Earlier this year an 8 year old boy committed suicide. He was bullied relentlessly. Two days prior to his death he was found unconscious on the school bathroom floor, left for dead after an assault. He was tortured daily. Picked on, threatened, and attacked. His parents have recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cincinnati Public Schools for allowing their school system to crumble into a place where a 3rd grader wants to die. According to the lawsuit, Carson Elementary School has covered up at least 14 other instances of severe bullying within their school system: even going so far as to destroy video evidence in an attempt to cover their asses.
Just this year, a mother found her 10 year old son hanging from his closet. He left a note with a list of names, all of his bullies, writing, “you’re why.” The day before he hung himself, he came home and told his mother that it had been the worst day of his life. Yet evidently, no school officials were aware that the boy was being bullied to the point of suicide.
A teenage girl in my own town has been subjected to bullying, harassment, and even death threats. She’s been sent snapchats where groups of girls called her a whore. She’s had notes left in her locker telling her to kill herself. She’s been the topic on dozens of social media threads where her classmates are wishing her dead. She’s been ostracized and shunned by her classmates.
She’s choosing to miss her senior prom because she knows that she has no allies there. She sits out on field trips or anything outside of her regular classes that she has to be in. All because she knows that nothing good will come of it. She doesn’t even have anyone to sit with at this point. Even certain teachers single her out and pick on her now. Her senior year has effectively been ruined. Now she just waits silently for graduation day.
“Children are killing themselves. Eight and ten year old boys are committing suicide. Literally, kids are losing their lives because people are allowed to be fucking mean. “
Her parents have been to the school over and over again. They’ve met with the teachers. They’ve met with the principal and superintendent. At one point, when she received the handwritten letter in her locker telling her that everyone wanted her to kill herself, the principal of the school told her mother that they believed she wrote it herself, in a last ditch attempt to gain some attention and ruin the others girls’ lives. She actually got in trouble for it.
When her parents demanded to know why her bullies weren’t receiving any repercussions for their actions, the principal told them that these girls were good kids and were on the fast track to a good college. The principal didn’t want to ruin their lives based on some silly choices they made in high school.
Let that sink in. This group of girls was ruining my friend’s life. She was scared to go to school, but they didn’t suffer any consequences because the school system didn’t want to ruin their lives. I’m sure it wasn’t any help that most of the girls belonged to school employees.
It finally took the threat of a lawsuit and a few calls to a few higher-ups to get anything accomplished. The group of bullies still never saw any consequences, but the school started holding anti-bully assemblies and set up a bullying hotline for kids to call into anonymously. Basically, a real quick ass covering is what it all amounted to.
Uncontrolled bullying is happening everywhere across our country. Children are killing themselves. Eight and ten year old boys are committing suicide. Literally, kids are losing their lives because people are allowed to be fucking mean.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” This is bullshit. Words hurt. We all know that words hurt. I know that words hurt. I have been there. I have been the butt of whore jokes because I got the boy that the other girl wanted. I’ve been the one with “Slut” painted across my locker door, because said boy bragged about a bunch of shit that didn’t happen in his car the night he took me out.
I’ve been the one picked on because my house wasn’t nice, because my mom drove an old car and worked three jobs trying to keep her head above water, raising two girls all on her own. After my father committed suicide I was even told, “I’d kill myself too if I had a daughter like you.” That was 10 years ago. I’m 24 years old now, and I can personally tell you: that shit sticks with you. I still remember who said that to me. I still remember the way my face felt as it was falling. I remember the burn in my eyes and nose and throat, trying not to give them the pleasure of seeing me cry.
I could still take you to the very bathroom stall where I hid during lunch and breaks. I probably still have some of the suicide notes I drafted in the back pages of school notebooks; trying to hide them, but still kind of, maybe a little bit hoping that someone would find it and help me. I can still recall the look on my mother’s face when I would try to tell her just how miserable I was. It’s not her fault. Let me make that very clear. I have a good mother. But I had a mother who was drowning herself. She had her own plate full, and she didn’t know what to do other than tell me to try my best to ignore it. She was picked on in high school too.
So it’s now ten years later and I still suffer with self-worth. I refuse to own a bathroom scale because I still remember my cheer coach telling me how fat I looked in my uniform— even though I only weighed 120lbs. Still now, to this very day, if I have a scale in my home, I will obsess over my weight; weighing myself upwards of 20 times a day. I still second guess my outfit before I walk out of my house. Sometimes I even find myself wondering if I really was such a monumentally shitty daughter that my father would rather die than be in my presence. That’s not to say that I haven’t grown since then. I have. I’ve become stronger, and I’ve built a thicker skin for myself. But even at 24 years old, I still carry that with me every day.
Now I have a daughter of my own. She’s only four right now. Most of her time is spent with me. She doesn’t have to worry about bullying just yet. But one day she will. One day she’ll be in the very same school system that my friend is in, the very one that I was in; the one that blames bullying on the victim, protects the bully’s livelihood, and allows a cheer coach to call a student fat – in front of twelve other girls.
If you’ve read much of my work you know that I raise my daughter a bit differently than most. I raise her to be strong-willed and hard-headed. Especially living in the south during the dark days of Trump, she will stick out against the norm. She will be the different one. And I’m terrified that she will be the target. I’m also terrified that I will end up in jail, because I’ll be damned if my child goes through what my friend did, and it’s evident that our school systems nationwide have yet to come up with a solution to the problem.
Instead, they sweep it under an ever-growing rug, with no regard for the consequences the victims are facing; the psychological effects that they’ll be forced to carry with them for the rest of their days. We’re not acknowledging the fact that grown ass adults are allowing our children to suffer. We’re not recognizing any long-term effects on the children that are tortured day in and day out.
Instead of imprinting kindness on our youngest minds, we’re showing them that bullying is in fact okay. We’re letting them see that the most awful, hateful human beings have the most power. I mean, for God’s sake, look at our president. You open up Webster’s and his picture sits beside the definition of bully. We’re living in a world where society is teaching my child that because she’s different, she deserves torturous treatment.
Now, I refuse to teach my child to dilute herself for the comfort of others. At four years old she’s 100 proof, and I intend to keep her that way. I shouldn’t have to tell my child to blend in so that she doesn’t suffer. Instead, our schools and parents alike need to teach our children not to be shitty snot-heads. Instead of sweeping things under the rug for the sake of saving face, we should be blasting our problem like we’re airing out dirty laundry. Start instilling in our children at a very young age that bullying has zero tolerance.
Quit worrying about making sure a bully can get into a good college, and start ensuring that the victims are given justice. Start holding them accountable for their bullshit. Because sticks and stones will break bones, but their words are fucking killing people.
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Andrea is a freelance writer based out of Kentucky. She is the mother to a 3 year old little girl and step-mother to a 6 year old boy. She’s been married to her husband and best friend for 5 years. She enjoys fishing, camping, hiking and the occasional glass of wine by a bonfire.