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.


6 replies
  1. L. P.
    L. P. says:

    For me, it was insults and nicknames, often because of my curly hair. I don’t know how many times I got off the school bus with gum in my hair. To this day, I don’t pass my cousins’ house without giving it the middle finger. It’s bad no matter what, but somehow it’s worse when done at the hands of your relatives and their minions.

  2. Sunny Hunt
    Sunny Hunt says:

    I had a bully growing up and I took the taunts, torments and occasional pushing and shoving she dished out. She’s now in prison for attempted murder (saw that on the news a few years ago). Guess she didn’t learn her lesson.

    I just stood up to a bully in my son’s classroom – meeting with the teacher, principal and board member to resolve the issue. My poor 10yo son would have stomach aches, headaches and didn’t want to use his karate skills to defend himself (“It will make it worse, mom.”). I’m *lucky* that the school listened to me and took action, I’m hopeful it’s resolved the issue. I truly hope more and more schools are becoming aware and action-oriented towards this kind of behavior.

  3. Thomas Linehan
    Thomas Linehan says:

    One of my boys was picked on at our house after school. I think I know how to send a message without being arrested. I called the state trooper and explained everything and made sure they were scared to dead. I got parents calls saying how sorry, etc. Our son started working out and as a freshman with a bulked out chest now scarred the hell out of him. No matter where I’m at, if I hear it I stop it.

  4. Avery K.Tingle
    Avery K.Tingle says:

    What really makes me angry about stories like these, the single unifying factor I’ve found is that the people in authority always know, and never do anything. I don’t know how the world came to be this way, but if there’s any chance of ending this, people have got to take some damn responsibility.


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