I remember in fifth grade when the so-called popular girls were brutally mean to me. I spent my entire recess in the corner of the playground crying alone. I couldn’t tell you now what they said to make me feel so low, but I still remember how they made me feel. The way this continues to impact me today tells me something about myself and who I was back then. It didn’t drive me to hurt myself or someone else, but I understand how consistent bullying can mentally harm a person—even a child.
Bullying is a serious problem. Although it isn’t a new issue in our society, it’s getting more publicity in the news now than ever before. New laws are being created to combat bullying; sports rules are even changing to make children feel equal. However, the most effective factor in the fight against bullying isn’t the news stories of children and teens who bring guns to school or who commit suicide. It’s the people, young and old, who stand against bullying and make a difference.
Last week, an online video response from Wisconsin news anchor Jennifer Livingston went viral. Livingston was attacked in an email by a man named Kenneth Krause who wrote, “Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular.”
Livingston read the entire email on camera and then gave her amazing, heartfelt response.
“To the person who wrote me that letter: Do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see,” Livingston said. “So you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside. And I am much more than a number on the scale.” She also pointed out the words Krause wrote in his email which could be detrimental to kids whose parents might say the same thing about their weight.
“If you are at home and talking about the fat news lady, guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat,” Livingston said.
Livingston is a great example of standing against harsh words, but she is an adult and a news personality with more composure and influence than the average victim. Kids around the world are receiving the same sort of bullying from their peers. The young people who stand against it are the real heroes.
In September, Whitney Kropp of West Branch, Mich. was jokingly voted representative of the sophomore homecoming court at her high school. Knowing she was an outcast, the students thought it would be funny to vote for Kropp and then tell her it was just a prank. She did not see the humor in it.
“I’m like, ‘Wow, I feel like trash.’ I feel like I’m a little thing that no one really cares about,” Kropp told CNN.
She said she even considered committing suicide. Thanks to support from family and friends, she instead opted to stand against the pranksters and attend her homecoming dance with pride.
Local businesses donated a dress, shoes and a new hairdo to support the girl’s decision to play along with her peer’s joke. She and her boyfriend attended the dance on Oct. 5, as planned. Bullying is just a coping mechanism. In my experience, kids who were bullied often turned into bullies themselves. It is just a way of making the bully feel better about him or herself. It can turn into a cycle and some kids end up taking their own lives, or the lives of others, because of it.
That’s why kids who stand against bullying are the ones who make a real difference. They are the ones showing victims around the world there is a way to make it stop and it’s not worth hurting yourself or others.
Musician Taylor Swift was inadvertently made a part of a large-scale bullying scheme when she offered a concert and grants for music through an online school contest. Pranksters thought it would be funny to vote for Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The school was subsequently disqualified because of the fake votes. Swift, in an effort to make her own stand against the bullies, donated tickets for her next local concert to every student in the K-12 school and partnered with sponsors to donate $50,000. VH1’s Save the Music program also donated $10,000 in musical instruments to the school.
Media focus on bullying may assist in the fight against it. However, the brave souls who take a stand and don’t let becoming a victim get them down, are the ones making the real difference. No child, teen or adult deserves to be pushed around or made to feel less than they are. There are many anti-bullying organizations throughout the country that are great places to start your own fight against bullying, but the real heroes are those who take action on their own. I commend you.