I'm part of Team Teen Author, and this month's topic is bullying. This post was really hard for me to write, so hard, I nearly backed out. I apologize up front for it's awkwardness.
“Miss Gregory?” Margaret's whiny voice cut through the
soft din of lunch, her thin face flushed, her brown eyes
gleaming with spitefulness.
Inwardly, Noli sighed as she focused on yet another bowl
of bland food. Ever since Margaret had realized that Noli
and Charlotte were friends, she’d tortured Noli, too. She
made stains on her clothes and fussed when Noli couldn’t
get them out. Tracked dirt onto clean floors. Claimed to be
allergic to the flowers. Found fault with the way Noli made
her rickety cot.
“Yes, Margaret?” Miss Gregory looked up from her
conversation. She, Miss Henderson, and Miss Nelson sat
at the head of the long table. Next came the fancies, then
the blues in the middle, and the new girls at the end.
“I believe Magnolia has an illegal piece of jewelry. A
necklace.” Margaret smirked. “New girls aren’t permitted
Noli writhed in embarrassment on her hard wooden
chair. How did Margaret know? She’d been so careful to
keep it hidden.
Miss Gregory’s eyes narrowed as she looked down her
pointed nose. “Does she? Thank you, Margaret. Magnolia
Braddock, come here."
--Chapter 6, INNOCENT DARKNESS
In INNOCENT DARKNESS, both Noli and Charlotte are constantly bullied at Findlay House by Margaret, a nasty girl who picks on other girls and tries to curry favor with the headmistress by being a tattletale. Miss Gregory, the headmistress, does nothing to stop Margaret's bullying, and some of the terrible things that happen to Noli at Findlay are because of Margaret.
I, too, was bullied in school. The incident that really impacted me was being bullied and harassed by a male upper classman in my Spanish class every day for a bulk of the year. The male teacher laughed it off saying "boys would be boys", refused to move my seat, and generally made me feel like I deserved it. Even when the teacher watched the other student tease me, taunt me, steal things out of my backpack, eat my lunch, take my stuffed animal I'd been given in class as a birthday present and do things to it...he never did anything. Just the fact that he, one of the most admired teachers in the school, wouldn't do anything--and neither would my classmates--hurt. I was told not to go to the principal because then I'd be branded as a trouble maker. Even my parents just told me to ignore him, which can be hard when they don't want to be ignored, or steal from you, or get physical.
Noli and Charlotte persevered at Findlay, they believed that if they gave up, the other people "won." I survived Spanish class and never, ever saw that upper classman again, however I spend all of high school cringing whenever I saw that teacher.
Unfortunately, when you grow up, the bullies don't go away. They, too, grow up. They become your co-workers and bosses, your relatives or neighbors, parents (or teachers) at your child's school. Sometimes you may even date them.
The sad thing is, some of people never understand that bullying is wrong--and that adults can be bullies. Bullying is not limited to stealing milk money and teasing (and yes, kids still steal or extort milk/snack/lunch money from other kids).
Sending threatening emails is bullying. Copying a whole bunch of people on a rather personal email with the intent to embarrass is bullying. Sending threatening texts or texting someone after they told you to stop is bullying. Having someone facebook someone threatening/ominous things on your behalf is bullying. Having a parent socially shunned because they dared confront you about your child bullying theirs because the teacher wouldn't do anything--that's bullying too.
It's awful, and terrible, and it happens.
What hurts even more is when you can't stop it--and you can't always. Or you could, but it would hurt you far more than it would ever hurt them.
Sometimes you have to walk away and remove yourself from the situation in order to stop it -- even though you're so angry, because they're WRONG and should be stopped and no one is doing anything.
That, too, is awful and terrible. No one should have to do that. But sometimes the bad guys wins. It sucks. Oh, believe me, I know.
I wish no one, not a child or teen or adult would ever have to go through any of the bullying I've experienced as a kid or an adult.
One thing we could also do is continue to spread the word that bullying is wrong. Bust not everyone sees what they do as "bullying." Bullies also come in all shapes and sizes, blasting apart the steryotype of the big kid on the playground teasing the small kids. Girls can be bullies. Younger kids can be bullies. Adults can be bullies (both to other adults and to kids.)
So we have to expand our message about bullying. Messing people is wrong. Getting up in people's business is wrong. Publicly embarrassing people to get your way is wrong. Extorting other kids for ice cream money is wrong. Of all the different things you could call it, or could do, they're still bullying. Changing the name or dismissing it because you're "grown up" does not magically make it right.
If we spread the word, maybe the bullies won't win anymore. Other people will help us call them out. They'll (and we'll) stop being afraid to do something about it. The punishments won't be for us, but them -- and there will be actual repercussions. That others will know and recognize that it's wrong and it's not just "boys being boys" or in the "acceptable" realm of adult behavior. Or feeling like because it's online it doesn't hurt less.
Online bullying can hurt just as much as it does in person. But that's a whole post in itself.
So let's take a stand. This is unacceptable and needs to be stopped. But in order to do so we need to continue to educate people that bullying can take many shapes and forms. That no matter what you call it, how you rationalize it, it's still wrong.
Edited to add -- I forgot, the hubby recently helped make this awesome Nick Cannon music video about bullying. It's worth watching.