On May 13th, 2010 I published an informative article entitled “Bullying & Cerebral Palsy” here at Associated Content. The article contained two incidents of bullying which occurred during the 2009-2010 school year. (To read the article click here) As someone with a mild case of cerebral palsy (CP), I had to take extra effort to avoid inserting my feelings of disgust into the article. However, with this opinion piece I will not have to take such precautions. I am free to share my thoughts on the issue of CP and bullying.
My disgust from the issue ranges from the ignorance of the students doing the bullying to the tone of The Denver Channel’s coverage of the Kevin Kaneta incident. Ignorance can be the only excuse for such repulsive behavior as knocking somebody off their crutches and kicking them. Bullies, as well as on-lookers, that let such behavior occur, prove ignorant of understanding what having a disability, like cerebral palsy, means. Just because someone walks differently or uses special equipment, doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings or the same desires as others.
I believe, in most cases, students with disabilities should receive the utmost respect from their peers. Whether physical therapy or speech therapy, many people with disabilities work extra hard just to be able to perform tasks many able-bodied individuals take for granted. In fact, I would go as far to say the work ethic of many students with disabilities is nothing short of inspirational.
The ignorance that prevents students with disabilities from being treated with the respect they deserve partly comes from inadequate media coverage. The Denver Channel’s coverage of Kevin Kaneta’s story (click here), proves a perfect example of this. For instance, the article ran under the title of “Boy With Cerebral Palsy Says He Was Bullied, Tied to Fence.” By using the word “says,” the reporter implies the incident to be an unproven accusation. Yet, images of Kevin posted on Facebook by his tormentors, serves as evidence enough that Kevin’s accusations are true. At the very least the article title should have been “Boy With Cerebral Palsy Bullied, Tied to Fence.”
As I was doing research for the “Bullying & Cerebral Palsy” article, and as I have come to connect with more people in the disability community, the thought has crossed my mind that I’m lucky to have never really been bullied because of my CP. I find such a thought problematic though. Why should I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to enjoy my childhood, when such an opportunity should be a basic right of every child?
I believe the key to stop students with disabilities from being bullied involves teaching students about different disabilities. This was the aim of a Disability Fair hosted at Solheim Elementary in Bismarck, North Dakota back on May 7th. The fair was hosted by the school’s sixth graders, who researched different disabilities, in order to educate younger students. To read more about the Solheim Elementary Disability Fair, click here. Ultimately, I believe more events such as this could do wonders in reducing the number of students with disabilities who get bullied.