Bullying Incident #12: Life At Jonas Clarke Middle School (1979)

At the end of my last personal blog, I discussed that it was the end of elementary school for me and off to my new Middle School, Jonas Clarke Junior High. The school was situated right next to the elementary school, so I still had to continue to walk to school and take the long, winding path I did in elementary school to avoid bullies.

But, I was now growing up and the new school offered a great amount more independence than I had at elementary school. I also found myself surrounded by a new circle of friends, some good and some not so good for me. We were definitely the outcasts and that click held. But, we were pretty good friends and they were not ones that ever broke their friendship with me, due to the fact that I was bullied. Being the outcasts, we were not talked to much and stayed off the radar as much as possible.

clarkeschool.jpgThere were many aspects of Clarke Middle School that I liked. My teachers, for one, treated me well. I remember, in particular, my Social Studies teacher. He was a young teacher and was a very nice person. He actually invited his whole class to his wedding. I recall feeling very mature and that he respected us. That was a nice feeling to have. My English teacher, was also a good person. Overall, the staff at the school was excellent, but couldn’t prevent the bullying issues for me.

I recall with fondness, that my friends and I volunteered to be the A/V helpers. There were many advantages to doing this. We got to be called out of class to get A/V equipment for another class if needed. We could hang out in the A/V room whenever we had free time, without a teacher watching us. We felt important and needed and that was a good thing during these rough years.

But, then there was still Ryan and his friends. Again, i don’t recall when the tables turned and Ryan decided that he was no longer my friend, but someone who wanted to pick on me, but it was soon after Middle School started for the year. I remember one of my friends telling me that Ryan wanted to fight me. Soon people were telling me things Ryan was saying about me. He was saying he wanted me dead, among other things. I really didn’t see him in any classes, so I had little interaction with him directly for a while. That would change. I should also mention that  Ryan was quite a bit taller than me and pretty muscular. He definitely intimidated me and I didn’t want to have to fight him.

Soon the prank phone calls started. Just heavy breathing on the phone. I was a latch key kid and home alone in the afternoons or it was just me and my sister. I was pretty scared about what would happen and definitely was having nightmares about having to confront  Ryan at some point. There is no easy way out of these situations when you are 12 or 13 years old. I was trying to be more mature and part of me felt that telling adults would be immature at this age. I had hoped mostly that it would just go away.

But it didn’t.  Ryan had formed a group of friends around him that also started taunting me. One of these boys, I recall, fit the mold of the Loyal Lieutenant. He was a short, small kid who was always standing under  Ryan’s wing, but was one of the more vocal boys. I’m sure there is interesting data to support how these smaller kids align themselves with the bigger kids. It’s been portrayed endlessly in movies, TV, and books, so there must be a larger validity to this system that bullys build.

Ultimately, this little guy was put up as the boy I would have to fight. Refusing was not an option and a date was set. I felt pretty confident at the time that, if I had to fight this littler boy, that I could win that fight, but I knew the problem was that the rest of that group would be there and who would be there to defend me? Finally the date was set for when I had to meet up with these boys to fight the Loyal Lieutenant. There was a system to this, mind you. It usually happened at lunch in the cafeteria. Words would be passed around by the kids.

“Hey Alan, that boy said he wants to fight you tomorrow in the woods behind the school”.

That would be told to me by one of my friends, who was told by one of his friends. Since there was no longer a recess, fights had to be planned for after school. See, there was no other time during school for fights, so planning was now part of the bullying game. In most cases, I didn’t feel like I could get out of it, and the other new wrinkle is that, basically, the whole 7th grade knew that there would be a fight and would be waiting. It sucked more than ever!

So, the word got out that  Ryan’s Loyal Lieutenant wanted to fight me the next afternoon after school. What choice did I have? Who was I going to tell? Also, I had started to feel like fighting at least made me look like I wasn’t afraid. Of course I was terrified.

So what happened at the fight? I’ll tell you in my next personal post blog and thanks for reading.

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