Personal Stories about Bullying
In September 2011, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer tragically committed suicide as a result of persistent bullying about his sexual orientation. Jamey’s suicide attracted national attention, including from one of his personal heroes, Lady Gaga, who sang a tribute to Jamey at one of her concerts after his death. Jamey is remembered for being a strong opponent of homophobia and bullying and many have taken comfort in the “It Gets Better” video that he recorded and posted on YouTube before his passing. Jamey’s legacy lives on through his parents, Tim and Tracy, and his sister, Alyssa, who have becoming outspoken advocates for ending bullying in Western New York, and across the country.
Our son just completed the third grade today; he has been bullied by the same boy since the second grade. We have documented and reported six bullying incidents to the school principal this year and she has refused to take it seriously. What started out as “name calling” has escalated to physical and psychological violence. Our son was a fun-loving kid who enjoyed going to school and playing with his friends. Now he feels that “no one cares” and has become quiet and angry. He dislikes school and has daily “tummy aches”.
We have had to seek out professional help from doctors and therapists which is great financial burden on us. Our district does not have an “open door policy” where we can file a complaint above the principal, who in our opinion IS the problem. We are NOT allowed to report our concerns to the school superintendent without first reporting it to the school principal and waiting for the local review and opinion and then she must forward her investigation to the district for further review. Our son fears reporting the bullying because he has to face the bully—it is always “your son said he did, and the bully denies it and since no adult witnessed it…” it didn’t happen. After one incident, our son was hit in the mouth and had to have an emergency orthodontics visit which cost us $270. We are not alone, this boy bullies others boys and girls—we talk to other families who are dealing with the same issues and feel that the seriousness of the bullying is not being addressed in our school.
We moved from North Carolina to California for my husband’s job. My two children started at an elementary public school in the Campbell school district. After a couple of months in the new school, my older son, a fourth grader, started complaining about the kids in the school. He said, "I want to go back to North Carolina—in my old school, there were no bullies. Here, almost every boy and some girls [bully me].” I was in shock. I was trying to ask what happened to him. He explained that some people push and kick him. It happens when no adults are looking in his direction – during recess, lunch break and even PE or another school activity where supervision is at a minimum. I started to be more involved in their school life, trying to organize kids’ activities during lunch time. My son said, "It's better now, because the bullies are busy playing your games and bother me much less.” One day, my other son, who was starting kindergarten, declared that he don't want get good grades. Why? He says, "If I’m smart, I must do homework for others. If I refuse, they will beat me!" It just distorted the whole idea of education. You can teach your child to ignore verbal abuse, you can teach them to avoid physical abuse, but you can do nothing about the system that destroyed the learning process of your child.
We tried to convince ourselves these were just quirks. It got to the point he was coming home bullied at school by other kids and he wasn’t making any friends, and we thought, ‘Maybe this is a bigger problem.’ Later, a developmental pediatrician told us, Gabriel was autistic. As a parent you feel for your kid. It can be lonely for them and it can be lonely for you. A lot of times you’re almost ostracized. You’re out in public and your child has a meltdown and people automatically assume, ‘Oh this kid is ill-behaved, the parent’s aren’t disciplining him.’ When a lot of the times it’s autism. He [Gabriel] doesn’t quite get it. I’ve explained to him that the doctors think he might have autism and he looks at me and his questions are more basic for someone that age. It’s very heartbreaking; Gabriel will ask such questions as, “Kids call me weird. Is that why I don’t get invited to any parties?” We need more compassion from people. So when we see the mother struggling with that special needs child in the supermarket, instead of sneering or making rude comments, you can offer a compassionate word to just let her know that you understand. (Taken and edited from: http://highlandpark.patch.com/articles/autism-my-child-has-it-please-understand)
On February 12, 2008, 15 year old Lawrence “Larry” King was shot in the head by a fellow student while attending class at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California. Larry was gay and gender non-conforming. He died two days later of brain injuries. The local police classified the murder as a hate crime committed because of Larry’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Almost two hundred vigils in all 50 states were held to honor Larry’s life. How can we ensure that our children have an education free from bullying, harassment, and violence—regardless of actual, or perceived, differences in sexual orientation and gender identity and other characteristics? It’s clear that we must equip teachers and school administrators with the tools and training they need to adequately handle these complicated issues. We know that bullying deprives students of equal educational opportunities and has serious, long-lasting negative consequences. And we’ve seen time and again that when verbal bullying and harassment goes uninterrupted it can escalate to greater violence.