I’ve wanted to write about how to deal with bullying (and put out the call to stop the bullying) for quite some time but wasn’t sure what to say, or how to say it. But I think it’s time to talk about kids who have endured bullying and/or violence at the hands of other kids.
Last year, my daughter was bullied by a girl she went to school with, who was clearly trying to instigate a fight. When my daughter did not take the bait, as they say, the girl physically attacked her while her sister videotaped the entire incident and their mother watched (and seemed to have no issue with their behavior let alone stop the bullying at the hands of her daughters). The video of the incident was then uploaded to Youtube, which we presume was the motivation behind the situation.
My daughter’s adult sister (my stepdaughter) addressed this with the mother (who, dare I say, behaved inappropriately, at best) after the fact, and I contacted Youtube to have the video removed as it violated their Terms of Service. (Yes, folks, sometimes the system works the way you hope it will!) There have been no further incidents involving this girl or any other individual, for which I am so grateful. It is pretty rare that “bullying” incidents are isolated, such as this one was. So we were lucky in being successful in our effort to stop the bullying, in how it affected my daughter, at least.
Eleven-year-old Bailey O’Neill, who lives in the same county as me, was the victim in a schoolyard altercation. Bailey’s family claims that two bullies attacked the sixth grader, breaking his nose. According to reports, a group of students stood around the boys, forming a circle, watching the violence before it was broken up by school staff members. Bailey remained in school the rest of the day, with a broken nose, and his parents were not notified of the incident. His mother discovered his condition when he arrived home from school and promptly got him medical attention. That was January 10, 2013.
Over the next week, he started getting headaches. His mother took him to the hospital again, when it was discovered he had a concussion. Over the next week, he got worse — he was now fatigued and vomiting — and he was admitted to a local children’s hospital. That night he started having seizures, which doctors could not control. They then put Bailey in a medically-induced coma and transferred him to another hospital, where he remains in that condition. One student was suspended for two days in relation to the incident, which remains under official investigation.
Let me tell you about Jenelle. Or, even better, let Jenelle tell you about Jenelle, and her mission to stop the bullying:
Q: When did the bullying start, and can you think of anything that might have “triggered” the bullying?
A: It started at the beginning of 5th grade (2012). It started because I have short hair.
Q: What kind of bullying have you experienced?
A: They called me names — dyke, whore, slut — and some boys beat me up. When I told the teachers, they ignored it. When I fought back, I got written up.
Q: Did any adults (parents, teachers, etc.) see this going on? If so, did they make an effort to stop the bullying?
A: Yes, they saw it and I told them lots of times but they didn’t care.
Q: Did you feel comfortable telling anyone at the school about what was going on?
A: I told my teacher, the counselor, the principal…anyone who would listen, but they didn’t seem to notice/care. They didn’t do anything to help me.
Q: How did being bullied make you feel — about school, about your classmates, about anything?
A: It made me not want to go to school. I cried every day when my mom made me go.
Q: When kids bullied you, did you do or say anything?
A: At first I tried to ignore it. After a while I told people it hurt my feelings, but they didn’t care.
Q: Did a large group of kids participate in the bullying? Did you notice if these kids were part of any “clique” — as in, are they the “popular” kids or the “mean” kids or are they kids that tend to get bullied themselves, etc.?
A: I was one of the only white kids at the school, and they were all black. They said I didn’t belong at their school because I was white.
Q: What was the worst part about being bullied?
A: Nobody would listen to me when I asked for help. Not even the teacher or principal.
Q: Have you ever seen other kids getting bullied? If so, did you say/do anything to stop the bullying at the time?
A: There were only a few white kids in the class, and we all got bullied. I didn’t say anything anymore because the one time I did, the boys tried to beat me up.
Q: Do you think we can stop bullying? How?
A: I think that we can stop bullying, but I don’t know how. I would think that you would just kick the mean kids out of school, but it doesn’t work that way. They made me switch schools, so the mean kids are still bullying. They need to put the mean kids in one class and the nice kids in another class so they can get a good education without getting distracted by bullying. If a bully is sitting by you and being mean like kicking you during a test you are going to be distracted and not do as well.
Q: Knowing what you know about bullying and how it makes you feel, what would you say to another kid who is suffering through the same thing?
A: Hang out with me, I’ve survived bullying and I know how it feels. Stay away from the bullies, tell the teachers. If they don’t listen, tell another teacher, and another, until somebody listens. Get your parents involved and let them know how serious of a problem it is.
Q: What do you hope to achieve through your project?
A: I hope bullying will stop. I am donating $1 from the sale of each piece of jewelry to EVERYONE MATTERS. They help with anti-bullying campaigns and really believe that EVERYONE is important.
I also had a chance to ask Jenelle’s mom, Sadie, a few questions about the situation surrounding her daughter and her effort to stop the bullying.
Q: When did your daughter tell you about what she was experiencing at school? How long had it been going on before she told you?
A: She told me almost right away. At first, she just tried telling the teacher. We have a ‘rule’ at home that we try to keep things as positive as possible, so she felt like she would be complaining if she told me.. but it really hurt her, so she told me in private. I explained to her that “kids will be kids” and if she ignored them, they’d leave her alone. That was just at first. When the names got worse, I started going up to the school, talking to the principal, etc.
Q: How did you react, to your daughter, when she told you? What did you tell her?
A: I really thought that it would just blow over, so I told her to ignore it.
Q: Before you acted/reacted to this situation, what did you go through, emotionally? How did it make you feel?
A: It really made me angry, to be honest.
Q: Have you ever experienced bullying at any point in your life? Would you care to discuss what happened and how you dealt with it?
A: When I was a kid, it was a little different. I remember in middle school I was the new kid. A girl came up to me and punched me, for “sitting in her seat.” I hit her back, and that was the end of it. No other kids were involved, no teachers involved, we just solved it right then and there. Kids called me “jolly green giant” for being so tall, and “sticks” for being so skinny, but that was just teasing. It wasn’t hurtful.
Q: So, when the dust settled, what did you do to address this situation at your daughter’s school? (Who did you talk to, did they respond, did they stop the bullying, etc.?)
A: At first, I tried to talk to the teacher. She said she’d address it but nothing changed. Then, I started calling the principal. She avoided my phone calls. I had to actually physically go to the school and sometimes wait for an hour to talk to the principal about the issues. She said she’d deal with it, but most of the time she didn’t. At that point, Nell was being sexually harassed and called racial names as well, but the principal didn’t take it seriously. Then, I took it to my blog. After I blogged about it, the school was really ticked off at me and really stopped helping. They ignored it when the kids got physical with Jenelle, and were very rude to me when I volunteered in the classroom. I had to go all the way to the state to get something done, and their “solution” was uprooting my children and moving them to a new school.
A big thank you to Jenelle and Sadie for sharing their story — and here’s to hoping we can help stop the bullying for all the kids at her school, and every school!
Where to go if you want/need to stop the bullying — for yourself, your child, or someone you care about:
This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start on your journey to help stop the bullying:
- Bully Beware
- Bullying Project
- A Call to Stop Bullying — You can find some great resources here!
- Everyone Matters — An organization whose campaign is “[t]he personal journey to be a better person, less judgmental, to learn to respect in some fundamental way, everyone’s exact right to their own personhood. To learn humility, in approaching others.”
- PACER’S National Bullying Center — A non-profit anti-bullying organization that founded National Bullying Prevention Month (October).
- Stomp Out Bullying — a program of Love Our Children USA, an organization that fights all forms of violence against children in the United States.
- Stop Bullying — a federal website managed by the Department of Health & Human Services