Did you know an estimated 30% of students in the U.S. have experienced bullying? That means 30% of you have likely been afraid to go to school or ride the bus — and for some this growing problem has led them to extremes, like asking their families to move to a new school district, or, in the worst cases, suicide.
Experts say that it’s just as important to reduce bullying as it is to reduce weapons in schools, which has happened over the past few years because of surveillance cameras and metal detectors. Bullying, however, can lead to worse, more violent behavior, says William Modzeleski, of the Federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program.
And for kids who have something different about them, the abuse can be even worse. At least five teens in past month have taken their own lives after being a victim of gay bashing. According to a recent survey on gay bullying, 9 out of 10 students who identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual are bullied in school and they are four times more likely than heterosexual kids to attempt suicide.
Could you or a friend be a victim of bullying? Find out the telltale signs by reading about other student’s experiences.
"I get bullied a lot at school. I think people bully me because I tell them how I feel and they don't like my opinions. Sometimes I just feel like crying. I'll get picked on and I can't control my anger -- then I yell at them and get in trouble."
"I'm not the kind of person who would ever hit anyone, and most of the kids at school take advantage of that. They think I won't hit back because I'm afraid of them, but it's not that. Its because I know they're the ones acting like children and I'm the mature one."
"I'm in the ninth grade and am only 5 feet tall. I'm not the only person who is this short at my school -- in fact, I'm taller than some juniors and seniors. I guess that everyone just thinks it's easier to pick on me because I can't physically fight back. Even my friends pick on me. I say that I am used to it, but it still hurts as much as it did when it first started six years ago. Isn't there a way to make it stop? I mean, we all have flaws, right?"
"I don't like it when bigger kids pick on smaller kids -- it's not fair, but I guess life is just not fair. I don't see why the world has to be so bossy. Why can't everyone be nice to the people they have to be around all day? The world would be a much better place if we all did that. After all, we're all human beings."
"I have been bullied a lot of times. I'm fatter than the other kids and they use it as an advantage to pick on or bully me. There are certain kids that just have so much fun doing it. My brother and parents tell me to stand up for myself, but I am too soft hearted to hurt another student."
"I used to be bullied a lot in the second grade. People called me names and made me get things for them. I did it because I thought they were my friends, but I found out later on that they were just using me."
"I am very small so I get teased a lot. For the most part, I have learned to live with the fact that people are insecure about themselves and they end up taking it out on others. I just have to love myself for me."
"In eighth grade, I was a quiet, shy girl. I was the one who would sit at the front of the class, and would doodle or read. One day someone started a rumor that I wanted to kill my Algebra class. People started coming up to me and saying things like, 'I'm your friend, OK? Don't shoot me.' The rumor spread (as all rumors do) to 'Nicole wants to kill the eighth grade!' and then to 'Nicole wants to kill everyone in the school.' Eventually people were saying that I was a terrorist who wanted to blow up the building. Everyday I came home in tears. I never went to the principal, though, despite all of this verbal abuse. I figured it would die down. My Mom thankfully did talk to the principal. He found the three people who started the whole thing and punished them."
"I've been bullied a lot by everyone at school just because I act and do things differently. Everybody thinks I'm ugly and uncool. I want to change who I am. I want to be like everybody else."
"I was bullied by my sisters and the kids at school because of my weight and the way I look. It got to the point where I didn't want to go to school. Eventually I learned to let it go in one ear and out the other because if they saw it getting to me they would have gotten what they wanted. When they realized it wasn't bothering me anymore they moved on to bullying another person."
"There are certain people in my life who just want to beat the stuffing out of me for no reason. Picking on someone who has done nothing to you doesn't make any sense. I have tried to improve many things that people don't like about me, but nothing seems to work."
"I've been bullied by people lots of times, mainly because I'm a little larger then others. Every day they come up and hit me on my back or scream my name loudly and obnoxiously across the hall. Sometimes they call me gay. I know that I have to stay strong to fulfill my dreams -- I have to ignore the people who do thisÃ‰ but at some point in time, you do have to wonder, is it worth it being the better person?"
"It is not fun to be bullied. People at my school do it when they think someone isn't cool. They'll say things that aren't true about the person. It really hurts me when people make fun of other people just because their clothes, shoes or hairstyles aren't up to date. Don't make fun of someone until you really get to know them, or as my teacher says, 'until you've walked a mile in their shoes.'"
"Everyday I worry about what they will do to me next. I'm sometimes terrified to go to school. It's not just one specific person, but a group of people. They always ask me if I'm gay. They go on and on about it. They spread rumors about me and mess with me during class, and I can't do anything because if I say something they'll just do it more. Sometimes I know to just ignore them, but it's hard to do when it happens every day at school. I realize that they're just screwed up themselves and they have their own problems, and that they try to take them out on me. Then, at other times, I think maybe it is just me."
"Back when I was in the third grade, I was picked on all the time. I had no friends except for one girl. People would call me names as I walked by, make farting noises and saying it was me. After school was OK -- I had my own way of getting home so no one would see me. I would walk through the woods next to the school with my bike. But one day someone followed me and a bunch of other kids hid behind a mud hill. One kid called my name and when I turned around I was hit in the face by a ball of mud. They kept throwing and I started to cry. Here I am eight years later, still cringing when I walk by a mud hill."
"I've been bullied by lots of people because I have big cheeks. They call me things like 'dog' or 'puppy'. I used to laugh along, but then the comments started to get really mean-spirited -- someone once said, 'Maybe I should bring in my dog whistle, then we won't have to shout her name -- we can just blow the whistle and she'll come right to us.' Everybody has something different about them, and mine just happens to be shown in my cheeks."
"I've been bullied a lot by people at my school, but no matter what they say I don't listen. It's like that saying, sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me."
"This girl at summer camp always made fun of me, but I never knew how to react. She's really popular, and I just wanted to be liked. One day she said something really mean, and I just snapped. I pushed her into the creek, and she was soaked for the rest of the day."
"I have been picked on many times about being flat-chested. Kids at school talk about me behind my back -- even the people who I thought were my friends. It hurt at first, but I'm glad that I now know who I can really count on. God gave me what I have, and I would rather be me than a fake. A word of advice that one of my teachers gave me this year: 'The popular people may shine now but one day they could be working at Wendy's!' One day you will be in the spotlight to shine."
"I've heard of people picking on kids because they are black, but there is one girl that picks on me because I am white. She never stops saying things like, 'I hate you, you stupid white girl. I hate sitting next to you!' And those are the nicer things she says. I think someone should stop her before she seriously messes with the wrong person. Even though she is mean to me, I don't want to see her get hurt."
"I got bullied by a boy named Chris, but I out smarted him with my mind instead of my fist. Brains beat fighting any day."
"I have been teased before about my teeth. I solved the problem by getting braces."
"I'm 13 years old and not very cute, or so people say. The kids in my eighth grade classes think that if you're not 5' 4" and 100 pounds then you don't deserve to be happy. For the past three years I have been called names such as fag, gay, lesbian, worthless piece of trash -- all just because I'm overweight. What people don't understand is that the saying 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me' is the biggest lie. Words can hurt badly. They bring down your self-esteem, and your love for yourself and for others. From now on I'm going to stand up for myself and others who have been called names. We can't let people keep getting hurt because of such foolish and useless acts."