I didn’t say anything

When I was nine, my mother combed my long dark locks into a side part and clipped them with a single metal barrette for picture day. I wore a turtleneck with a tiny red whale print and a matching red sweater.

I carpooled with neighbors to a private all-girls Catholic school two towns away. The girls in the backseat with me passed slices of orange over my head and squeezed them into my hair, seeds and all.

I didn’t say anything.

When I was eleven, I transferred to public school where I was blissfully ignored.

At fourteen, one of the girls from the snotty private school transferred into my public school. Within a month, a clan of girls like her – rich, covered in inches of makeup, gloriously stupid and brilliantly mean – were following me through halls slinging insults. I didn’t know them. I definitely didn’t know what their problem was.

I didn’t say anything.

At fifteen, they chased me through the locker area and threw water on my head.

I didn’t say anything.

At sixteen, they shoved me into walls and threatened to beat me up. After school, they drove to my house and parked out front until late at night, yelling threats.

I didn’t say anything. And I never went outside.

Everyone knew what went on. Teachers, administrators and my friends. They didn’t say anything either.

I had one of the worst attendance records in school, despite earning some of the best grades.

It took me about 20 years to forgive myself for not fighting back.

I’m 41 years old. I may never forgive the bullies.

I am far from alone.

Seventy-seven percent of all students are bullied in some way. Of that 77 percent, 14 percent have a severe reaction to the abuse, according to recent statistics. Poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety about going to school, even suicidal thoughts.

About one in five students admit they are responsible for bullying their peers.

Almost half of all students fear harassment or bullying in the bathroom at school.

The most violent altercations between students are more likely to occur on school grounds than on the way to school.

One of the most unfortunate parts? In about 85 percent of bullying cases, no teacher or administrator intervenes to stop the bullying.

Sarah Cymbaluk of Fosston, Minnesota, is taking fire today because her 9-year-old daughter has been repeatedly bullied on the bus and the school has done nothing. So she posted a video on Facebook of her crying daughter, who says, “It makes me feel sad and scared, and I don’t like it.”

The video was viewed tens of thousands of times before being taken down by YouTube because it was a violation in their terms and conditions.

According to WDAZ-TV, who broke the story, Jon and Sarah Cymbaluk met with school officials repeatedly, to no avail.

Circa 1986, when I was in high school, that might have been the norm. But today, there is no excuse.

If you know someone who is being bullied or witness it yourself, you have an obligation to help. Not sure what to do?

Start here:

Kids’ help lines (with real people who want to help now):

“I want to feel like I’m wanted in the school and people like me,” the girl told Minnesota’s KHON channel 2. “You know what I want? I want it to never happen to another kid again.”

Me too. Me too.