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Be the Change
Lasting damage caused by thoughtless words
Voicing insensitive judgments just to be heard
Your words are daggers, painful, penetrating, cuts
Your mouth runs off, but results in what?
They walk around with heads bowed low, defeated, drained, and empty
Each word and phrase played over embedded in their memories.
He’s been robbed of years of mental stability and strength
To mend the mental wounds would be a task of significant length.
She tries to mask her life, a stream of treacherous pain
He fights an internal battle striving to stay sane.
She gives of her body openly, worthlessness she feels
He has no understanding of exactly how to heal.
Your victimizing, mistreatment, and harsh verbal abuse
Cause thoughts of depression and sadness, they’ve got nothing to lose.
We must stop the bullying before it’s too late.
Change how you treat others, stop with the HATE.
Be the change, the one to make the first move
Treat others with kindness, only then will it prove
That words will move mountains… at least in their eyes
Many will gain strength and you’ll be surprised
Love and respect make this world a better place
Peace and harmony will triumph and you’ll be amazed.
All Love, No Hate
“She’s so weird”
“Why is she so ugly?” ”
“Who would want to talk to her?” ”
“Are you contagious?”
This doesn’t even begin to touch the words that I would hear on a daily bases. While most people were excited about the first day of school, plotting their new outfits, or excited to reunite with old friends and make new ones, the beginning of the school year was always just the first day to a 180 day nightmare I would live every day at school.
Things started at a young age, as far back as second grade. I can remember the teacher having to move my desk next to hers so that no one else could pick on me after a boy pulled my chair out from under me just to see me cry. I can remember in middle school, walking down hallways and having to walk over legs being stuck out to trip me, or dodge objects like wet paper towels, pencils, and pennies being thrown at me. During my seventh grade year when my purse got missing and the janitor had to retrieve my purse from the car port where the buses were parked so I could use my key to get in the house that afternoon. In High School, girls would go up to guys, point to me and tell them I wanted their number, and I would have to act like I didn’t see the face or hear the comments of disgust the guy would make, and the laughter of the reaction. During my Sophomore year I remember while I was in the bathroom, the lights went out and I was terrified, thinking that I was about to be jumped. Upon emerging from the bathroom, I came to the realization that it was just a group of kids waiting outside the door to point and laugh at me. These are just a few accounts of the everyday acts of bullying that I would have to deal with every single school day.
I’ve always kept quiet about the bullying that I went through during my school days to my family and friends outside of the school. I often thought of those places as my get away. The only people who truly knew what I was going through are the friends of mine that I was in school with that saw me go through these things every day. I had a best friend and a guy that I was dating at other schools but I never told them anything about the everyday battle I had. At that age I knew that your opinions can change according to the company that you keep. I loved the person they saw me as and I didn’t want to change that, and I was very thankful that other kids couldn’t change that either. I certainly didn’t tell my parents because that last thing I needed was for one or both of them to come up to the school and make a scene, and that become the topic of the week and yet another thing for me to have to deal with once they left.
I can say that halfway through High School and towards graduation, school life got a lot easier. Once these people got to know me, they began to like me and the bullying came less and less. By my Junior year of High School, I had enough and started standing up for myself, putting bullies in their place and letting them know that I was not taking it anymore. I would let a teacher know after class if a person was bothering me during the lesson. In the halls and after school, I would finally shoot back at the names and comments being made. I thought if I ended up in a fight as a result, I’m going down punching. I had remained quiet for so long, after they saw that I was finally taking up for myself, they seemed to back off. After a couple of conversations with me, a few even became my friend. Later on, thanks to Facebook and other social media, I have actually had a few people that have, as adults, reached out to me and apologized to me for the way they treated me during those school years and stated that they admired my courage, and how it didn’t seem to let it bother me.
One great lesson that I have learned from being bullied every day is how to be strong in situations where you feel like you are at your worst. My sister went through some forms of bullying at one point and she told me something at a young age that I could carry with me even into my adult life. Her advice was this:
“The things they say may hurt you, tear you down and even lead you to tears, but the words that hurt worst are the ones that you believe are true.”
No truer words have been spoken. With everything that was being said to me, I had to remember to look in the mirror and tell myself “you are not who these people say you are. There are people who love you, friends who like you and they are the only ones that truly matter.” I had to find my own individuality, and learn how to shut out the negative things that were being said, a skill I’ve carried with me even into my adult life. You have to learn to use those negative words as motivation to prove them wrong, making you better by proving to yourself you can do it.
As I look back at those times, as bad as they seemed, it doesn’t compare to the bullying that is going on in the schools today. In these times where technology has taken over, Cyber Bullying makes those days I spent secretly crying in the bathroom seem like a walk in the park in comparison to what the kids today have to go through. Instead of a prank being the gossip around school for the day, now it can be uploaded on YouTube and Facebook for the whole world to witness. That rumor that was just something to talk about at lunch between friends, can now be a forwarded text. An email containing pictures and other things can be passed around and forwarded a lot quicker than a handwritten note was back in the day. If bullying had the impact on me that it did, I can’t even imagine what my god kids, nieces and nephews are facing. Lives are ending more and more due to bullying. No one should endure the loss of their son or daughter because of this. Parents should pay attention to what is going on with their kids on Social Media, cell phones and emails. You child could be a victim of bullying or worse, be the bully. I think it is important to encourage our youth not to bully other kids and report to an adult when they see other kids teasing each other. We have to let them know that these things are not okay.
October is National Bullying Prevention month and I encourage everyone to get involved. Every October, schools and organizations across the country join together to observe National Bullying Prevention Month. The goal: encourage communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on all children of all ages. You can get go to different websites to find out what your child’s school or your community is doing to prevent bullying in your school system. More importantly, make an effort to teach your child that their words and actions can effect someone else. Let them know that they can talk to you if they, themselves are being bullied or to tell a teacher or another adult if you are not around. And most all give them three simple words to live by:
Words do hurt.
Today is Unity Day (part of National Bully Prevention Month), and to show solidarity, I will tell my story of being bullied, and how it affected my life, even when it seemingly ceased. I'm not doing this, seeking sympathy or to "out" anyone (I will not mention specific names), rather I want to display how I have come out strong, unlike others who could find no way out, in their minds.
It was the beginning of sophomore year, of high school. My "best friend" (since 6th grade), and I had been inseparable for quite some time. I hadn't seen much of her during the summer, as she had made new friends, but that didn't matter much, because I had made new friends too (if anything it was a fantastic notion, that we could all be friends). It didn't exactly work out that way. As I got closer with others, she seemed to get farther away, even though I had desired to meet her new friends. Social media was relatively new (myspace, specifically), and her new friends had new profiles, so I added them (naturally). After many attempts to meet up with these friends, and many pleasant conversations on social media, I soon discovered that her new friends, were actually fake. Sure, they existed somewhere, they were actual people, but they weren't her friends; she didn't even know them. She had made up all of these elaborate stories about fun times, all of these myspace profiles/posts, fake conversations on the phone, she even told me how one of her new friends' parent died, and how she was trying to console him, etc. It was completely out of hand, and went on for several months - over 5/6 (before I even caught on). I found out it was all a lie, because I found the Real profiles of the Real people, and spoke with them on IM. They themselves couldn't believe it, they had never even heard of her. I told one of my friends, but swore her to secrecy, I mean, I was absolutely devastated.
People at school started treating me differently because I was spending more time with others (my class size was relatively small, and shared nearly every class with the same people), and one of them actually went out of their way to IM me, telling me that I was nothing with out my long time best friend, and that my new friends would dump me in a heart beat, that I had better get MY act together(my "best friend" was an athlete, and not just an athlete, "The Athlete". She was at the top of the food chain, at a school that prided itself on athleticism).
Well of course I was upset, and I finally had the courage to confront her, after not only receiving those IM's, but at the urgency of a friend, a real friend. To make this short, she confessed to everything, and begged me not to tell anyone. Of course I agreed that I wouldn't, I was afraid that people would think she was insane, and I pleaded with her to seek help. I still loved her (I still love her and send positive energy her way), but there was no way I could stay friends with someone whom I couldn't trust.
There were many dark days that followed. There were days that I didn't get out of bed, that I didn't go to school, because I dreaded walking through the double doors, to arrive at english class, where I was forced to publicly recite essays, and work that I had put much of my emotions into (which I cried, while I attempted to do so), only to have to display them, to the very people that despised me, because I wouldn't tell them what happened between us. I kept my word, and I didn't say a thing about it, a time when everyone wanted to know everyone else's business, when gossip spread like a forest fire. I was getting so much hate and negative energy thrown my way because I wouldn't speak about it, I would simply say, "go ask her what happened, I'm not telling". I could even feel some teachers changing their tune with me, and a friend even got some of the hate from fellow classmates, sometimes. At one point a classmate confessed to me, "I wish I could bring a hammer to school, and hit you over the head with it". How could I tell the school; the principal? In my mind, at that time, it was called being a knark. Now I know, it's called standing up for oneself.
Luckily I had friends that stuck by me. That same friend that I was told, would dispose of me, is actually one of the greatest beings in my life. Classmates eventually stopped bullying me, but walking through the school doors was a constant reminder. I would still have this endless anxiety that paralyzed me, and am so thankful I overcame it, with time. After high school, I felt free, and I found myself, and if something like that were to happen again, I know with great certainty, that I would let my voice be heard. Bullying doesn't just happen by classmates in grade school, it happens in college too, by students and professors, as well as people at your work place. If you feel as though you are being bullied, or you see it happening to someone else, be vocal. There is always someone that will listen, heck I'll listen!
I care because I've been there and I know how it feels. I was once a small child with a handful of friends and these mean girls used to laugh at me because I was overweight and I wore a hearing aid - I could not hear properly and instead of supporting and understanding, they would take every opportunity to laugh and ridicule me. It affected me, I cried a lot and I thought I wasn't worth much - I wasn't popular, I spoke with a lisp, I wasn't skinny and my hair and nails were not all coloured and primed to perfection and I guess I didn't care about the boys or other teenage stuff that mattered to them.You know what though? It really didn't matter because I learnt to rise above all that. I had me; I was real, I had a good heart, and life was just waiting for me to seize it... with the support of family and belief in myself, I showed all those mean people how much I was worth. I aced all of my exams in high school, got into university and came on top of all my classes and graduated with top honours. Today I am working towards getting a doctorate and my dreams are just coming through bit by bit everyday. Those mean girls? They don't even matter anymore (really, they do vanish). If there is someone out there who is feeling the same way, you need to keep on believing in yourself. Work hard, and your dreams would come through and do not let those people bring you down. Know what you want in life and go for it. One day you will look these people in the eye, hold your head proudly and they would have absolutely no power. Love yourself because you are strong and beautiful :)
Dear Teen Me
There's a girl in your school everyone hates. You know who I'm talking about. Tina. Why? You'll never know. Sorry, but that will remain one of your life's great mysteries, more personal than where Jimmy Hoffa's body is buried or who killed Jon Benet Ramsey.
She rides your bus, lives in your town. You know her better than most. You don't really like her either. Maybe her voice grates on your nerves. Maybe it's her braying laugh. Maybe it's her superior attitude. You aren't sure exactly why you don't like her, but you don't hate her either. Why does everyone else seem to hate her? Why are they so mean to her?
You can see her pedaling frantically down that dusty unpaved road in rural New Jersey. Her home is probably a half mile back, not that you can see it much through all the sandy soil her wheels have kicked up. The Garden State. Farmland. Hot and humid.
The people here have sharp edges to them and if you aren't careful they'll cut you to the bone. You weren't used to that when you first moved north from the Deep South. You were a Georgia peach—sweet and soft and easily bruised. You eventually learned how to handle the blades properly, avoid those edges, toughen up from the rogue nicks. You learned to love the blunt honesty, the transparency of their regard for other people.
But your heart hurts watching Tina move closer. Even the bus driver seems to hate her. You hear his grumbles rise in a chorus with all the others'. He revs the engine, closes the door. Tina jumps off the bike in a frantic attempt to cover those last few feet. She miscalculates, though, and stumbles in the dirt. The bus roars with laughter.
Why does she have to put herself out there for ridicule, make herself an even larger target?
The driver opens the door. Still hurrying, Tina brushes herself off as she mounts the steps. Her bike is in an abandoned mangle half on and half off the road. She doesn't seem to care about it, only making the bus, going to school. Why is she so intent on climbing inside the lion's den?
A boy slaps her on the back of the head as she passes down the aisle. He tacks on a few choice words. Her head snaps forward from the ferocity of the blow. She doesn't turn to confront him, doesn't say a word. Another boy strikes her, even harder. Her glasses are nearly jostled off her face. A nudge of her knuckle straightens them. Her eyes scan for an empty seat. Her house is one of the last stops. There aren't many seats left. Inside you're praying she doesn't spot the empty seat next to you. Other people put their feet up or spread out their books to prevent her from sitting next to them.
To your relief she finds a spot several rows in front of you and sits. The bus takes off for the thirty-minute ride to the high school fed by multiple rural communities. Everyone eventually returns to their conversations, their radios, and their books. They forget about Tina. For now.
A few weeks later, there's a school assembly. A play. Yay! No class for fourth period. Thank you, thank you!
The play isn't all that good. You won't even remember what it was about years from now. What you will remember is Tina strolling out on that stage. She's in the play. Really?
The audience boos. Not just a few catcalls from the usual suspects. This sounds like the entire student body. She's speaking her lines, but you can't hear a word she says. The boos drown her out, but she's carrying on like nothing is wrong.
You aren't booing. You are trying to imagine what one person could have done to incite so much hatred people would boo her performance. You want a reason. You need a reason. Ice water runs through your veins and tingles creep over your scalp. You know this girl, her sister, her family. Your conscience is gnawing at you, telling you this is wrong; this is unfair; this is cruel.
But never once do you seriously consider doing anything to stop what's happening to Tina. After all, if they can do this to her, they can do it to you, too. Silence is your friend. Silence is your ally
I hate to tell you, but silence was a false friend who tricked you into participating in Tina's bullying. I know you probably aren't shocked to hear me say this. You've felt guilty about it for a while now. When you remember Tina, you will always feel guilty for being an accomplice by default.
You'll be happy to know I looked for and found Tina on Facebook the other day. I didn't think I would be able to track her down so easily, but I did. In hindsight, I shouldn't be surprised. I assumed life would have kept on kicking her and grinding her under its boot. I was wrong. She's a missionary in the Ukraine, has a big beautiful family with a husband and sons who look like leading men in romance novels. She looks happy and healthy, even if a few pounds plumper like so many of us. Wow. Good for her.
Now, you might be thinking: seems like that experience made her stronger and therefore, in the long run, it was good for her. Maybe. Maybe not. That's not the point. Tina is not the point of this letter or this story. The point is, her experience was your experience and it was bad for you. Unspoken outrage has a way of eating its way out, eventually, and it's not always pretty in the way it manifests—panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and deep regret.
Here's the deal. Speak up for the Tinas in your life. Don’t look the other way assuming that could have just as easily been you. Pay your debts as you go, and don't build up that huge guilt mortgage. You don't have to grandstand your support. You don't have to punch a bully in the nose or deliver a scathing rebuke. Sometimes all you need to do is wave Tina over to that empty seat next to you or clap for her performance or call your mom to go pick up her bike out of the dirt. Remember that.
With much love,
Iris St. Clair is the author of the recently released contemporary young adult novel, Louder Than Words, about a teen struggling to find the courage to speak up. Iris believes in the two-year "fish or cut bait" dating rule and has a 20+ year marriage and two sons as proof of concept. She lives, writes, dreams and dances in the rainy Portland, OR area.
By: Iris St. Clair
A Little Different
I have three boys, 28, 19 and 17. My youngest, Elijah was diagnosed with aspergers a few years ago but is In a main stream school and doing very well. When he was in middle school and even elementary all the kids noticed that he was a little different and thought that gave them the right to start teasing him and making fun of him. He has been beaten up, jumped, etc. I have become a big advocate against bullying because of everything we have been through with him. Now that he is 17, he has somewhat learned how to stick up for himself. At his school they do a lot of fundraisers for autism, cancer, etc. but I have yet to see one for bullying so I thought, why not make a proposal to them about unity day and have everyone wear orange to raise awareness. I was a little skeptical at first and really thought nah, that won't go for it, low and behold I got a phone call from the high school counselor letting me know they all thought it was a great idea and are willing to work with me on getting the posters put up, having everyone wear orange and even raising funds and donating them to PACER!! I am more than thrilled to get this going and wanted to say thank you to you for having a website that allows students, parents, teachers etc. to have the opportunity to get resources on this very important topic.
I'm Still Here
You're more than worthy. Yes, you feel like your whole world is tumbling down, and your only friend is that blade that you hide. And people say it will get better, you ask yourself if it actually will. Like my friend once told me "It's gunna get darker before it gets brighter." It may take weeks, months, or even years, but it will get better. No matter how much you hate yourself, there will be that one day when you say "gosh, I'm so beautiful" and be proud of it. That's not being conceited, that's being proud of who you are. And if your scars stick around, don't hide them be proud and say "I'm a fighter, I fought and won!" This might be just another one of those where you say "ugh, another person trying to tell me I'm important." Why don't you take this and actually notice that you ARE important! Those people that bring you down aren't worth your tears nor time. "She doesn't understand what I'm going through." I do understand, more than you can imagine. I'm a fighter myself and I'm still fighting. I know how it feels to be different from everyone. To try and explain how you feel and they just stare at you like you're crazy. To have people say they will be there for you but end up leaving in less than a week. To hide a smile just make your parents happy and think that you're okay. I've cut, starved, everything. And I'm still not perfect. Why? Because no one is. Be the winner in the war. And years from now, you can smile proudly to those people that brought you down. "I'm still here. Happy and alive."
Everyone is Different in an Extraordinary Way
My name is Daniel and I have Down Syndrome. But I look different than others. Cause, I communicate with others occasionally. Having a Disability helps me understand People and their Social Peer Problems. I grew up in San Angelo, Texas since I was a kid. My folks were stationed in the U.S. Air Force overseas at Ramstein AFB, Germany. That’s where I grew up during my elementary years. I was in Special Olympics since Kindergarten-4th Grade. I was gifted in running and doing accurative activities, like any Gifted Students with Special Needs. During my Middle School years I got teased and bullied, same thing like I did during my elementary years. Kids that young can be cruel and ignorant. I was one of these Kids getting tired getting picked on. Because, I have a disability learning doesn’t mean everyone is different in an extraordinary way. I meet a nice Kid who saved me from the bullies, and he was different than everyone else. His name is Michael and he became my hero. I was tired of getting picked on. Then High School was extremely different. Same thing I was tired of getting tired being intimidated by bullies. During my Sophomore year I learned How to draw and get realistic in Art. I became an Art Student who learned How to Paint and Color. My Junior year I learned how to sing in the Choir and focus on music. I sang Solo like other Boys.
Who am i, i am me
I walk like this because i am me,
i talk like this because i am me,
my hair is like this because i am me,
i dress like this because i am me,
my walk my talk my style i am me and
forever will be
my mommy always told me just to be me
because everything comes together so perfectly
i am just who i should be and
By: Nine-year-old, makayla of philadelphia
You’re Never Alone
Hi, my name is Jana. This is my story. Bullying has been a problem since I was in the first grade. I was the fat, weird, and loser kid. The teacher was literally my best friend. The second grade was no better. Especially since the teacher was terrible. I was alone. No friends. I finally moved to a different school at the start of the third grade. Things got better, and I actually liked it. Then came the fourth grade. My two "best friends" turned on me and told everyone my dad was in jail. I was heartbroken that they treated me like that. It then led to one of the girls bullying me online taunting me, saying that my dad was in jail for molesting me. He wasn't. He was in jail for drugs. We then moved again to another school. I fell in love. It was the best school ever. There was still bullying, but it wasn't as bad. Even though I only had 3 friends, that was all I needed.
I went through the sixth and seventh grade with minimal bullying. Then came the eighth grade. The bullying started up again. And this time, it was really bad. At that point, I was just done. I was tired of the constant bullying and going home bawling. I thought it had all finally stopped. I was wrong. The bullying got so bad that I became severely depressed. I missed a lot of school. What no one knew was that I was staying home because I could barely walk and was scared. I could barely walk because at that point, I started cutting myself. It was horrible. I stayed in bed all say. I cried myself to sleep at night. No one had the slightest clue. My mom just thought I was sick. Eventually, my 2 best friends found out. I made them swear not to tell, and lied to them constantly. A few months later, my mom found out. I felt like my whole world had come crashing down. Me and one of my best friends were no longer friends because of rumors. I hate my mom's boyfriend because he's not my dad. Everything was horrible. Cutting was this way I could cope. All the shame and the pain was marked on my arms, wrists, and legs. It was awful. I just couldn't stop. When my mom found out, she put me in counseling. (If you are ever struggling with self harm in any way, you need to get help IMMEDIATELY!!!!!! It is NOT a healthy way to cope. And if you're ever thinking about it, DON'T!!! You are beautiful and are worth more than harming yourself. Please, if you are harming yourself in any way, GET HELP!) Things started looking up for once. Then came high school.
Stupid high school freshmen. That was me. I was THAT freshman. The stupid, fat, and annoying freshman. Things actually did start to look up for me though. Despite all the upperclassmen making fun of me, I learned to cope better. No, I'm not going to lie. It's not like I haven't relapsed. I have. I feel like I'm on the road to recovery, and it is a long road. I have been through something as small as a fat joke, to as big as my four wheeler accident where I broke my thigh, arm, and 5 ribs, along with a severe head injury. I feel experienced. I feel more grateful for my life. Every time someone makes fun of me, I think, look at where I'm going to be in 10 years down the road. I have a bright future ahead of me, and I'm not letting some insecure person bring me down. Life's hard. But you weren't given a life you aren't strong enough to live.
So, my thoughts on bullying? Huh. Why? Why would you make someone feel so bad about themselves that they hurt them self and try to kill them self? It's not cute. It's not funny. And it sure doesn't make you cool. I have 5 bracelets I wear constantly. Warrior, Stay Strong, Stop Bullying, Band Against Bullying Stand Up Speak Out, and LOVATIC. These things remind me that I am a warrior, and that I can get through anything. I'm honored that my birthday happens to be on October 5. Since I am turning 16, I am getting my first tattoo on my wrists that will say Stay Strong. A permanent reminder of what I've been through, and how strong I am for coming out of it. I don't see the reason for bullying. Just don't say anything rude. I feel like I was meant to be an advocate for anti bullying, and help make it stop. I feel like that is one of my purposes in life. Always, ALWAYS, remember, you are beautiful and worthy of life. You DESERVE a healthy happy life, and if you are struggling with the same things I struggled with, know that you are worth recovery. There isn't just one type of beautiful. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
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