Gabe: Taunted for being Jewish
Gabe talks about starting middle school and experiencing teasing by some of the other kids. For the first time, he says, he was called a Jew as if it were a bad thing. The experience made him wonder if it is bad to be Jewish and why someone would use that word as a put-down. Gabe says he has also been called “gay” because he hangs out with his best friend, another boy, a lot. Some of the other kids accused them of making out behind the gym. He worries that if he tells a teacher, his classmates will think he is a snitch.
Brittany: Victim of vicious gossip
Brittany wants people to know that girls can be just as bad as boys when it comes to bullying. Some girls whom she thought were her friends began gossiping about Brittany behind her back and sending e-mails about her to one another after school. They teased Brittany for being Chinese and told her her race was “going low.” Brittany says it was like getting stabbed in the back.
Stephen: Bullies kids at school because his brother bullies him
Stephen is one of the “skaters” at his school. He picks on other kids and says things to try to make them mad because it gives him a sense of power. When he really wants to get to people, he says, he calls them a “fag.” His older brother beats him up at home all the time, and Stephen can’t fight back because his brother is so much bigger than he is. When he gets to school, Stephen takes it out on kids who are smaller than him. “It’s just, like, an ongoing cycle,” he says. But if people knew the real person inside, they would know he actually doesn’t like fighting.
Zaid: Stands up for a non-English-speaking classmate
Zaid says he has been called a “killer” just because he is from the Middle East. Another Middle Eastern student who was new to Zaid’s school was getting bullied by some boys but couldn’t defend himself to the teacher because he didn’t speak English. Zaid says he told the kids who were making fun of their new classmate to leave him alone and not to tease someone just because he or she is from another country.
Umma: Sees racial tensions as a key source of the problem
Umma describes her school cafeteria like a map: “Africa is where all the African-Americans hang out; Mexico is where all the Latinos hang out; and America is where all the Caucasian students hang out.” She says if students from different races try to mingle with another group at lunch, people look at them weird. Umma also talks about the use of the “n-word,” and how some African-Americans have embraced it as a word to call one another. She thinks it’s unfair and confusing that students who aren’t African-American can’t use this word. Her friends, who are Mexican-American, disagree. “If someone called us an ‘immigrant,’ we would get offended by that. We would probably joke around and call each other that, but…outside the race…it’s offensive,” one of them says.
Kate: Used to bully other girls to be popular
Kate says she used to be in the popular crowd, and she thought she was “better” than other girls at her school. She says she would just order them around. Kate got a taste of her own medicine when another girl started talking about her behind her back. Now she thinks that spreading rumors and being mean is not the way to be cool.
Brian: Just wants to do anything to get out of it
Brian says coming to middle school was a rude awakening. He had never heard kids call each other bad words in elementary school. “The first week I was in school, I got called ‘fag,’ like, 50 times,” he says. “It happened every day — all six, seven periods.” The constant harassment made Brian feel like he should ditch school or drop out or kill himself, “just anything to get out of it.”
Jasper: Pushed to the limit
Jasper has been harassed every day for years. He gets teased because his shoes aren’t the latest style and he wears hand-me-down clothes from his older brother. When kids push him down, they say, “That’s what you get, white boy.” Jasper says a lot of teachers see stuff happening right in front of them, but they don’t do anything. He gets so mad sometimes that he fantasizes about hurting the kids who bully him — he wishes he could shoot them, “just in the leg or something.” But he says he would never really hurt somebody. Jasper wishes a bully would stand up for him and make it all end.
Da’Laun: Decides to make a change and make new friends
Da’Laun talks about why he decided to stop bullying other kids. One day, he realized he didn’t have any friends because other kids were scared to talk to him. He says he wanted people to see that he has “a good heart inside,” and he knows that if he kept on bullying other kids, he could end up in jail or even killed. Da’Laun says he’s happier now — he’s slowly been making friends and wants to go to college someday and get a good job.
Paola: Finds the courage to help a student in need
Paola describes her decision to stand up for another student who is being picked on after someone else stood up for her. “This is the first time I had ever stood up for, like, a stranger,” she says. “And I was like should I do it? Or should I shouldn’t? And I’m like, you know, I’m gonna do it, even though it’s none of my business. I should just go in ‘cause it’s not right.” Paola says she was really happy with her decision — it made her feel good, and she knows it made the other kid feel better, too.