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03 October, 2012

Bullying, Part 2: This Time It's Personal.

This was going to be a comment response on my post Bullying, but it got long, so I decided to put it in its own post.

I was bullied very badly throughout school. In elementary school (K-5), it was mostly just name calling. My last name was made fun of, my height, my glasses, you name it. My dad home-schooled me for the end of my fifth grade year because it got so bad and I got an inter-district transfer so I wouldn't have to go to school with most of the people that picked on me.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire, as they say. In middle school (6-8), the people got meaner. Suddenly, it was all about clothes and appearance, which I was clueless about. I was very gender neutral as a kid, just wearing whatever was comfortable.

My parents took a very hands-off approach to parenting, meaning they were too busy working and fighting to give a shit about what I looked like. My mom left my dad right before I started sixth grade and he worked swing shift. She went to go build a life with someone new and us girls had to stay with him. He was sleeping when I left for school and gone when I got home. It was like this until he moved away when I started high school.

Thus started the gum throwing, the pushing, the yelling and the violence at school. I would walk between classes with my nose in my Sherlock Holmes book so I could pretend to not hear the names. Even still, they would get right up into my face and scream at me.

I was followed from school multiple times by groups of kids. Two girls got expelled because the Vice Principle watched me get beat up on two separate occasions. I'll never forget the first time I was hit. I was in sixth grade and this girl Alma was in eighth. She kept telling me, "Put your hands up! Put your hands up!" Finally, she hit me and a white light went through my head. My glasses fell off my face. She hit me a few more times and the crowd dispersed.

My anger came out in different ways throughout this. I had a bad temper growing up. I started smoking cigarettes and pot at twelve years old. I was constantly getting bad grades and acing tests, my teachers sending progress reports with "In Danger of Failing. So Smart; Does Not Apply Herself." In high school, the violence subsided and the names were less frequent, but I still had to ditch certain classes to get away.

I smoked pot and did drugs. I got a boyfriend who got his GED. I decided I'd do the same, but couldn't wait long enough for that and took the CHSPE, which let me leave almost an entire year earlier than the GED. I had actually had the best quarter I had ever had the year I decided to do that. I had been forced to move from my mom's house to my dad's, 100 miles away, when she decided to leave my step dad. I had almost straight A's when I left Tracy. I decided to go to the continuation school in my new area while I studied for the CHSPE. I passed and received my certificate without walking on a stage.

I believe there's a connection between everything that happened to me and the decision to leave school. In college, I've found the love for learning that I had when I first started school and I can actually enjoy it. I get mostly A's now, consistently. I'll never forget the time my short-essay answer was read in a class (anonymously) by the teacher as an example of what she was looking for. Due to financial circumstances and career choices, I haven't been able to finish yet, but I wonder what it would have been like if I hadn't hated going to school so much due to the bullying. The divorce had a factor, too, but I really think most of it came from my peers, spending time each day just to try and harm me. For years and years.

This, folks, is bullying. Telling you you're wrong is not bullying. Pointing out stupid things you say on your blog is not bullying. Cyber-bullying cases have been hyped up by the media while they ignore the fact that most of the bullying was actually done in school, not on facebook. It makes a better story to make parents believe the internet is dangerous, however.

If someone sends a person multiple messages a day threatening them, yes, that's bullying. If someone threatens a person's job, it's bullying. If someone wears a shirt at a conference that distances their self from your clique, it's not bullying. If someone points out where you're wrong about a topic or issue, you're not being bullied. Critiquing your use of DMCA to censor blogs is not bullying. Creating a petition to tried to get someone fired is bullying. If someone uses mockery to point out ridiculous beliefs or behaviors, it's not bullying, but also not tactful. If they are constantly calling that person names and contacting that person after being asked not to, that is bullying.

The lines are pretty clear and there is a specific set actions that describe bullying. They include intimidation and fear, coercion and threats. People on the internet are not always clear on this and it needs to be made clear because there is more awareness about this subject and it will be a damned shame if it gets muddied by people who want to redefine the word to include disagreement or the pointing out of ridiculous beliefs. If your feelings are hurt, it's one thing. Bullying is a whole different arena.

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