It was a hate crime that shocked the media, and the nation. It continues to resonate with people, continuously sparking discussions about bullying.
With November being anti-bullying month, it was hard for most to stomach the anniversary of a brutal death that occurred more than 20 years ago. November of 1997, 14 year old Reena Virk was killed in a swarming attack by classmates Warren Glowatski and Kelly Ellard. November 14 officially marked the 20 year anniversary since her tragic death. A memorial was held at the place where the beating occurred, with Virk’s parents and grandparents attending.
The latest advancement in this case is that Ellard was granted conditional day parole on November 30 after serving 20 years in prison. Glowatski served seven years and was released early upon an admission of guilt. Ellard repeatedly minimized the extent of her role in Virk’s death, which is a disturbing thing to do in the eyes of the court.
Virk was supposedly naive, and so desperate for friends that she was willing to endure any type of treatment in order to remain in someone else’s company. Combined with being a part of (what was at the time) a minority group and not fully comprehending that she was being bullied, she became a target for Ellard’s and Glowatski’s abuse. The question remains clear, however: are the methods that schools and the media practice meant to ward off bullies really effective?
Despite efforts made by schools, anti-bullying programs don’t always explain what to do when someone who wants to come forward, and can’t because they are either at risk of repercussions from their harassers or have a perceived lower standing in the social hierarchy that exists. Virk was a member of a minority group, and her trusting nature did not help when it came to dealing with Ellard and Glowatski. Harassment is explained simply in elementary school; if someone is bullying another person, the rule is to tell a teacher or a trusted adult. However, there are an infinite number of loopholes in which people still get harassed, and anti-bullying initiatives become less effective. Prior to the 90’s, anti-bullying programs were often glossed over in schools, with not much attention being given to the growing problem. The arrival of cell phones has only made it get worse.
Schoolyard harassment has grown more complex since Virk’s death with the onset of technology and social media. There is less physical violence, but it hasn’t disappeared completely. With the internet, anything can be said and, (most of the time) no obvious tracks are left behind. Amanda Todd would be an example. Both Virk and Todd were desperate for peer acceptance, and experienced exclusion.
Although the anniversary has passed, Virk’s murder still resonates with many, and continuously sparks conversations about the extents of bullying. Will harassment in real life and on the internet ever stop? One can only hope.