Speaking out against bullying

I am writing this post as a teacher.

I am also writing this post as the victim of bullying.

Once again my television is telling me that another teenager has taken her life because she was bullied. It doesn’t matter whether she is a lesbian or not. What matters is how senseless this tragedy is, and how preventable it can be. According to the news, as she lay in critical condition in the hospital, the bullying continued on her Facebook page. How can people be so cruel?

I’ve heard some adults say that “bullying is a right of passage” or that “kids will be kids.” But it’s wrong. No matter what way it is looked at, making another person feel inferior for ANY reason – be it their sexuality, gender, religion, ethnic background, clothing, hair color, whatever – is wrong. So very, very wrong.

My bullying started when I was in the eighth grade. In homeroom, every single morning, one of the guys who sat next to me spit on me. I don’t know what I did. It could have been my glasses. Maybe even my jeans (my family didn’t have much, and I wore KMart or Caldor’s brand clothing instead of Abercrombie, which was cult-like at the time). Could it have been my hair? I wondered if maybe I even smelled bad, though they never said that. I don’t remember one of my bullies’ names. And I don’t even remember the name of the teacher who watched, day by day, as this happened, and not once said a single word. My mother now asks me why I never told her. My response? “Because the teacher didn’t stop it, so I figured no one would help.”

I’ve told this story to my students, and I remind them whenever a bullying issue comes up. I will not tolerate any form of bullying in my classroom. I cannot stand by and watch one of my students being harassed by another student because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to be made to feel inferior. And no one has the right to do that to another person. I truly feel my students pain when they tell me how they feel when it happens.

I’m proud to say I’ve seen changes. But it’s not enough. More adults need to take this stand as well. If you see kids harassing another kid who is visibly upset, please, step in and help them. Be the responsible person and get help for them. If someone you know is being bullied or you fear they might be, talk to them. Do something about it.

Kids look to adults for guidance. They look to us as role models. Maybe if we really push and take a stand against bullying, they will finally realize that it’s wrong and has serious, harmful side effects.

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