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We all know what bullying is. Calling someone names, public humiliation, the head cheerleader leading a campaign to destroy the self-esteem of every unpopular girl. Come on, I go to a privileged public high school with an almost entirely white student body where we promote this cultural phenomenon called “diversity”. There’s no way my school, so theoretically accepting of every person from every background, would ever need to worry about this little thing called bullying. Because after all, we all know what bullying is.
But here’s the thing. We aren’t actors in Mean Girls. Sometimes the bully isn’t so recognizable. Sometimes little words can hurt. And sometimes there is no such thing as a happily ever after. So yes—we all think we know what bullying is, but it’s about time we stop lying to ourselves.

I have never been bullied. I cannot emphasize with the pain of being physically or emotionally crushed. In fact, I thought bully was a media cliché. Not all of my classmates were rays of sunshine, but they weren’t abusive. I am not a stupid girl. I knew bullying was out there- just not here.

One day the pretend walls came crashing down because I had an honest talk about bullying with a peer group. There was this one boy there. He was a little different. I didn’t really know him—he was just a name. Someone I had never had a conversation with. Someone who confessed to a room full of strangers how he tried to hang himself. He described the torment of the name calling, the constant and cruel jokes. How despite the support of his family, he couldn’t take it anymore.

I don’t know whether he would have gone through with it if his family had not found him. I don’t know if his life has improved since. I do know that while I could never identify the people who ruined this part of his life, I am sure that I knew them. My school isn’t big enough to hide so many bullies. I wonder how many kids know about his suicide attempt, how many know how close we were to losing one of our own from seemingly inconsequential words.

The education system has failed me in this respect. My cookie-cutter suburban school has taught a cookie-cutter bullying curriculum. It is time to tell the sad, shocking stories. It’s time to make me cry. It’s time to teach the true consequences of one’s actions. Even at the most cookie-cutter of high schools it is not time to sugarcoat things.

Deep-down, we can’t blame the school system. How many times have you made a racial slur? How many times have you laughed at something that hurt? “No offense” is not justification for an insult. I ask you to choose your words and your friends wisely. There is still time to change our ways, time to avoid becoming a statistic. We can all be compassionate people, if only we have the courage to try.



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