Schools have their own internal discrimination techniques that can actually encourage bullying to happen. By classifying children as Special Needs or other categories, we put a level of “difference” on them that can lead to bullying tactics. While it is hard to figure out how to not do this and still create a good educational environment, the classification of some of the groups, particularly the ones who are considered “special needs”, can create and encourage that atmosphere. Sarah wrote to me with a story that shares this point as well as her difficulty getting through the school years as a “special needs” child. Her story is shared below. ~Alan Eisenberg
My name is Sarah. I’m 20 years old and I am a victim of bullying recovering from all that’s happened over the past 10-12 years.
It all started back in elementary school, when I started kindergarten at Campbell Elementary in Arvada, CO. I had friends and awesome teachers but there was one particular teacher who had something against special education students. I have autism and that was my main problem. That particular teacher told my mom AND my grandpa that I wouldn’t do any of the following because she thought I would be too retarded to do them: read books, ride a bike, write, rollerskate, take regular classes without having someone there for me, graduate high school, go to college, and many more. Well, I proved her wrong! My mom had me transfer to Fairmount Elementary in Golden, CO for my first grade year. Things were okay in the beginning up until we had our first fire drill of the school year. I cannot stand strobe lights but it was bad in elementary for me unlike now. I ended up locking myself in the girls restroom and refused to come out until the school had brought in my grandma. After that, that’s when the taunting started. I was called names like “Bucky-tooth beaver” and “freak” everywhere I went.
Throughout elementary, everybody came up with an excuse to make fun of me. Only a select few who were not in the special ed program were there for me. Jessica S, Jessica G, Veronica T, and Naomi M. These four girls helped me learn that I should stand for myself and that I’m beautiful the way I am. I felt that I should at least try to be myself around everyone. The only way I could do it was through Ice skating. That didn’t last long though because in 2002, I moved to Longmont, CO with my parents and my little sister, who was 3 at the time before her summer birthday, and started at Longs Peak Middle for my 6th grade year. New School, Fresh Start. That fresh start was all I needed.
That only lasted a few months until one thing turned my life into heck. One person took note that I hung out with special education more than the others because that was my comfort zone at the time. They then told their friends that I was a “freak” and a “loser” because I hung out with special ed. That spread like wildfire. I could barely walk through the hallways without someone saying something like “freak,” “loser,” “you’re nothing,” etc…. They even found out that my parents had divorced after winter break 2003-2004.
Every time I went to lunch, I got nervous to the point to where I ate my lunch in the girls restroom. BUT that was nothing compared to high school….. With all the name calling, pictures, etc., I thought that they were not going to give up. They actually gave up for the first few weeks of freshman year at Longmont High. I thought that with high school, things will change for me. I was half right and half wrong. Every time anything came up, I ALWAYS went to the counselor. The name calling got worse. It escalated to names that I refuse to place here. I even got threatening messages on Myspace, Facebook, in texts, emails, phone calls. I almost got to the point of suicide by the time I started my Junior year at LHS. I remember my sophomore year in LHS when I wrote a story on Bullying for the school newspaper as a project for one class and people took notice of how I felt about bullying in school.
The bullying didn’t die down until Senior year 1 (I stayed an extra semester [senior year 2] in order to get a 1/2 credit for English). In Junior year, I broke up with my then boyfriend of almost 3 1/2 years, Mick. I got text messages and voicemails from a so-called “friend,” who had decided that I was a freak and that I needed to die by calling me and saying things I’d rather not mention for its too painful to bring up. My best friends stopped talking to me because that “friend” told them lies about me talking s*** about them. I ended up going home and almost took a half bottle of asprin when my mom stopped me. She didn’t realize that the bullying had escalated to that point to where she was going to lose her oldest daughter of 2 if she didn’t do anything. I almost told her to switch me to a different school because it was that bad.
By the time senior year started, I was so withdrawn that I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I resulted to smoking, drinking, and avoiding conversation with most of the student body. There was one particular person who helped me out more than others and that was my counselor that I had since freshman year, Mr. B. He then helped me find programs to help me quit smoking, sober up, and then placed me in a therapy group to help me socialize again. Ever since I graduated Longmont High May 2010 (instead of May 2009), I became a little more sociable. I got a job with the school district, I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, May 2011 and I have been loving it since, and I have a bright future with the Medical System.