‘Prepare Ourselves, and Protect Yourself’: Students Open Up About Bullying

‘Prepare Ourselves, and Protect Yourself’: Students Open Up About Bullying

By Ethnic Media Services

By Danielle Parenteau-Decker | Richmond Pulse

Editor’s Note: October is National Bullying Prevention Month, so we went to a group of Kennedy High students to get their take. We asked them about the worst thing they’ve been called by a fellow student and bullying they’ve witnessed in person and online. We also asked them how they think a person should deal with a bully and how schools can help prevent or stop bullying. Their responses have been lightly edited.

The worst thing I’ve been called was probably a crybaby. I’m a sensitive person, and usually, things like that get to me. I tend to get self-conscious, and I don’t like showing when I’m vulnerable. I struggle with a lot of things, and I don’t need to be reminded of it. (Other people) aren’t in the place to determine how I am as a person, and it pisses me off whenever someone does things like that for their own enjoyment. They only think about themselves, and it makes me despise people who act like that. But I also pity them. Are they all right? Is that all they could do to make themselves feel better?

The best way to deal with a bully is to tell somebody. You can do so much more with the support of other people. Handling things yourself might be difficult. With support and encouragement, you can put a stop together and spread awareness.

I witness and experience more bullying online. You can hide behind a screen like a coward, and act without “consequences,” but you still leave a trace.

Words can make a big impact on people. They take it to heart. Bullies (who laugh and joke), saying stuff like “kill yourself” don’t consider the well-being of the individual (who might have) a history of self-harm.

All I could do is stand up for them, but online, you’re so limited when your best friend is in Canada, Vietnam, (or) another country. There’s only so much you can do.

(We need) to spread awareness about internet safety and make it normal to not say these things. It won’t stop everybody. People will not be perfect, and they will be cruel. The best we can do is prepare ourselves, and protect yourself. Do what you think is right.

— Diana Nguyen, 17

Read: The Internet Brings Out the Worst in Us

I used to be called a “nerd” in elementary school because my mom wanted to get me glasses. My friends were used to seeing me without them, so after I got the glasses, they made fun of me, saying stuff like, “Can you see the future?” or just “four eyes.” I’m used to the name-calling and don’t care as long as they’re just joking around and don’t really mean it.

(The best way to deal with a bully) is to fight back. It’s called self-defense. The kid who started it has to get a big suspension to make him realize that picking on anyone isn’t right. I’m saying “self-defense” because you can’t let someone mess with you. If the principal does nothing, then you’re going to have to do something about it.

(I see bullying) kind of in person and not really online. Whenever I play a game on Xbox, there’s always kids that trash talk, but they’re all talk. In person, my friends and I love making fun of each other, so it isn’t that much of a big deal.

(Schools need to) actually do something about the kid that started it. Or if two want to fight or have beef together, the principal has to separate them, so everything calms down.

— Sergio Raygoza, 16

In first grade, I had a difficult time (pronouncing) English words. Because English was not my first language, sounding out words sounded different from the spelling. So some of my classmates started to taunt, mock, belittle me. When I told my teacher about the bullying, she told me to get over it. From then on, throughout elementary, I felt self-conscious.

Read: Adults Should Build Kids Up, So Bullies Can’t Tear Them Down

From my experience, coming to the school is not the best option. Sure, your parents may file a complaint, but the school often ignores it. The best way to deal with the bully is to confront the parent. Often, I’ve noticed that a bully’s parent is never quite aware of their child’s torment. Either that or their parents don’t care about them. Or just move schools if none of the options work.

I have witnessed online and in-person bullying, and both can do critical damage. The only distinct difference between the two is that online bullies are more likely to be cowards. Physical bullying is mentally exhausting and terrifying. People are more likely to ignore you when are being bullied in fear of being bullied. You’re basically on your own with no one to turn to when it gets violent.

Schools need to start disciplining kids. It’s one of the reasons bullies get away with so much and out of control. Maybe have stricter regulations or inform parents, etc.

— Laiba Shahid, 17

Growing up as a big girl in America has been hard. People call me names such as fat, ugly, gay, stupid, annoying, loud and ghetto. The worst thing someone called me were racial slurs. They said I was an n-word and a slave and told me to clean their house.

Teachers will tell you the best thing to do is ignore and tell a teacher. I say that’s a load of crap. We are in the day and age where bullying doesn’t have a face — behind screens, things spread way faster. In-person bullying is also not easy to stop. The school can only do so much, and snitching on your bully can make it worse. My suggestion is to stand up for yourself, but it isn’t always easy. If worst comes to worst, fight back or find someone who can fight for you.

Read: Bullying Does Not End in High School

When I was young, I would get bullied in person more. People would take advantage of my innocence and the fact that I was gullible and embarrass me around others. In middle school, it was both. People would bully me at school and take pictures of me and share them online. In about 10th grade, it was mainly online. A picture of me was leaked and spread around in Fresno among people I went to middle school with. It was a silent killer. Nobody I was around knew what was happening.

Communication is key. Hurt people hurt people. We need to encourage people to talk about their feelings before they hurt themselves or others. A lot of problems could have been prevented this way.

— Sasha Abigana, 17

The worst thing I have been called in school is “stinky.” My dad used to smoke cigarettes while dropping us off at school, and the smell would linger. I got called to the office with my brother because kids and teachers would complain that we smelled like nothing but smoke. I kept up with my hygiene. I took showers every day. I used deodorant. I brushed my teeth, etc. Initially, it would hurt my feelings. Like any other kid, I was conflicted on either being mad at the people in the school for talking about it or being mad at my dad for doing it. It wasn’t really something I could necessarily “get over” because it wasn’t my fault. I got over it, sadly, when my dad passed away, and we started to walk to school in the morning. After that, there was never a reason for them to say that again.

The best way to deal with a bully is to stand up to them. If someone has a problem with me, I don’t care unless you do something that affects me. If someone is talking out their neck, let them, but as soon as someone touches you or your things, then that is when you start putting your hands on people. I do not believe violence is the answer, but when it comes to someone physically touching you, that is when my boundaries are crossed.

I’ve never been the type to get bullied. Maybe made fun of here and there, but nobody has had the guts to consistently bully me. I have had some people pick on me because they’re bigger than me, and they know they can throw me around. I have had people talk mess about me. I have had many things happen to me while I’ve been in school, but I have never labeled it as bullying. I would say, though, that I have dealt with more in-person harassment than online but that is probably due to me being inactive on social media.

You can prevent bullying by making sure that the people that go to the authority actually get the help they need. I know some instances where someone went to the principal and explained that they were being bullied, and the principal did absolutely nothing about it. Another thing they can do is provide resources for the kids to prevent bullying.

— Aaliyah Hanvey, 16

The worst thing I have been called by another student was a drug dealer (as a joke). I am Mexican, and a stereotype of Mexicans is that all of them deal drugs. Someone asked me for candy (they were asking everyone). So I went to look in my backpack because I thought I had some (I did). Then, my friend said, “Of course, she has drugs (candy); she’s Mexican.” At first, I was confused because I didn’t know what they meant. I knew the stereotype, but I wasn’t thinking about that, obviously. So the person who asked for the candy told them to elaborate. As soon as it hit me, I felt very uncomfortable. I was baffled that someone would say this to me. I wasn’t sure what to say to them since they were my friend. I addressed it somewhat jokingly over the fear of them being mad at me. I think about that story every time someone says something racist toward their friends as a joke and wonder, at what point is it no longer a joke?

— Betzy Ruiz Moncada, 17

The worst thing I’ve probably been called at school was a racist name. I felt confused because I didn’t know why I was made fun of just because of my skin color. At first, I thought nothing of it. But after thinking more about it, I started to become upset. I didn’t know why a person would call a person a name because of their skin color. It made me feel like there wasn’t a fit for me at school because of my skin color, and it made me feel like I wasn’t a normal person, even though I am.

I think the best way is to ignore them. If that doesn’t work, then let someone know about the bully. But most of the time, the bully wants attention. So if you try ignoring them, they wouldn’t get anything out of it, and they would look silly, talking to themselves. If it were to get worse, then that person should seek help and go and tell someone to get the person to stop bullying.

I witness a lot of bullying online, not really in person. On social media, there’s always a person that has something bad to say about another person. One time, a girl online was drawing. There was one person disliking everything she did, being very rude about it, calling her names, saying mean things and saying things that could affect her in a bad way. I think that’s bullying, just a person being mean when they don’t have to. The girl ended up being fine because that person was just being rude to her, but that still doesn’t make what that person did right.

Schools could help by being more into serious situations and by doing something about it. Usually, schools would just make you say sorry or not talk to each other or maybe even detention. I don’t think that really helps for more serious situations. Staff should really get involved and try helping more than doing nothing or barely anything at all and just sending them home. Even though sending a student home could be somewhat effective, that student still has an option to come back to school and make the same decisions and acts. So for more serious things, I do feel they should be more involved.

— Asia Belcher, 16

This story was produced as part of a collaborative series on the state of bullying in schools today and to what extent bullying incubates a culture of hate. It was produced with support from the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

Source: Published without changes from Ethic Media Services

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