EL PASO, Texas — Imagine walking down a hallway by yourself hearing people yelling insults at you and there is no way out except straight through the gauntlet.
The words fat, gay, slut and loser are thrown at you, but you cannot get out.
Each day brings the same suffering as the same people, with a few others chiming in, target you with the same verbal daggers. This is a reality that almost 30% of high school students in the United States face. Some are physically harmed, some are emotionally abused, and a growing number are bullied by “cyber bullies” through Internet networking sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. Most of these young adults are suffering in silence.
Not long ago the New York Times ran a story about a young girl by the name of Phoebe Prince who was literally bullied to death. The bullying at her school in Massachusetts got so intense that it drove Phoebe to go home and hang herself from the staircase. She was taunted because of a previous relationship with a male student, which made girls at the school jealous. Their response to that jealousy was to turn Phoebe’s school life into a death sentence.
As I read up on Phoebe and other cases of school bullying, I was reminded of my own experience in middle school.
I was a new student at Slider Middle School, but I was not new to the students. I had gone to elementary school with most of them. For some unknown reason, they all had something against me before I even walked into the school. My first walk down the hallway to my locker was miserable and embarrassing. I could hear their whispers and their laughing piercing and pulsating in my ears. They stared at me and I stared at the floor.
Soon, the rumors went from “bitch” to “lesbian” and I wanted so desperately for no one to believe that they were true. I often ate lunch by myself in the bathroom and before I knew it, the rumors slowly became bullying. I was threatened by a group of girls who were known for being in the “tough crowd.” They surrounded me by the back portables after my last period of the day. I went home scared and found myself throwing up every day for a week, for fear that they were going to beat me up. It wasn’t until my Mom talked to the principal that the bullying stopped and the girls were suspended, thanks to Texas’ zero tolerance policy.
The bullying against me stopped in its entirety, thanks to school officials who actually cared. This however, is not the case in a lot of school across the United States. In Phoebe’s case, school officials claim they were not aware of any incidents of school bullying until three weeks prior to her death, when one teacher reported that another student threatened to “punch her in the face.”
Phoebe’s mother tells a different story. Mrs. Prince claims that way back in September, she tried talking to an assistant principal at the school about taunting towards Phoebe but nothing was done and Phoebe was made to endure the bullying.
Bullying also has become a trend for students younger than high-school age. In mid-April, criminal charges were pressed against three Lockhart Elmentary Magnet School students in Tampa, Florida for harassing another female student. The three students slapped another 10-year-old student and threw her into a fence and on another occasion tied a rope around her shoulders.
The fact that students are beginning to bully each other at a young age is a warning sign to school officials that zero-tolerance policies should be adopted by every school immediately. Students feel that it is acceptable to hurt each other not only physically, but emotionally as well, which is just as destructive.
When I was a student in high school, I never understood why policies on electronic devices and networking sites were so strict. It annoyed me and my friends that we could never check Myspace, to see what the latest gossip was. However, now that bullying has invaded the cyber world, I understand completely.
One search on YouTube under “school fight” will tell anyone what they really need to know about bullying: It’s happening in our schools, and the targets are too scared to talk about it. There is nothing left for them to do except endure it, but what happens when it goes to far?
We are told from childhood that it is okay to be different and we are often encouraged to be unique. These days, it is such a conflicting idea. It seems more often, that when children or young adults are different, whether overweight, homosexual, too “ugly” or even too “pretty,” they are treated horribly.
My heart goes out to these children, because being bullied takes away your voice. These children need their voices back.