My thanks to Leigh Anne Stewart for contributing the following piece detailing her experience with bullying.
'It started when I was 12 years of age. That year, the school board decided to make everything equal, they integrated every school. That meant that there were to be equal numbers of children from each race in every school, I didn't understand it then. I just knew I was getting bussed 8 miles away from my home into an unfamiliar school. I was more than frightened about going, but I had no choice. Here I am, a small little white girl who was very shy, and barely said a word to anyone at school. The first couple of months all the new students were becoming acclimatised to the new school, the teachers, and trying to figure out what was expected of us.
Eventually the day came when I experienced bullying for the first time in my life. My mother always gave me lunch money, and I would put it in my pocket for safe keeping. Two African American girls came up to me one day and asked if I had any money. I responded no, I don't have a job yet. The didn't believe me and actually frisked me, much like the police do when they catch a criminal. They found my lunch money and stole it. I didn't say or do anything about it, I thought if I did that those girls would really come after me. I went without lunch that day, and many more days and weeks after that.
I decided that since they knew where I kept my lunch money, that I would put it somewhere else. I taped the coins to the inside of my notebook. It took the girls about three days to find and steal it again. This continued for a few months, but still I remained silent. Each time the girls came back the bullying would get worse. They began to punch me, slap me, trip me, and one girl would hold me down and the other would literally kick me. I was an easy mark because I didn't put up a fight.
The girls did this when the teacher wasn't in the room. One day, the teacher came into the classroom, saw that the girls were doing to me, and didn't do anything about it. He just sat there and did nothing. I thought teachers were supposed to help children, and he did nothing. I was so confused, angry and sad all at the same time.
About 2 months later, I finally broke down and told my parents what was going on, they immediately went to the school and spoke with the principal. I was put in another classroom, and my mother started giving the school a check each month for my lunch instead of cash. The rest of my year was seemingly normal.
This is something that I have often thought about through the years. The experience changed me into someone who now stands up for herself, and will never let anyone walk all over me like that again. Today I am 52 years of age, I am a strong woman who believes that there needs to be a bullying education program in every school in the USA and abroad.
Leigh Anne Stewart