The Coercive Bully This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 24, 2012
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The kind of bullying which I’m most familiar with is coercion.
“You know, there is still time to switch topics. We can talk to the teachers,” Kate, my fifth grade classmate said.
I looked up from my index cards to find her blue eyes locked on mine.
It’s those same eyes that she always insisted were just as pretty and clear as mine. Like most snotty fifth graders, I always had an opinion, but hardly was I ever aggressive or stubborn. That’s what was so terrifying about Kate. When I looked at her, I didn’t see the soft hue of her eyes, but the intensity, the demand for things to always go her way. In this case, Kate was determined to research Inca arts and crafts, the topic I had been assigned, while she was stuck with Aztec festivals.
I quickly returned to my cards, “Um, maybe later,” I replied.
“It’s getting too late. We have to do it now. Come on let’s go talk to the teachers,” Kate snapped back.
I was so taken aback by the certainty in her tone that I was unable to tell her that I didn’t want to switch. I slipped off to the bathroom to get away from her.

I sniffed the scented hand wash and cooed over the animals in National Geographic Kids magazine. When I heard Kate say from the other side of the door, “Hurry up, you’ve been in there forever,” I flicked off the light-switch, obeying her once again. I did not switch topics with Kate, but it was deeply upsetting to be harassed by her. I think back four years and cringe.
Coercion is still part of my life. These days, in ninth grade English, Amy asks me, “What did you get for number five?” I tell her to read Oedipus’ speech in Scene Six to find the answer.
“Barbara just tell me!” Amy demands.
“I really don’t know. You’d have to ask Mr. Simpkins,” I say.
Amy knows I’m lying because she can glance over to see that my answer to question five runs three paragraphs long.
I was able to stand up to both Kate and Amy, but I’m not proud of the fact that in both instances their persistence made me upset with myself. One day, I hope to be able to say to the next Kate and Amy, “I won’t switch topics or give you the answer. So forget it.”

The signs around school with red lines through the word “Bullies” are useless because they offer no reason for bullies to stop what they’re doing. If school administers could offer victims like me ways to stand up to bullies, then the bullies will have to find other means of getting what they want.

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