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Adults, stopping bullies is your job

By Roland S. Martin
  • James Jones should be nominated as Father of the Year, Roland Martin writes
  • Jones boarded a schoolbus to confront his daughter's alleged tormenters
  • "I witnessed my dad do the exact same thing when I was in middle school," Martin relates
  • The stakes of bullying are too high for adults not to hold kids and parents accountable

Editor's note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for TV One Cable network and host of a Sunday morning news show.

(CNN) -- If you think I'm one of these folks who are upset with James Jones, the Florida father who jumped on his daughter's bus to confront the bullies who were terrorizing her, you've got another think coming.

In fact, we should recommend Jones as Father of the Year.

Jones was caught on tape angrily yelling at the children on the school bus who he felt were bullying his 13-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy. He later issued a tearful apology, saying he was wrong.

No, James, you weren't wrong, the punk children who bullied your daughter were wrong. And the punk parents who didn't discipline their own children are wrong, too.

I can sympathize with James because I witnessed my dad do the exact same thing when I was in middle school.

Video: Man confronts daughters' bullies
Video: Speaking out against bullying
Video: Mom takes bullying fears to Obama

Some students on our bus were rough-housing one day and another kid pulled down the sweater of a girl, exposing her breasts for all to see.

This kid's name was Roland. Now, I had nothing to do with it, and two of us didn't even look alike, yet when friends and family of the girl heard about it, they assumed it was me. More than 40 kids were on the bus and they all knew that wasn't the case, but her supporters didn't care.

My brother and I were threatened repeatedly with physical harm, and we clearly didn't want to ride the bus home. So we made up a reason to not take the bus and begged our father to pick us up.

When he got to the school and demanded to know the truth, he got out of the car and jumped on the bus and said, "Point out to me who keeps messing with you."

Now I may have been scared of the school bullies, but I was more scared of my daddy! So I told him and he walked over to a kid and asked him, "Are you messing with my sons?"

He made it clear we had nothing to do with what we were accused of and said he didn't want to hear about this one boy hurting us.

So this kid pulled out a knife on my dad and threatened him.

My dad laughed, snatched the knife from him and said, "Don't you ever do that again to me or anybody!"

He then looked every kid on the bus in the eyes and made clear that he'd better not hear one story of them bullying his sons or he would be back.

Suffice to say, no one messed with the Martin sons again.

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But my dad wasn't the kind of person who would protect just his own sons like that. He was the kind of person who would travel around our Clinton Park neighborhood and break up kids fighting, even following some home to talk to their parents and grandparents.

He was never afraid to go to other parents and hold them accountable for the actions of their children, and more often than not the parents were stunned to hear about their kids being bullies and disciplined them themselves.

Bullying has always been around in schools, so that is nothing new. What is different today is that kids are committing suicide because of the constant taunting. We can have all of the town hall meetings about bullying, but what is going to change all of this is to have teachers, administrators and other parents get in the face of parents and guardians and make it clear to them that they must discipline their own children and teach them not to be bullies.

Children must understand that there will be repercussions for their actions. When I have witnessed one of my nieces hit and push around her sister or one of their cousins, I've taken immediate action and intervened. As the grownup, I don't even wait for their mother and father to say something. I'm their uncle, and as an adult I won't allow that behavior to set in.

Bullying does not have go along with reading, writing and arithmetic in our schools. It can end immediately if we are willing to hold to account those most accountable -- the parents. And if the parents don't want to step up, then other adults must be willing to stand up.

Children have enough on their minds in school without having to deal with being bullied. None of us should pass this off as "what kids do" when it is resulting in the suicide of even one child.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland S. Martin.