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By Diego Sandoval, We’Ced Youth Media
According to studies by the American Medical Association, more than 3.2 million youths experience “moderate” or “serious” bullying. In my case, it started as early as I can remember.
I can recall saying to one classmate in kindergarten, “Listen, this is my playground kid,” as I held a pointy object to his neck.
Yeah, I was what you would consider a bully. I bullied kids because I was always the big one, the tallest in class and the thickest, too. I had an advantage since all the kids my age were usually smaller and more delicate.
I felt as if I was born to fight. I lived in a house full of drama. It seemed like everyone in my family would talk mess about each other all the time. Sometimes that led to physical violence. I saw my family fight with each other, and was even involved in that violence when I was as young as seven-years-old.
I looked up to my older brother, who sometimes was violent. I wanted to be just like him. In school everyone already knew not to mess with me, as early as second grade. That’s when I figured I was “the bomb,” or at least that was my mentality back then.
But when I moved to California from Florida in the fourth grade, the tables had turned. I didn’t know anyone, so I soon became the quiet kid in class. I became a loner. I became the one who was bullied because I’m Latino, and my English wasn’t all that fluent at the time.
I was curious about what another former bully would have to say about their past actions, so I spoke to Kalvin Saelee, a former bully.
“It made me feel bigger and better than everyone else, and I convinced myself (that it was OK) to do it,” he said. “I was a very popular guy. I saw it as a joke, but I didn’t know the bullets I shot through my words would cause harm.”
I also interviewed Myles Houston, who was a victim of bullying, to see what kind of harm bullying caused him. Myles said he had a hard time relating to his peers.
“I had female characteristics, was overweight, and I wore glasses. Kids didn’t like me because I was different. They would say mean things to me and I couldn’t say anything back because I felt if I did it would sound stupid, (and) they would just laugh at me,” said Myles.
Myles also said he would try to stop the bullying by thinking of ways to improve himself.
“I used to think all the time, ‘I need to lose weight, look at all the pimples on my face,’” he recalled.
According to recent reports, almost a third of all students ages 12 to 18 experience being bullied at school, some even on a daily basis. Fourteen percent of those students have a really bad reaction to the bullying and end up developing bad anxiety, poor self-esteem, depression about going to school, and even suicidal thoughts.
While Myles said that he eventually lost weight and bullying decreased, he still felt anxious.
“I changed my looks, but my insecurities will never go away,” said Myles.
Kalvin said he also transformed himself over the years.
“I started to interact with people I used to make fun of and I got to know them. They were actually nice people to talk to. When I found out that some of them would hurt themselves because of bullying, I felt like I was a horrible person,” he said.
Another bullying victim, Heaven Murillo, had her mother and school get involved.
When interviewed, her mother Joanna said that Weaver Middle School, where Heaven was being bullied, was not doing enough to stop the bullying of her daughter.
Heaven said it all started when a former classmate wanted to “dance battle” her.
“She did her part and so then I did my part. When I finished, everyone started laughing at me,” Heaven recalled.
Heaven said that in the next week a girl grabbed her by the neck, pushed her against a wall, and a group of kids threw food at her. Shortly after, Heather’s mother told Heaven to “defend herself” against the bullies. Heather was soon involved in a physical altercation and was suspended.
As the fighting between Heather and the other girls continued, Joanna tried to further intervene in her daughter’s bullying by bypassing the school and calling the police directly.
“Every time Heaven got in trouble, the school did not even bother to call me to let me know what was going on. There was no letter, nothing I had to sign. I found out when she came home and told me she got suspended,” said Joanna.
Joanna also said the school started to suspend Heaven for “everything she did.” At one point, Heaven received a 20-day suspension. When Heaven was being considered for expulsion, Joanna said she received no notice from the school, and found out about the expulsion from another parent. Shortly thereafter, Heaven was expelled. Joanna said the administration punished her daughter for being bullied, instead of supporting her.
In about 85 percent of bullying cases, there is no sort of intervention made by teachers and/or administration officials, according to bullyingstatistics.org.
I believe that if someone from the school would have intervened in the case of Heaven’s bullying, maybe she wouldn’t have been expelled and her education would have never been put at risk.
Together we can all make a change and stop bullying. We can stop all the hurting of people who don’t deserve it. We should all be able to be happy at school, not frightened. Solving the bullying problem should start with our role models, like our school officials, who have the power take action.
And for my fellow students, I encourage you to give that weird guy or girl in your class a chance and a voice. They are humans just like everyone else and they feel.
If you are being bullied, stand up for yourself and speak up. No one has the right to hurt you physically nor emotionally. If you feel like nothing is been done, don’t give up. Find an ally, whether it’s a parent, a teacher or friend, and make sure you make your voice heard.
Bullying isn’t impossible to stop — it just takes education and effort. I hope one day we can all close our eyes for a second and not judge the person next to us by how they look, but instead judge them by who they are. Not their chains or snapbacks or their expensive clothes, but their hearts and souls. We are all unique and beautiful in our own special way.