I present a bully prevention program. This program is near and dear to my heart because I was bullied growing up. I haven’t had to experience bullying since high school, until recently. While I was at a school presenting the bully prevention program, I was bullied (trust me, I see the irony).
I began the program by defining bullying and soon moved into various bullying situation examples. One of the examples talked about how someone throws a piece of paper at someone. A student then interjected with, “How do you throw a piece of paper?” He held up one of the handouts I had given out as an example. I had to laugh a little at the odd question. I answered it and moved on.
Soon, odd interjections began to turn into rude comments. Students giggled during videos that discussed bullying and suicide. They said mean things about the kids in the videos. I looked to the teachers to speak up, but none of them did. I pressed the issue of the seriousness of bullying and soon moved on. I began to talk about how students could stop being bystanders and stand up for their classmates. I gave an example of what someone could say to a friend who is bullying. One of the students jumped on the opportunity, “Oh so we should bully each other?” After clarifying my intention, I asked them how they would handle a bullying situation. No one spoke. I asked again, but still no one spoke. Again, I looked to the teachers for support, but not one of them spoke up.
I continued on with the presentation. I shared personal stories, as I always do, about being bullied as a teen. I talked about how I was bullied because I was overweight and talked about the impact those moments still have on me today. When I finished this story, I paused. It was then I heard one of the students say, “She really is fat.”
Being called fat isn’t new to me, but it still hurts as much as the first day I heard it. It brings back a lot of pain that I had locked away. I couldn’t let those four words slide away and I knew I couldn’t let that student win. I gave the teachers one last chance to speak up. When they didn’t, I said, “But I’m fabulous.”
After the presentation, I followed my own presentation’s advice: talk to a trusted adult. The counselor took down a few names of students and I went with her to the superintendent’s office. When the superintendent said those students are the biggest bullies in their school, I wasn’t surprised.
While the administration at the school seemed to take bullying seriously, the rest of the school did not. Bullying isn’t just a part of growing up and it isn’t just a fact of life. Those are just excuses people use so they can beat people down without the consequences. We need to stand up against bullying because there is no reason big enough to excuse hurting someone for life. Every time we bully someone, we put a wrinkle in their heart and it will never go away.