Summary of “Words that Wound” by Kathleen Vail

“Words that Wound” by Kathleen Vail

Words that Wound by Kathleen Vail is an essay about the effects of bullying on students in American schools. The essay starts with a re-enactment of Brian Head’s public suicide. Brian was apparently being bullied in school and resolved into committing suicide to escape the torture. Statistics of how many students are bullied are then showed afterwards, claiming that the performance in class of a staggering number of students is affected by bullying.

Despite the statistics, authorities have not paid much attention to bullying, prompting William Head, the father of Brian, to start an advocacy against bullying.

However, even with Mr. Head’s efforts, bullying continues in their area. Teachers often ignore the abuse that is going on in campus, and some of them even think it is part of the learning that the school provides. As a result of the fatal bullying incidents in Georgia, the state has passed an anti-bullying law.


My first reaction to the essay based on the opening paragraph is that it reminds me a lot of the Pearl Jam music video Jeremy.

Jeremy in the music video also committed suicide in front of his classmates. There is reason to believe that the video is partly inspired by the incident mentioned in this essay, although it is not really clear. My second reaction is that I am surprised that there are people who would take their own lives just because of bullying. I know kids can undergo physical and emotional suffering, but I don’t think it is enough reason to commit suicide; I believe that there is no reason in the world to commit suicide.

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I may be just saying this either because I never experienced bullying or I am just really optimistic in life. At any rate, I agree with one of the teachers in the essay that bullying is partly the victims’ fault. Bullied students should not allow themselves to be bullied. They should stand up for themselves even if the bullies are physically superior. Resistance, no matter how futile, can have some positive effects.

Reference Vail, K. (1999). Words that Wound. American School Board Journal, 186 (9), 37–40.

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Summary of “Words that Wound” by Kathleen Vail. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from

Summary of “Words that Wound” by Kathleen Vail
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