Billy is the school bully. Everyone knows it. Most kids act like they’re his friends because they don’t want to be his target. They’ve seen what he does to those kids. Tommy is one of them. Billy singles him out in the hallways, the cafeteria, on the bus. He teases him and calls him names daily. It’s a shame, everyone thinks so. Tommy is a nice kid, maybe too nice. Help him? Are you kidding?? That would surely put a bulls eye on a person’s back. No, it’s better just to go along with Billy. He’s not so bad when he’s your friend. Sorry Tommy.
What do you remember most about being 13 years old? Maybe you recall your big crush, or perhaps your group of friends, or maybe you were superstar of some sort amongst your peers. Others may recall being a Tommy or even a Billy.
For me, my 13th year was as unlucky as the number is deemed to be. It was the year I got harassed, or bullied, as many insist on calling it. But before I dive into that, just what is the difference between bullying and harassment anyway?
Harass means to subject someone persistently and wrongfully to annoying, offensive or troubling behavior; to create an unpleasant or hostile situation for especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct
Hmm…doesn’t sound much different from bullying: acts or written or spoken words intended to intimidate or harass a person or to cause physical harm to a person or his or her property
So back to unlucky 13. When I was in 9th grade, I attended school in small south Texas town. It was a fairly big high school for a such a small town. I was new in town and didn’t know many people. What stands out most in my mind about that time is being a Tommy (you know, harassed, or bullied, as many prefer to call it). Why? The wrong boy had a crush on me and I didn’t reciprocate. The creeper was a senior and I was a freshman. I wasn’t allowed to date him even if I would’ve wanted to, which I didn’t. So he ended up dating Laura, a beast known for fighting. And for some reason, she took to hating me rather easily (I have a hunch who planted that seed in her warped mind). I swear didn’t do anything to bring that on. I didn’t want anything to do with her boyfriend and I never even knew she existed until she started following me around the halls and saying things to me in Spanish that I couldn’t understand. I’m glad I didn’t know what she was saying , but I could tell it definitely wasn’t nice. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she recruited a bunch of her friends to join in. Girls I barely knew were staring me down in my classes. People would talk loudly near me about how much of a wicked fighter the Beast was, obviously wanting me to overhear them. They described how she kicked a girl’s head in on the bus with her boots until she was bleeding. Then one day I was sitting quietly in choir class and a girl told me the Beast asked her to jump me, but she said I seemed too sweet and she didn’t want to. She also informed me that I should “watch my back.” I got to the point of dreading each day of school. I was trying to figure out ways to escape the situation. It was daunting. I had told my parents, who called the school. They were going to “keep an eye out for trouble.” That didn’t help. Finally things came to a head one day when the Beast cornered me between classes in the hallway. It felt like a showdown at high noon in the Wild West. There she stood at the end of my locker row, blocking the only exit. I didn’t cower like I’m sure she expected. I stood my ground and we exchanged unpleasant words that consisted of me telling her to keep her creeper boyfriend on a leash and tell him stop calling me. I figured I may end up in the hospital, but I wasn’t going to go down easy. By some miracle, an angel of a classmate came by at that moment and stepped in on my behalf. I didn’t know anyone else liked me enough to help. Anyway when I walked into my class late, uninjured and in tact, there were some shocked faces and whispers. Apparently my scheduled beat down was news and they didn’t expect to see me back in class that day. Oh, and I ended up with detention for being tardy. But it felt like a small price to pay for living to tell my story. Fortunately, my family ended up moving out-of-state to Minnesota a short time after that. I never looked back. And thankfully I never had issues with bullying again. Once was a enough.
The point I’m making is, bullying sounds like a childish term for the playground. Let’s call it what it really is….harassment! Maybe then it would be taken more seriously by everyone. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as my situation. It could be somone teasing, taunting, or demeaning your kid daily. Any form of persistent, unpleasant harassment should be stopped, period. Parents, please don’t ignore the seriousness of harassment. If your kid tells you they are being “bullied,” it’s probably more than just a case of hurt feelings. I urge you go to your child’s teachers and administrators in person and demand something be done, and follow up on it. Get names, involve parents. Don’t just tell them to be brave and fight back so that it stops. That is not a solution unless you know your kid can deliver the smack down of the century. No, what happens instead? Take a look around at the schools across the country and decide for yourself. I’ll leave it at that. And please, please educate your kids to step up when they see it happening to someone else. I can’t thank my angel enough for that.