November 18, 2017

Bullying doesn’t end after high school

I didn’t realize one could be bullied in college, but sadly, it can happen. I vividly remember a moment that changed my life forever. The start of it all.

I went to high school every day with anxiety and depression. I didn’t think I could ever escape. One day, I walked out of the bathroom stall and fear instantly took over my body. The girl who wore a tie-dyed sweatshirt every day to school was waiting for me. “You’re in the wrong bathroom, Toucan Sam,” she said. I grabbed my nose, concerned it was too big to be normal. She locked the bathroom door and pushed me up against the wall. My hands were shaking and my stomach was turning. I asked why she was doing this.

“Because you’re nothing,” she said. I was only 13 years old. I shouldn’t have been able to understand what depression and suicidal thoughts were. I was just a kid.

There are other people like me who are trying to get by in a cruel world. Unfortunately, some people don’t make it out alive.  As high school came to an end, I assumed the bullying would end as well, but I was mistaken. The bullying continued as my first year of college began.

Sometimes it happened while I was walking past people in the hall, but it mainly took place online. Verywell.com, a site dedicated to health and wellness, says cyber bullying is increasing at the college level. Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have made targeting individuals a lot easier.

However, I think the core problem is how schools deal with bullying. My high school had  “zero tolerance for bullying,” but it never seemed to matter. My parents were at my high school every week for months trying to get the issue resolved. The same girl who bullied me since elementary school was bullying other people as well. The principal stated how there wasn’t much they could do, since she was a ‘troubled student.’

In August 2016, Daniel Fitzpatrick took his own life after his school did nothing to prevent bullying. Fitzpatrick made several failed attempts to reach out to his teacher, but nothing helped. The New York Daily Mail released a statement from his mother claiming a teacher called her son lazy in front of the entire class.

Young children and teenagers are extremely vulnerable at this stage in their life. Their feelings have to be recognized or they will feel helpless and all alone.

Identifying the problem and properly punishing students who bully others might help. If the student repeatedly bullies others, but if disciplinary actions like suspension and detention don’t work, then something else should suffice, like expulsion.

One of my teachers told me the principals in our school district get paid more money for every student who graduates. Chalkbeat.com states principals can receive a bonus that ranges from $10-25K per year based off student performance, such as graduation rates. It makes sense, then, that students who were persistent bullies stayed at my school.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst young people, according to Bullyingstatistics.org. Victims of bullying are 2-9 times more likely to commit suicide. Those statistics are appalling. I’m not saying all schools do what my former school district does, but it’s sad to see something so irrelevant take the place of a student’s well-being and life.

There will always be vindictive people in the world no matter what grade, school or job you’re in. Bullying will always be around, but the people being bullied need to have some sort of recognition. They need to know their life is important.

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