Words Can Hurt: Celebrating No Name-Calling Week
By Greg Howard – January 23, 2013
Cyberbullying—a form of bullying driven by hurtful words—is making the old “sticks and stones” nursery rhyme look outdated. Words, in fact, can and do hurt, and that’s why No Name-Calling Week is so important.
No Name-Calling Week brings attention to the problem of name-calling in schools. Schools participating in No Name-Calling Week engage in educational activities to help students understand how cruel words affects others.
We’d like to recognize No Name-Calling Week by providing an example of how words can devastate someone’s life. In December 2012, Florida teenager Jessica Laney took her life after receiving hurtful messages on a popular question-and-answer website.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, people sent messages to Jessica, “a beautiful, slender…soccer player,” that called her “fat.” Others said she was “mean,” and still others claimed that “no one liked her.”
One person wrote, “nobody even cares about you.”
Some people even instructed Jessica to take her life.
“Die,” said one person.
“can you just kill yourself already” was the comment of another.
Apparently, Jessica had received these kinds of messages for months before her death. The taunts may not have been the sole factor in Jessica’s suicide, but considering the severity of the insults and the amount of time involved, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to conclude that they played an important role.
This sad story is proof positive that words can and do hurt. By all accounts, Jessica was an outwardly-happy teenager with a bright future ahead of her. However, she was clearly affected by the relentless name-calling—and perhaps driven over the edge because of this bad behavior.
Please take a moment to think about name-calling in your school this week. Name-calling may seem like an intractable, “kids will be kids” kind of problem, but the loss of students like Jessica Laney makes it clear that name-calling awareness and education efforts are necessary and important.
We encourage you to visit the No Name-Calling Week website at nonamecallingweek.org, which offers a wide variety of downloadable educational resources for students in all grades. Also, we encourage you to take advantage of our resources on anonymous reporting. When students have the option of anonymously reporting name-calling and other forms of bullying, they may come forward and reach out for help when they need it most.