Teasing, picking on, bullying. It all means the same thing. For my generation, bullying is probably one of the biggest issues we see in schools. I see both private and public schools insist that they are doing everything they can to decrease the amount of bullying happening in their schools, but is it enough? The truth is, it probably isn't.
Despite the school assemblies, the several warnings that are given to the bullies at school and the countless movies that try to get the point across that bullying can be more harmful than most people think, the job is just not getting done. In this era of technology, it's pretty safe to say that it's harder to hide from the bullies than it may have been 20 or 30 years ago. Some kids have to face it not only for seven hours at school, but also every hour beyond that because of the constant contact that can be made via text message or social media.
Chelsea Shaffer, a regular senior from western Pennsylvania, opened up to me.
"Bullying sucks, especially when you're one of the few African American or mixed kids in your school. I got picked on so much during middle school. I've been through everything from being called racial slurs to losing all of my friends because they wanted to go with 'the cool kids,'" she said. "It has slightly gotten better over time, but in the middle of my junior year there was a rumor going around about me that I was pregnant and I dealt with it for two and half months and finally caved in and got cyber-schooled."
Katie Black, an 18-year-old girl from western Pennsylvania, also told me her heartbreaking story of bullying.
She explained: "This year, my senior year, I came out as bisexual. Then, things went downhill again. I knew people wouldn't be okay with it, but I was prepared for it. I wasn't prepared for what was going to soon happen. The day after I came out via Facebook, I had cheerleading practice. I walked into the practice, and nobody would look at me, then I just knew why. They all said 'We don't want her here anymore, it's disgusting.' I cried in the bathroom for half of the practice, and nobody would even come to check up on me when they all knew that's what I was doing. I called my mom and told her to pick me up, then I quit. I had to quit something I loved and was good at, because of that. It sucks, but it's just something I had to do."
Can you imagine how people who get bullied repeatedly feel? One of the scariest stories I heard was from Becca Will.
She said: "I was severely bullied by a group of girls in middle school. I was a cheerleader and they would make fun of me in front of the older girls and I would be really embarrassed. They made fun of me so bad that I ended up quitting cheerleading. A couple months later, the one girl called me and told me to come over to her house so we could all talk and they said that they liked me. I went over to her house and her and her three friends jumped me. I ran home crying. The only reason the bullying ended was because I moved to a different school in eighth grade."
I honestly couldn't imagine being put in her position, let alone imagine how to be deceitful enough to do that to someone.
Besides the terrible nightmarish memories of the bullying, the bullying can also lead to a more destructive way to deal with the pain. Shannon Stilwell gave details about the bullying that she endured via voicemail and at school that ultimately led to her developing an eating disorder. She also relied on self-harm to block out the mean slurs about her body. It's no mystery that self-harm is becoming more and more of an issue. I also keep seeing stories in local news about teens being led to take their young lives.
However, Darek Horton, a new member of the United States Air Force, gave some encouraging words that may help someone who is getting bullied.
He told me: "I've been bullied since I was in fifth grade, it was pretty terrible. I had violent instances and I had to switch schools because of it. But most of the bullying was more verbal than anything. Recently now that I'm out of high school and I'm in the air force. I actually had the people who bullied me thank me for my service and that they envy that I did something they never would have had the guts for at all in the long run. I'm farther in life than most of the people I graduated with so far, so it's kind of an uplifting story of someone struggling with bullying but overcoming it and making it a positive impact on my life. I wouldn't be where I am today without being through that."
That just goes to show that there's always a light at the end of the tunnel, right?
Quick question: Did you notice something similar about all of these stories about bullying? They all happened at school. School is the place that kids are supposed to meet new friends and learn. But how can anyone be comfortable enough to be social, let alone learn, when you constantly have to hide and be worried about the next insult that you're going to receive? In my opinion, and I'm sure many others', schools simply need to stand up to bullying more. I think just about everyone can say that they've even witnessed someone being bullied with a teacher being present and the teacher not saying anything. The least the teachers could do is end it for that time being so the one who is being bullied may feel a little bit safer, or at least for that moment.
Overall, bullying is still a major issue no matter what the schools say and it's probably agreed they're still not doing nearly enough. While I'm sure there are some kids that are overdramatic about what they think may be bullying, I think that the schools are underestimating what's going on in their school walls. They need to get a grip and do what they need to, especially if a student's mental, emotional and physical well-being is at risk.