The principal was too busy “handling other issues,” so my parents’ concern was dumped onto the vice principal, Mrs. Ross (who is now retired in Florida and quite happy, I suppose.) To Mrs. Ross, it didn’t matter what Mitchel had said or what he had done, her response to all of it was simple: ”there’s nothing we can do about it.” It was taking place on a bus which, technically, isn’t during school. She could talk to him, which she did, but it really wasn’t her place to get involved, as she explained to us. So Mrs. Ross spoke to Mitchel, and the harassment ceased for a couple days, but then came back threefold with biting words I had never heard (I just knew they were evil by his tone), combined with consistent kicking and smacking, despite my tears.
If Mrs. Ross wasn’t going to do anything — although my parents had spoken with her several times and pleaded for help in the situation — my mother was going to do the only thing she could, and drove me back and forth to school every day so I didn’t have to deal with the bus. I was lucky enough that Mitchel was a year ahead of me, and I only saw him once in the hallway during that time, but it didn’t take away the words or make the physical abuse any less painful.
By the time I reached third grade, Mitchel was gone; he had moved out of the town, and the bus was safe again. Although I’d be subjected to bullies several times throughout my awkward years (aren’t we all?), it was nothing compared to Mitchel. I may have only been in second grade, but when you need to go home and ask your mom what “abortion” means after you’ve been kicked to the ground, that shit stays with you forever.
Again, we could chalk it up to “he has a crush on you,” or “boys will be boys,” but haven’t we done that enough? Haven’t we made excuses for this type of behavior one too many times?
I don’t know where Mitchel is these days. I like to assume he has a full time job at a gas station somewhere in New Hampshire and is tied down to three or four kids, a wife he probably dislikes and has to drive to work in a Ford Escort that’s been on its last leg since 2000. I don’t wish him ill will or harm, but I do find a bit of solace in the potential that he is miserable wherever he is, if only to feel that I’ve been vindicated.
Bullying, in all its forms, is vile and inappropriate behavior. I understand that kids are rarely aware of the influence they have on a peer or fellow classmate when they’re spewing such vulgarity, but that right there should be enough to educate kids about the possible deadly results of their words and actions.
As I said, I’m not looking for a “woe is me” reaction to this; what I am looking for is for school administrations to fucking step up to the plate and take responsibility for this behavior. Dismissing any type of bullying with “there’s nothing we can do about it,” is turning a blind eye to an epidemic that is a serious matter.
I realize my case is minimal in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t take my life over it, and although it is something that probably scarred me more than I’m willing to admit, I’d like to think it made me stronger. However, I’m lucky in that regard; others are not so lucky and as long as we live in a society that doesn’t take bullying as serious as it is, we all lose.