"Life is so not fair," sighs Hannah, a petite, blonde sixth-grader when asked to tell her stories of bullying about Geena, the most popular girl in her class. "I don't know how she gets away with spreading nasty rumors, picking on the girls who can't afford to dress a certain way, and making fun of anyone who dares to disagree with her. When she spread a lie about me last year, I prayed to be brave enough to report her to the principal. But I was afraid everyone would call me a tattletale."
"Liza knows I'm an easy target because my face turns bright red whenever she looks at me," explains Vicki, a shy, quiet seventh-grader who just recently moved into the neighborhood and has her own stories of bullying. "As hard as I try to become invisible, she'll always find a reason to taunt me about my last name...or my sneakers...or how I smell...and make everyone around laugh. If I tell my mother, she'll get crazy angry and be up to school the next day. Then Liza will make my life even more of a hell."
"When I tell my dad about how Stefanie stopped speaking to me for no reason and how she rolls her eyes and moves her seat and whispers whenever I sit down in the cafeteria, he says I have to toughen up," recounts Rebecca. "As long as she's not stealing my lunch money or tripping me, he doesn't get how bad it is when she purposely makes sure I know every time all the girls get together without me. She won't stop till she makes me cry."
What do Rebecca, Hannah and Vicki have in common besides their stories of bullying? Well, all of them are having trouble focusing on their schoolwork. They make excuses to skip class or school because they feel anxious and afraid most of the time. None of the things they used to enjoy doing, even eating, hold much interest for them now. Each has had a headache or stomachache in the past week. And all three constantly worry that they will always feel as sad, unhappy, and lonely as they do today.
About 160,000 students across America skip school every day...a total of 28 million missed days a school year...because they're afraid of being attacked or intimidated by a bully. And almost nine out of 10 middle schoolers say they've seen someone being bullied. If you can relate firsthand to these stories of bullying, no one expects you to handle the situation by yourself. Remember...
- You are NOT responsible for being bullied.
- Bullying is NOT just a normal part of childhood.
- Bullies will NOT stop if you just ignore them.
- Talk to an adult. Parents, teachers, coaches, principals and guidance counselors really can help you.
- Try role-playing or practicing what you might say to a bully, such as, I want you to stop now.
- Don't fight back. Bullies are meaner than you are, and they'll beat you at their game.
- Show confidence (even if you're not feeling it) and hold your head high.
Go out of your way to meet classmates who are friendly and supportive, and who will include you in their activities. Stick with them while on the bus, in the cafeteria, between classes, or while walking to and from school.