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Dear Teen Me

Posted: 10/15/2014

Dear Iris,

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

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A Little Different

Posted: 10/9/2014

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.

By: Michele

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I'm Still Here

Posted: 10/9/2014

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."

By: Anonymous

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Everyone is Different in an Extraordinary Way

Posted: 10/9/2014

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.

By: Daniel

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Who am i, i am me

Posted: 10/6/2014

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
that’s me

By: Nine-year-old, makayla of philadelphia

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You’re Never Alone

Posted: 10/2/2014

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.

By: Jana

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Dance in This Dream

Posted: 9/25/2014

My name is Sara Stevens. I'm 13 years old, I'm a singer, and I enjoy every bit of life. When I see kids being bullied: whether it's on TV, online or even in person, I want to reach out to the victims and say: "Don't worry. You're not alone. I was bullied too." I was picked on for being too tall, for drawing too much and for singing in the middle of class. I can't help it. I have music inside me and I need to let it out. In the end, the mean words that were thrown at me made me a stronger person and a better performer. I remember one night I couldn't sleep because I was so worried about going to school in the morning. I even cried. I decided then and there I wanted to make singing my life-long career. Some time later, I met a man named John Roberts. He's a music producer in Atlanta. Together, he and I wrote a song called DANCE IN THIS DREAM which was inspired by what I had gone through. I hope with all my heart that this song will touch many lives. It has a powerful message about looking for the positive and overcoming the negative. The most important thing a person can do is to be him or herself. Don't let anything hold you back, take your chance, find your dream and everything is possible!

By: Sara Stevens

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Cool to be Weird

Posted: 9/19/2014

I am a Seattle-based musician and music teacher that specializes in teaching kids to find their identity through their voice, songwriting, and performance. Like many, I was also a victim of bullying as a teen, when I was made to feel different and weird. This song—inspired by Dr. Seuss’ “The Sneetches”— is about embracing our differences, and celebrating our uniqueness.

I remember my father reading Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches and Other Stories to me as I lay on the floor and colored one night for reading time. Reading was always a nightly event. It started when my mother would leave to work the night shift and would go until my brother and I would fall asleep in our crayons.

I thought it would be appropriate to return to this old book from my past once more. I remember I was washing dishes when I thought “wait all these Sneetches are running around trying to fit in, trying to be acceptable, but it’s cool to be different, it’s cool to be weird.” With soapy hands and wet pages I wrote the entire chorus while finishing the dishes:

“You got to be comfortable in your own skin, don’t you let them win, because it’s cool not to fit in, so go a little crazy and don’t you fear, because it’s cool to be weird.”

As a one on one guitar and songwriting teacher to teens and young girls I feel this is an important message for our youth. In the video you will see a number of my students and people of Seattle making a statement that it’s okay to be yourself, it’s cool to be weird!

By: Tai Shan

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A Story that Needs to be Told

Posted: 9/15/2014

As a child and student, I suffered the experience of being bullied by other kids. They would call me names, push me around, point out parts of my character that was different than others and make fun of these things with their friends. The verbal abuse from them was constant and painful. I became afraid to do anything. I shied away from taking part in Drama, Dancing at school events, participating in sports, and making friends. It has had an effect on my life as an adult as I feel socially awkward when meeting new people and I have a hard time fumbling for the right words. Yet, the kids weren’t the only part of the bullying process. Adults were nearly as bad, intimidating me with their size, demanding that I do things for their entertainment (Fighting, saying unnecessary phrases to people, or taunting people with racial remarks), and the verbal onslaught from adults was just as bad. It’s one thing to be taunted by a student body, but to continue to be taunted when you leave the school? No child should have to face this. No one should be reminded of how stupid they are or how different they may be or how far they will not go in life.

Now, I am watching my own children go through the schools and life. It breaks my heart when I hear that people still behave the way they did when I was a child and I am proud of those people who are fighting to end this ignorance. Despite our differences, should we not all be good people? Shouldn’t we try to aid the fallen? Shouldn’t our spirits be helpful and kind?

My challenge to those who read this… Let people know that they are important. Help them when they are down, even if you don’t get along with them, even if you have to bite your lip and grind through it. Keep things positive with the people you meet and… if you have children, try to never say anything negative to them about their character or how they look. Love each other.

By: Tim

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For the bullied - you are never alone

Posted: 8/29/2014

I stand alone in a world of exclusion while reality tells me this is no illusion.
Tiny baubles of water form in my eyes and ask myself what have I done to deserve their despise.
They call me names and laugh in my face and tell each other I'm a total disgrace.
Their words hurt and cut to my soul, they make me feel like an under-bridge troll.
I try to be strong and look up to the sky; hoping that someone will hear and understand my cry.

Alone, for no one hears my screams. Alone; with only my hopes and my dreams.
I withdraw into myself - into a world of darkness and despair, a world without color, happiness or prayer.
I'm lost in a deserted darkened orb; my only friend - myself, completely absorbed.
I'm looking for someone to show me the light that will make my life again shiny and bright,
I'm looking for someone to help me chase all my fears, someone to wipe away my endless tears..
Deeper and deeper I slip into depression my mind becoming the bully's possession.
Help me, help me I cry in vain while the bullies continue their hideous game.

And then a light appears in my head - a light of happiness and for once, not dread.
It speaks to me with a voice of silk telling me to release my feelings of guilt.
It tells me I'm like a raindrop falling from a warm spring sky -a kaleidoscope of colors and that I shouldn't worry about the sting of others.
It whispers the beauty I bring to the world should never be lost, forgotten or spoiled. It tells me this beauty lives and thrives in my heart and my soul and should always be cherished and
never fishbowled. And so my eyes begin to open and I finally see that the bullies are no better than me.
Their hate and their envy, are clouds that cover their minds, now my only wish is to remove their blinds.

By: Marty

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