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Cliques are a link to school violence and teenage depression

March 14, 2006|by BRIANNE KIRKPATRICK

As a young child, I was always the little girl on the playground with only one or two friends. Being shy was probably part of the problem, but popularity was the major issue. Unfortunately, this status has followed me through middle school and into my high school years.

There is an excessive number of cliques in high school. Some cliques are based on social class, style, race, and athletic and musical interests. Those who are not part of a clique are considered the "outcasts" and are the targets for criticism and harassment.

Because I do not have the right last name, I do not have the right friends, and I am not involved in sex, drugs or alcohol; I am considered an "outsider." I am the butt of jokes, and I am ridiculed daily. I walk down the hall keeping to myself and always smiling; yet I am called cruel names and am the topic of conversation or rumors.

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In the face of this, I have withdrawn and experienced extreme depression. The sad thing is that it would take something drastic for these people to realize that their words do hurt and affect others, sometimes leaving long-term effects.

I blame the social priorities of high school. High school is a place where jocks, cheerleaders and preps rule.

Time magazine quoted members of one school's popular clique. They admitted they pick on unpopular kids "because it's just fun to do." But their insulting words create deep, emotional wounds.

The question is, what are we going to do about this growing problem? Yes, conflicts are a part of everyday life; but high school conflicts, made worse by cliques, are extremely different. When outsiders have reached a point of extreme emotional abuse, they might turn to violence.

The fallout from cliques and exclusion can be linked to school violence, such as physical fighting or school shootings. The 1999 tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., is a prime example of the impact cliques have on nonmembers.

What we need to do is to regulate these cliques, as well as place a bigger emphasis on academic discipline. Bring in a motivational speaker, such as Quay Hannah, to address cliques. Provide assemblies related to drug and alcohol abuse.

We also need to focus on students' needs, practical skills, and support, not the pep rally fluff of the popular cliques. Another idea: Try to provide opportunities for all students to interact with one another despite the differences in wealth, fashion, attitude and fame.

High school is supposed to be the best years of your life; but for this to be possible, there needs to be a tremendous change so that others no longer have to suffer the effects of cliques.

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