October is National Bullying Prevention Month. PACER created the campaign in 2006 with a one-week event which has now evolved into a month-long effort that encourages everyone to take an active role in the bullying prevention movement.
I could fully relate to the boy in the video. Like many kids, I experienced bullying. I remember one episode when I was in 4th grade and went on a class trip to NASA. We were misbehaving because our chaperone was not a strict disciplinarian. This lack of adult supervision emboldened our class bully, Derrick, to smack us around throughout the day. As he punched me, I defended myself the only way I knew how: by attacking him with stinging insults. My retaliation caused the other kids to laugh at Derrick which of course made him punch me harder. But the harder he punched, the more I insulted him, and the more the kids laughed. It was a viscious cycle and neither one of us was willing to give up. Thankfully, the teacher intervened and we were both able to walk away with a shred of dignity.
In middle school, I was a small and a prime target for bullies. It didn’t help that I couldn’t afford the Jordache jeans and Izod shirts that the other kids had. My clothes were often cheap and out of style. Kids would often pick on me on the school bus. I would fight back, but sometimes there were too many of them. Fortunately, some older kids from my neighborhood would intervene when they thought the bullying was out of line.
As a result of my experiences with bullying, I turned into a bully myself. My main target was a boy named Troy. I made his life a living hell. In science class, I called him Trashman Troy and wrote elaborate songs about him. In fact, I still remember one that I set to the tune of John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses”: Well there’s a trash man/with a trash truck/living in a trashy neighborhood…I would hum that song in our other classes just to watch Troy’s face turn red.
During P.E., I would torture him with well-placed kidney punches. He got fed up one day and told the gym teacher. The teacher looked at Troy, who was significantly bigger than me, looked at me and chuckled. After assessing the situation, the teacher essentially told Troy to man-up and deal with it himself. That only emboldened me to taunt him more.
I finally stopped bullying Troy when a girl, who I liked, confronted me. She told me that my treatment of Troy was reprehensible and that she wouldn’t be my friend anymore if I continued. Her words caused me to think about the times I was bullied and I realized that she was right.
The main message during National Bullying Prevention Month is “The End of Bullying Begins with Me.” If each person takes responsibility for his or her own actions, we can make bullying a thing of the past.