To announce that I was bullied as a kid, as if I was the first and last to be so, would be insulting to every other person who has ever been bullied. I was not the first, I will certainly not be the last and as long as kids go without appropriate punishment for their actions, which have far too often resulted in those being bullied taking their own lives, it will continue. While my experience isn’t as severe as other stories out there, it is a story worth sharing if only to prove that more needs to be done to stop this fucked up behavior.
It was March when my parents moved our family from Massachusetts’ North Shore area to New Hampshire. I was in second grade, and my sister was in kindergarten. I had emotionally struggled with the move. Honestly I was not equipped, in the brain or heart, for the move but it was a fact and there was nothing I could do about it.
I had never been he new girl. Although I had been enrolled in ballet and piano classes since I was old enough to walk, the “new girl,” even though it was a status I had held on several occasions, was never one that stuck or had me stick out in a group. But moving to a new town does not allow for such obscurity.
The bullying started from day one. My sister having been in kindergarten and with the year almost over, got to stay home and wait until September before attending school again. I, unfortunately, having already been enrolled in grammar school, was forced to finish the year as a second grader in a foreign place. While in the classroom all was well for this new girl, the school bus was a different story.
Mitchel, who was a year older than me, immediately pounced on me the first day of my arrival on the bus ride home. It was light at first, the verbal poking and prodding, but within a few days it became too much for even this tough cookie to handle.
Why was I so ugly? Why was I so spoiled? Why didn’t I kill myself? Why hadn’t my parents killed me? If I had a kid like you, you’d be dead by now. You’re so disgusting. I hope someone murders you tonight.
This was also the first time I heard the word “abortion” although it didn’t officially resonate with me, because I didn’t know what it meant. What I did know was that, according to Mitchel, my mother should have had an abortion so I wouldn’t be on the bus making him so disgusted by my very existence.
I told my parents everyday what was going on and it was initially chalked up to “he has a crush on you” and the ever famous, “boys will be boys.” It was only after Mitchel smacked me upside the head with a sharp object I never saw, and kicked me so hard that I landed on my face in the bus aisle between the seats, that my parents went to the school to put an end to it.
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.