Grace tried hard not to cry as she stood holding the phone. Two minutes before, she heard from Stacy that Jill and Kim were sure she had the answers to the math midterm before the exam, and she was selfish not to share them, and it wasn't fair that she made honor roll this semester. It was just a school rumor! Daisy couldn't believe it when she was called into the guidance counselor's office. She couldn't for her life figure out why Mrs. Linden wanted to see her. She was totally shocked when Mrs. Linden asked if it was true that she was thinking of running away from home because she hated her mother's new boyfriend. She had to explain it was just a school rumor. When the conversation stopped as Gena approached her table in the cafeteria, she didn't pay much attention until three of the guys slunk away, leaving Stephanie and Corrina red-faced and embarrassed. It didn't take much coercing to learn that the boys were talking about how Josh dumped her because she always wanted to get high — another school rumor! Whether school rumors are fueled by jealousy or boredom or the power of being the person "in the know," reveling in the misery of others is as old as time. Grace, Daisy, and Gena were all victims of nasty school rumors. Gossip, the dangerous weapon that can ruin reputations and poison relationships, defines who's in and who's out. Are all school rumors bad? According to researchers, everyone begins to gossip almost as soon as we learn to speak. It's a part of human nature as word of mouth is joined by dozens of magazines, 50 television talk shows, five tabloids and now cyber gossip via Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. Gossip performs important social and psychological functions to unify groups and give information to group members about the limits of acceptable behavior. It doesn't make you a bad person to find comfort in the fact that the famous and thin-thighed and gifted among us are just as miserable as the rest of us. If we read bad news about a celebrity or get into the gruesome details of our friend's misery, our own problems begin to pale in comparison. If you participate in school rumors Gossip is like fast food...juicy, delicious, and bad for you. If you gossip all the time, your friends might not trust you with their secrets. They might feel you'd sell them out for a good school rumor. Next time, just try walking away. If the person talked about is a friend of yours, stand by her and say you don't believe it. Don't repeat it. If you are the target of a school rumor While gossip boosts the self-esteem of those spreading it, creating a feeling of intimacy among the "in" group, and serving as an emotional release valve for expressing negative feelings, it doesn't at all help the person they are talking about. If you are the subject of a false school rumor: Try hard not to protest too much. That just reaffirms to the rumormongers that you are lying. Try to get through the day as if nothing were different. Finding who started it and getting revenge might feel good for a moment, but will only result in getting you into trouble and making you look guilty. These responses are based on impulses, not careful thought. Try choosing how best to respond rather than just exploding with emotion. After finding out the truth, confront the person calmly. Let them try to explain. If you don't get satisfaction, a trip to the guidance counselor might be in order. Time will heal. The school rumor about you will soon be replaced with the next hot story of the week. Your composure might cause that rumor to die an early death. Cybergossip is a cyberhassle Often spreading gossip online leads to misinterpreting what's being spread. Without hearing voice inflection, you can't always tell if someone is making a joke or being sarcastic. Also, because it's so easy to copy and pass along, your words might well be seen by dozens of unintended eyes. Read about school rumors, who it affects, and how it affects you at BeingGirl.com.