Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bullying

**TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with an account of bullying and may be triggering to some people.**

When I was eleven years old I was bullied constantly by a group of girls who, I'm sure, have all grown up to be perfectly reasonable adults but who made my life so absolutely miserable that I eventually refused to attend school. My mom enrolled me in St. Paul's (Virtual) Academy—an online Catholic school based in a neighbouring town.

These girls would shove things in my locker through the air vents. The most humiliating item was a boy's comb, which I'm assuming they stole. When he couldn't find his comb (he was constantly combing his hair, I swear) the girls told him that I had stolen his comb and he told the teacher. I denied everything but was told to open my locker—that its contents would reveal the truth. And what do you think we found inside? Oh, his comb. Of course.

The idea that the girls who "saw me put it in my locker" could have shoved it through the air vent was too far fetched of an idea to believe, I suppose. Even though I was the class goodie goodie. But whatever.

We had an assignment where we had to write an introductory essay about ourselves that were then posted in the hallway along with a photograph. My photograph was graffitied on. When I asked that it be taken down I was told that it would look funny to have a picture missing from the wall—everyone would wonder where my picture was. But no one would wonder why my picture had a mustache and devil horns and a rude name scrawled beside it.


My sister (who was in high school at the time) and her friends thought it was cool to put your hair up in a bun using only a pen. She once did my hair like that and this group of girls surrounded me in the hallway and teased me about it, eventually even pulling the pen out of my hair. "If you think it's so cool just put it back in. But you can't because you don't know how to do your own hair. Blah, blah, blah..."

They once shoved me into the boys' bathroom using a similar surround-her-and-jostle-her-around tactic.

They would follow me home from school and taunt me about everything from being a Mormon to being stick-thin to getting good grades to being terrible at sports to threatening to break into my house in the middle of the night and murder me in my bed.

Once we had a group project to do in class and I was paired up with a few of my bullies. I asked not to work with them and was told that "we couldn't always work with our friends" and "weren't picking our own groups today" and that I "needed to learn to get along with everyone."

I was given the job of "do everything while we sit here and throw things at you." While I tried to do the assignment they made a game of throwing objects at my face: wads of paper, pens, erasers, and when I asked them to stop one of the girls said, "Oh, does that bother you? You don't like having things thrown in your face?"

She had been eating a package of dry ramen noodles and had just gotten to the end. As she said these words she emptied the remainder of her snack in my face—my eyes filled with artificial beef flavouring and tiny crumbs of dry powdered noodles.

The teacher walked by and asked why we weren't working.

"Nancy took all our pens," the teacher was told.

"Give their pens back," the teacher instructed.

I fumbled in my lap for a pen and tossed it in the direction that I thought was "back." Mind you, I was blinded by MSG at the time...

"Ow!" one of the girls screamed dramatically. "She just threw the pen at me!"

I was sent to the principal's office but was eventually ushered into the vice principal's office instead. She wouldn't listen to a word of my story. Why, those girls eat lunch in her office every day (they were friends with her daughter) and they were just the sweetest girls.

"They've been throwing things at me all afternoon, including spices for oriental noodles!" I protested. "Can't you see how red my eyes are?"

"That's just because you've been crying. You cry too easily. I've seen you crying in the hall before," the vice principal told me before admonishing me that if there were any further incidences I would be suspended.

ME?! Suspended?!

I was never late for class. I never forgot to do my homework. I never spoke in class when I wasn't supposed to. I never put a toe out of line. EVER. I wasn't merely a self-proclaimed goodie goodie. I was told I was a goodie goodie by other kids—including that bunch of "sweetest" girls.

Goodie goodie.
Skeletor.
Mormon witch.
Anorexia girl.
Cry baby.

"We're going to break into your house one night and kill you! Hahaha! We'll burn you at the stake, Mormon Witch! Oh, look! She's crying again! Cry baby! Hahaha! What a wimp! "

Because there's nothing remotely intimidating about a large group of girls following just you home from the bus stop, taunting you, threatening your life. That's no reason to have tears stream down your face while you struggle to hold your head up high and continue to march on home. Cry baby, indeed.

They had been torturing me all year, causing me fear and anxiety, and yet no one in the administration believed a word of my story.

I was a model student...who was threatened with suspension.

No one cared about my side of the story.

Even though that year was really hard, I'm glad that I lived through it (in more ways than one). I learned some good life lessons—only one of which was that administrators can make really, really bad calls, and that sometimes bullying is more invisible than you'd like to think.

I thought that the world had changed for the better since my childhood, but apparently I was wrong because my friend's sweet little boy is going through a similar situation at school right now. He says he's being bullied—he swore at lunch yesterday because some kids spelled a swear word and asked him to read it and then they told on him and he got in trouble, despite his protests.

I believe HIS story because I know him and the little boys who he says were involved and, uh, I just don't see how anyone could even fathom taking the other boys' story seriously while discounting my friend's boy.

And the administration has, once again, made a bad call.

It's not bullying, they say, it's a behavioral issue.

My friend even brought up the bullying problem at parent-teacher conference and yet her son was still assigned to sit beside the bully every day. Forced to carry your mattress much? Perhaps that's a bit of hyperbole. Perhaps being bullied—and being forced to remain in class beside your bully—isn't on the same level as being forced to attend school with an aggressive predator. But at the same time, maybe it is the same thing. It doesn't take much of a leap for me to see the parallel.

I am shocked by the story that I've heard and cannot believe that no one in the school will do anything about it. I thought our society was against bullying these days, but apparently they aren't. Apparently administration will still side with the bully while discounting the victim's story. That makes them as bad as the bully.

We've been so happy at this school; it makes me so sad that my friend has not been. 

3 comments:

  1. You need to email this post to your principal. Maybe reading your story, and seeing that clearly administrators make mistakes will help this poor child. Do it today! Don't delay. Seriously.

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  2. Would you mind putting a "trigger alert" at the top of this. It needs to be said. And repeated. Over, and over again, until the message is heard. But a warning would be helpful for those, like you, who have experienced bullying. ~ Sharaun

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  3. I was going to suggest sending this link to the school, too! That's horrible. Thanks for sharing your story, Nancy. It's sad to know you went through this.

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