Way back in middle school, recess would go a little like this: there would be the girls who jumped rope, until bringing a rope to school was one day declared against the rules. There were races; boys and girls would do relays back and forth through the yard. There was the tree, which was a place for the quieter ones to hang reading a book, sneaking a look at a Truly Tasteless Joke Book and talking, hoping that boy that you liked, but didn’t want anyone to know that you liked, but hoped he liked you back, would notice you. The boys were always running around, trying to play some type of catch a girl girl, get a girl variation of tag until a lunch aide would either yell at them to stop or stand near by to ensure that no one “got a girl”.
And then there was the show.
A kid named Nemesis (really) would often be the target of the boys. It would be anything that could cause it however the end result was that Nemesis would get punched or kicked and would eventually be ridden around the schoolyard as if he were a horse. I never really thought about how Nemesis must have felt, being ridden around like a horse in front of the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Years later as a mom I am horrified that while I never hopped on Nemesis for a trot around the yard, I would tghink it was funny and would laugh KNOWING that laughter could – and would – encourage and spur another gallop through the yard. I can also remember being glad that *I* wasn’t Nemesis. There were days when it was “my turn” but nothing no where as horrible as the infliction of being someone horse ever EVER happened.
Bullying is something so easy to dismiss when it’s happening to someone else. It’s Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons, laughing his distinctive, “Haw, Haw!” It’s Biff from Back to the Future who slapped George McFly around and forced McFly to do his homework. Bullies come in all sizes and shapes but its up to everyone to stand up, make a stand, be the voice.
It’s not easy “doing the right thing.” I am sure there are those who are ready for the fight, ready for action, not afraid of anything but I will not lie; I like my place under the radar, taking it easy, hoping not to make waves. I don’t think of myself as clueless but I consider my library, my home, a safe place. I encourage my kid and my library kids to have a voice, but it scares me that I am the person they are turning to, wanting, needing advice and fumbling toward an answer that I hope will help them.
I recently saw the movie Bully and I am still having trouble processing my emotions. The children spotlighted in the movie were as varied as could be but they all were picked on in some form or another. Some thought this was the normal friends “messing around” some were more desperate and focused on was to hurt otghers or themselves. As a parent and a communty leader, I am grateful for this movie to help me find the words that I lacked to encouarge kids to speak up, to speak to the bullies and to make myself more confident to be heard.
Even if you don’t think bullying affects YOU, learn the signs, be aware and educate yourself. I encourage people to check out the Bully websiste and movie. There was also some wonderful information from StopBullying.gov, the anti bullying website from the government.
Be the change.