It’s Monday morning and the sound of an alarm clock goes off. A young girl wakes up and gets ready. She has breakfast, grabs her backpack and says goodbye to her parents before leaving to go spend the next seven hours at school. When she arrives at school, she passes the hallways through a sea of people pushing and shoving her out of the way. She walks into her class and is teased by the girls sitting behind her because of her clothes. Her whole school day is filled with kids making fun of her and calling her names. It happens every day. When the day ends, she goes home and cries herself to sleep. The next morning, she wakes up to the sound of the alarm clock and the same bullying happens again.
In 1995, about 160,000 children missed school because they were afraid of being bullied, according to the National Education Association. Bullying is when a person causes harm to another person on purpose. It can be physical, such as hitting, or verbal, such as name-calling, saying hurtful things or spreading rumors. People who are bullied are more likely to suffer from depression and have low self-esteem. They may even want to drop out of school because of the bullying.
Kimberly, age 19, was physically bullied growing up. “I was raised in an air force base and experienced my share of bullying with this girl who was very mean to me,” Kimberly said. She believes one reason she was picked on was because of her ethnicity. She is Hispanic and the bully was African-American. “One day, she even threw a rock at me, which caused my arm to bleed,” Kimberly said. Although Kimberly was hurt, she realized something important. “I looked down at my bleeding arm and realized that although our skin colors were different, the color inside of us was the same. We all bleed the same.” Kimberly realized that there was nothing that made her bully better than her. “Some people change, but some of them will always be bullies.”
There are many reasons why kids bully: jealousy, problems at home, peer pressure, fear of also being bullied, and a desire to be in control.
Kimberly learned her bully was acting out because of problems she was having at home. “I found out that my bully was hurting me because I got a better grade than her on a test,” she said. “ It turns out that she was having a rough time at home and getting good grades was the only thing that was making it better. So because I got a better grade than her, she took it out on me.”
What Can Be Done?
Many kids believe they are powerless against a bully, but there are ways to stop it. It all begins with speaking up. Tell an adult, such as a parent, close relative, teacher or principal. Tell them about what you or your friend is experiencing. If they know there is a problem, they can do something about it. Bullying is a serious issue, and it is one that young people have the power to fix. We can all make a difference and stop the cycle of bullying.