection. If I felt edgy after one, stupid, false accusation, how much more terrible for an adolescent girl in that most turbulent time of her life to be mocked and set upon by her peers and former friends. I spend hundreds of hours per year with girls in their early teens, and they are creative, delightful, brilliant, confused, and above all, vulnerable. With the advent of constant connectivity, these young people have nowhere to escape the torment.

We can attend anti-bullying classes, read articles and books, beg and pray that the madness stop. We can blame parents, teachers, celebrities, facebook. All of these approaches may help, but probably not too much. We know bullying is wrong. We don’t want it to happen to our kids. We also don’t want them to be bullies.

I know that children no longer have a safe haven where they can escape people who want to torment them. Perhaps we-teachers, parents, aunts, uncles, youth leaders and counselors, can work together to establish some sort of refuge, a sanctuary where youth can go to avoid being targeted. Any thoughts?