Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Twenty Five Years Later, and Bullies Still Are Not Taken to Task

 I am a 36 year old disabled woman who has been variously labeled "fat", "crazy", and "a hippie weirdo." I now try to embrace labels that others use in an attempt to "shame" me into being someone more "acceptable". I am passionate about issues of race/racism, criminal (in)justice, fat acceptance, and mental health advocacy. I blog at My Name Is JuJuBe and I am on the team at The Intersection of Madness and Reality

It all started out innocently enough. I was a 13 year old freshman in high school, and a bunch of us in my honors English class were writing song lyrics on the chalkboard, waiting for the teacher to come back into the classroom. I was a hippie chick, into music from the 60s and 70s (even though this was 1987), so I chose to quote some lyrics from "Turn Turn Turn" by the Byrds. Everything was going fine until I wrote the line "A time to kill..." Well, that certainly got my classmates attention!
The other students in my class started looking at me strangely, asking me why I decided to write that specific lyric on the board (completely ignoring the fact that that it was probably the 5th or 6th line from that song I had written). So, over dramatic teen that I was, I decide to really shake things up!
I started telling my fellow students that I there was going to be a revolution, that the "nobodies" like me were going to rise up against the "popular" students. I said that some of us were sick of being treated like crap, and we were going to change things! I even made some fake posters, and showed them to some of the kids in my class. Over the course of the day, things really snowballed.
Pretty soon, the entire student body was whispering about how I had threatened to kill a bunch of kids. They even spread the word that I had a list of students who were going to be the first to die. (I didn't, and I had never even met some of the kids who approached me in anger over the course of the day angry at me for daring to put their names on the list.)

Eventually, I was called into the dean's office. Apparently, some of the students who I had been talking to about my (non-existant) "plans" were frightened, and decided to turn me into the folks in charge. The dean KNEW the kind of things that students in the school had been putting me through since day one (I had been working with my counselors to get transferred out of the school due to extreme harassment). He and I actually laughed over this situation. He told me he understood why I said the things I said, and that he knew I was not serious, but was just venting. He warned me to refrain from speaking about things like that in the future, because if anything actually happened to the students, I would have been the first suspect. Then he sent me back to class. And he STILL didn't bother to address the issue of bullying with the student body.
Today, a child who did what I did would probably be expelled and charged with a crime, even if they had no concrete plans to back up their words. These situations are taken far more seriously now.
Now, I am by no means condoning school shootings. But, I cannot understand WHY schools, parents, and fellow students decide to remain blissfully ignorant UNTIL a child acts up, and either says, or God forbid, DOES, something extreme. Why is it that when I was being TORMENTED by my classmates on a daily basis, the school administration did not feel the need to call the kids who were treating me like garbage into the office? Why did they try to find me a new school to attend, instead of addressing the issue of bullying that was causing me enough stress to cut myself on a regular basis, and to go home most days in tears?
So many times, I considered taking my own life to stop the pain I was feeling from being treated as less than human. But, I knew if I did, the same students who were constantly throwing things at me, pushing their friends into me, attempting to burn me with cigarettes, and doing whatever they could to make me feel small would be front and center at my funeral, talking about how much they would miss me and what a wonderful person I was. I refused to give them the satisfaction of thinking they did a good deed by attending the funeral and "mourning" the poor fat chick who was bullied to death.
The kids in my school obviously KNEW they were treating me as if I was less than human. If they didn't realize how much their actions were hurting me, they would have never believed that I was capable of enough anger to start a "revolution". (I had NEVER shown any signs of violence). So, why didn't anyone intervene?
I wonder how many school shootings could have been prevented if teachers had bothered to actually SEE the students who were being bullied, and given a damn??