Bullies can be terrifying
Being forced to eat sand, give up lunch money or hide out in the bathroom during recess are not foreign concepts to many school-age children and teen-agers. Being ridiculed for the way one looks or dresses is even more common.
Bullying can be a terrifying experience even when words are used to intimidate, rather than fists.
Hurt-Free School statistics show 80 percent of adolescents report being victims of bullying or harassment. More than 15 percent of students admit to bullying their peers on a regular basis.
Yet most students do not come forward at school or at home when they are being mistreated by classmates.
“I see it happen all of the time but people don’t want to speak up,” said a South Tahoe High School junior who asked to remain anonymous. “They’re afraid it’s just going to make it worse and it will happen more and more.”
She said a girl at school, known as the heckler, sits outside on the grass ridiculing students as they pass.
“She’ll be like, ‘I’m wearing green pants. I’m wearing nasty green pants and an ugly white shirt and I look fat and I better start running,'” the student said. “It’s the worst. She’ll make fun of what they’re wearing or call them ugly.”
Hispanic students and athletes often square off, she said. Racial taunting and rumors of homosexuality are common. Kicking or throwing ranch dressing or sloppy pizza at unsuspecting “geeks” happens daily in the cafeteria and student-on-student attacks at Party Rock have been known to involve crow bars, baseball bats and rocks, students said.
South Tahoe High School Associate Principal Jack Stafford said administrators need to know about the problems to solve them.
“We try to be as proactive as absolutely possible,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard for us to deal with because we don’t know it exists. When it’s brought to our attention, we get right on it.”
Stafford and Michelle Reilly, a counselor at the high school, plan to attend a Sept. 13 conference in Placerville focusing on tolerance and bullying. The seminar is sponsored by El Dorado County Schools.
The anonymous student said she is friends with the popular crowd at South Tahoe High. While she doesn’t participate in bullying, she is afraid to stop it.
“I don’t do it but my friends do,” she said. “And I feel bad. I worry about everyone. I’m a nurturer and I feel like it’s like, ‘You didn’t say anything. You didn’t do anything. It’s your fault too,’ but it’s like survival of the fittest. If my name was in this (article) they would probably egg my house, toilet paper it. They would call my house, tease me at school, basically make my life hell.”
So why is she still friends with them?
“They are really good friends to me,” she said. “They take care of me but I just felt like somebody needed to come forward because I see it and I just want everyone to know this is a problem. In our community people don’t understand that when you call someone a name, you’re bullying them. Saying words is bullying.”
High school is not the only place bullying occurs. Middle and elementary school children deal with harassment on some level almost every day.
According to the National Education Association, bullying can be as direct as teasing, hitting or threatening, or as indirect as exclusion, rumors or manipulation.
The NEA recently announced a National Bullying Awareness Campaign that aims to reduce bullying in America’s public schools.
“Any child who is bullied by another child or adult, or who sees another child being bullied, is urged to report the incident to designated school personnel,” NEA officials said in a written bulletin.
Stafford expressed similar sentiments.
“If we see it, we’re going after it,” he said. “But if we don’t see it and students don’t come to us and say, ‘Hey, this is happening,’ then it’s hard to work on the problem when you don’t know who the players are and that sort of thing.”
For information on the National Bullying Awareness Campaign, go to http://www.nea.org/issues/safescho/bullying/
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