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The Bully Project

Thanks to The Bully Project for sponsoring my writing. Visit their website to join the movement and learn more.

Have you heard of this new documentary? Personally, I can’t wait to see it. Maybe it’s just because I am so tired these days, but I found myself moved almost to tears just from the trailer. I’m definitely not too old at 36 to remember what kids were like in jr. high and high school.

Ever notice how kids in schools (or other groups) can immediately pick out the “weakest” member? The one kid who is a bit weird…or quirky…or maybe nothing at all is outwardly different, but another kid or two starts picking  on them and pretty soon it becomes some kind of wild feeding frenzy? I’m sure the teachers in my schools would have said that kind of thing wasn’t “tolerated” or “acceptable”. Well, tolerated or not, it happened. It happened in the public schools I attended and it happened in the very small private Christian school my husband attended.

I am thrilled to see this topic being covered like this. As a mom to adopted African children, special needs children, a bi-racial child, an African-American child and some just plain quirky children, I believe things can change for the better.

Photo Circa 2008

I’ve thought a lot over this past school year, as Mordecai attends public school, how much things have changed since I was a kid. When I went to school, the kids in Special Ed were the ones who were a bit quirky…slow perhaps…mildly learning disabled. Now, for the most part, those kids are in the regular classes (with plenty of support, for sure) and the kids in Special Ed (at Mordecai’s school, anyway) are much more severely disabled…in wheelchairs, non-verbal, Down Syndrome. I don’t know exactly where those types of kids where when I was growing up…and special schools? Being homeschooled? I don’t know, but I think we are making progress by including more of the “quirky” kids and building tolerance for their differences.

How about you? Do you remember bullying from your childhood days? Chuck and I grew up in different countries…he attended two different schools, I need both hands to count the  number of schools I attended…we can’t be the only two who went to schools where bullying took place.

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. Find showings in your area for The Bully Project and buy tickets here.

14 Comments

  1. Samantha

    Bullying was rife everywhere I went to school (7 of them, in 3 different countries). My first experience with it was with my first grade teacher who bullied me because “I didn’t speak correctly.” I had a British accent still and we lived in Kansas.

    As I got older I was able to adapt my accent as we moved, but then I was bullied for being overweight, asthmatic, smart, and later in high school for “looking gay.” And some of that bullying was from my own mother and teachers. Suffice it to say that I don’t have a lot of good memories of school.

    I have long planned to homeschool my own children–for a variety of reasons–we’re a two mom, two faith family living in a poor school district. I hadn’t considered that part of my decision to homeschool may be related to the bullying I endured as a child. Perhaps it is. Primarily, I want my children to grow up loving to learn and I think most public schools miss that mark. And I guess I want the Montessori education model without paying for private school….

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Samantha- I don’t think I conciously thought about bullying either, but the DRAMA in high school was enough to make me want to homeschool my kids.

      • Samantha

        I had both the best and worst of times in high school. I spent 9th & 10th grade at a small American high school in Germany where I had excellent teachers who encouraged creativity. I had friends, who through their actions, introduced me to Christ.

        Then we moved and I transferred to a huge, overcrowded school with a principal who regarded us all as prison inmates. Any deviation from the norm was to be quashed. If I hadn’t discovered a local Episcopal church I wouldn’t have survived. I thought about suicide daily, and my parents were lost to their difficulties and addictions by that point.

  2. Elena

    I’m so happy (relieved?) to see that this problem is getting some attention. Finally. With the It Gets Better project still going like wildfire, this movie coming out, and the repugnant media actually paying a bit of attention to it FINALLY, something might actually change. Or not, after all, it’s a beloved institution in every facet of life, bullying, but one can hope.

    I was never a victim of bullying, but it touched my life all the same. More as an adult than when I was actually living around it, sadly. I saw it going on all around me, but I had my own issues going on and either didn’t bother to care or didn’t know how to, emotionally/socially stunted as I was back then. In school, I was just plain unfriendly and a loner by choice. No one bothered to bully me, no one bothered to be my friend and I probably wouldn’t have let them if they tried. I didn’t care enough to be a bully myself, but I also didn’t care enough to stick my neck out for anyone else.

    Now I look back and realise what I could have done. I was smart, resourceful, knew how to deal with and manipulate adults better than most my age, and though I wasn’t big or tall, I was strong. I could have done a lot more than the average kid, and I didn’t. So now I just wonder about what was and what might have been. I wonder where those people are, who they are, both the bullies I could have stood up to, and their victims who I could have stuck up for. I’m left with questions and I end up staying awake all night thinking about it sometimes, especially whenever there’s another suicide or shooting related to bullying.

    I wonder if the girl who would jump other girls at the drop of a hat, who I easily could have pulled off her victim and hauled to a teacher but didn’t, I wonder if she now uses threat and physical means on her children or if someone finally taught her a lesson and woke her up.

    I wonder about the boy who lived in my area of town who was bullied mercilessly, physically and emotionally, for being gay, is still alive. And if he’s alive, I wonder how well he’s functioning after years of torment that no one stood up for, either because they agreed with the ‘treatment’ he got from his peers for his sexuality, or because they were too afraid of those same accusations being leveled at them were they to say anything in his defense. I wonder if he’s still afraid of those people, of their religion, of others like them, or if fear has distilled into mere disdain.

    I wonder how many of those bullies were victims themselves. How many had parents who manipulated and threatened to get what they wanted, how many had older siblings allowed to do whatever they wanted to the younger just because they were bigger and older, how many had parents or step-parents or sitters or pastors or funny uncles hurting them, how many had been born with problems that hadn’t yet been identified or hadn’t been addressed.

    I wonder who, of those who bullied the young boy who was gay, have since come out themselves, or been caught in airport bathrooms with gay prostitutes while on the campaign trail. I wonder who of those like me who were passive observers have since grown a conscience and who’s still the same.

    I wonder which of my sons, transplanted into my life when I was aged 8-16, would be bullies and which would be victims, which of my daughters would be queen bees and quirky band kids. I wonder if I’ve raised them to be better than I was, if I’ve educated them well enough, and that they have more courage or give-a-crap in them than I ever did. I hope so. Being mostly homeschooled and growing up comfortable, my kids are more tender than I ever was. They haven’t grown up having to be tough, having to ignore others’ hardships and injustices when it stares them in the face, just to get by themselves. They haven’t grown apathetic after years of school, where bullying is just the norm, uncaring as long as it’s not them. I’ve educated them in social justice and so far, I’m proud of who my older ones have become, what they stand for, and what they’re willing to do for it.

    Finally, this problem is getting attention. It gives me hope for the future that these messages are getting out and hopefully more people have and will educate their own children, to rise above ignorance, hate, prejudice and apathy, where we couldn’t or didn’t. I’m glad people now have the courage to do what so many of us failed to do in our own school days, or since. Maybe now, seeing adults live up to the mistakes they made or continue to care even after all these years if they did to begin with, kids will start caring too and stand up to it before they’re grown and left wondering.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply! I wasn’t a victim of bullying either, but I can tell you there are plenty of events I witnessed that I’d rather forget. People can be so cruel. I hope this movie is one I can show my kids. It has an R rating…

      • Maddi

        I believe I read earlier today that it was given a PG-13 rating. But if I’m wrong then I’m sorry. I find it implausible that it would have an R rating, since they were aiming for PG in the first place.

  3. Elisabeth

    In public school, I experienced an endless amount of bullying, from 3rd grade on. In 3rd-7th grade, I was in the same school system so the same kids were taunting me through those years. I’ll painfully admit that when I was 11, I repeatedly tried to take my life, on a daily basis, behind my school building in the hopes the bullies would find me after I was gone- a kind of last revenge. And to be honest, I struggle with the issue of suicidal feelings daily. I have never, to this day, felt good enough to be on this Earth, despite what my religion and my family tell me.

    In 8th grade, I moved school districts. 8th grade was fine but by 9th and 10th grade, some girls found me as their target once more. I had a great little group of friends and they did protect me. The bullies would often leave harsh notes, some telling me to kill myself- that the world would be better off (something I already believed long before these girls entered the picture and it only felt like a confirmation). My friends intercepted many of the nasty notes and protected me.

    But in 11th grade, I’d had enough, I chose to do online homeschooling. It was lonely and finally in 12th grade, I found a tiny little Christian school. And it was the best experience. I only wish I had found it sooner. I am still connected to the friends I made there. And when I have children, they will go there too, at all costs.

    Bullying is everywhere and up until now, I didn’t realize how it has affected me. I’m not sure if my experiences with bullying are the reason why I have a daily internal fight about killing myself or not. It started with bullying and that struggle seems to have never ended. 12 years of utter self hatred and loathing, 12 years out to get myself and it started with a few cruel words.

    I’m sorry if this goes too deep or too personal. This is one issue that really touches me as well.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Elizabeth, I’m so sorry to hear this, but thank you for speaking out! People need to hear this! It’s so crazy to be how kids (or adults) simply “choose” someone to be the target, and eveyone else seems to follow suit.

  4. Erin

    It often all comes down to the Principal and what they allow in their school. Even a tiny little christian school like where my sons go (less than 40 kids in the school) will have bullies. They’re already like that when they get to school – but whether the principal allows the bullying culture to exist is what it depends on. We’re so fortunate at the moment to have a principal who jumps on it before it becomes something bigger. My son had some bullying happening to him before this principal came – little stuff, but it was escalating. Now the new principal doesn’t tolerate it. He’s what changed. The kids didn’t change. My son hadn’t changed. The culture of the school has and is changing, and it’s because of the principal.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Erin, interesting that you posted this. When I was writing this, I asked my husband about bullying in his school. He attended a very small, private Christian school and I knew it went on there because we’ve talked about it before. When I asked about the teachers and principle, he said, “Oh, no, they had NO idea it was happening. They never would have allowed it”. In other words, it was happening when they weren’t around…but still happening. And daily.

  5. ErinQ

    I was a victim of constant bullying from the time I entered school until 9th grade, when we moved to a different city and I decided that I’d avoid becoming a victim again by just not ever speaking, so that people wouldn’t know I was a “weirdo”. Up until that point, I was tormented, physically assaulted, and sexually abused by my peers constantly. There wasn’t a day that went by where nothing bad happened to me at their hands. I was mocked and treated like I was annoying, stupid, and a weirdo by different teachers and staff, and my favorite teacher ever (5th grade) ended up being a child molester who was quietly removed from the district but never charged with anything. Most of what happened to me was ignored or unnoticed by the adults in charge. My parents did next to nothing to protect me, allegedly because they feared for their jobs in the school district. These experiences have affected every aspect of my life and continue to. I struggle with low self esteem, extreme perfectionism, depression, and often feel unable to complete simple tasks. The stupidest part of this (which actually makes me feel worse about myself) is that I actually always scored well above average on tests, was placed in GT and advanced classes, was one of the top cellists my age in the city and played in a professional orchestra as a freshman in high school, and am currently a member of American Mensa. Yet due to this constant negativity from my childhood experiences, I feel like a total useless idiot most of the time. I *know* this isn’t true. But it’s hard to really be sure of that when all the voices in your head say otherwise. I feel like bullying took away this awesome person that I was supposed to be and left me as a kind of barely passable knockoff of myself. I am currently in the process of enrolling my 5 year old daughter in a public kindergarten, because my husband is against homeschooling our kids. We live in a much better school district than I grew up in, and we plan on being VERY involved, but honestly, it terrifies me. I am really struggling with it. I saw this documentary advertised, and I want to see it…but I am also afraid to, because it’s already so hard for me to think about my kids possibly having to deal with that. Sorry if this is too personal…I’m a weirdo…this is just a really personal topic to me.

  6. Jo

    There are some deeply personal stories here and I am touched by reading them. I was homeschooled most of my life, my family put me in public school a few times. When I was in the 3rd grade, I was in school for 9 wks. I was less poverty stricken than most of the children-most were well below the poverty level. some wore no shoes to school. They were pretty nice to me because they thought I might share change with them for the pop machine. I had no change, but they didnt know that. There were kids there who were molested by other kids and I knew it but didnt know what to do. There was a boy there who died from drinking gasoline. He was my only true friend in school. Overall, it wasnt a bad school. Just poor. In highschool I went to a small, private school but there were bullies. Mostly the kids with money, or looks. The kids at the bottom were tortured, mostly verbally. I stood up for them, having been homeschooled by a strong mother I knew it was right. For some reason, people followed me. They still will I have learned. I do not know why. If I suggest things, people follow them. If in a homeschool group I say, you guys are gossiping about Mom A because she isnt here, that is hurtful and it would bother you. If you guys gossip about her, assume you all gossip about one another. It works, people think they shouldnt gossip around me anymore and they all TRY to do better, seemingly full time. I use this influence, it isnt on purpose that I have it but those of us who seem to should USE it amongst adults and teach our children to gently and kindly stand up for others verbally in all cases. It makes a huge difference. If all of the influential kids were against bullying, it wouldnt exist. If I can get people to follow me in good, then all those I could have lead down the road of evil will do good. We have to teach our children this, how to handle it, how to make things go the right direction. Not just to be good and kind and let God lead their heart, but how to lead others in goodness. It is addictive, it feels good to go to sleep knowing you did right. To kids and adults. We have to get more people on the good side, bad isnt so much addictive, it just feels permanent at some point. People feel lost, or like it is their only way to act so they never stop without some guidance.

  7. Jodee

    I moved from a tiny town in Idaho to Bellingham when I was 9. I was attacked by 2 older girls on my way home from school one day. 30 years later I still remember how I felt that day. We moved school districts recently and my “developmently delayed” 12 yr old ended up in a “special ed” class with severly handicapped kids because the new school didn’t have the resources available to provide the support she needed. It was horrible for her because she was labeled “retarded”. Things have improved some now and she has made friends but it is still difficult some days.

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