Thursday, April 09, 2009

I Know How It Feels

The Dignity For All Students Act, a sweeping anti-bullying bill, sponsored by openly gay Daniel O'Donnell, has overwhelmingly passed in New York's state Assembly.

The new act would afford all persons in public schools an environment free of harassment and discrimination based on actual or perceived race, national origin, ethnic group, religion, disability, sexual orientation, weight, gender, or sex. The bill has been endorsed by Governor Paterson although it has yet to be taken up by the Senate. O'Donnell has called on the state Senate to pass the bill immediately. Only five of O'Donnell's colleagues in the Assembly voted against his bill.

Some folks say this is too much, that bullying is "kid's play," that it's all in good fun. Boys will be boys. Well, as a boy who was bullied in school, I wish there had been some sort of protection when i was a kid. Hell, I would have been happy with a little common sense.

I can remember being in junior high class, and having a teacher ask me a question. I didn't like having the spotlight on me, but I was a shy kid, and shyness breeds manners, so I quietly answered the question; correctly, too, I might add. Then, from the back of the room I distinctly heard someone say Faggot. I heard him; the people around me heard him, because there were giggles. I know the teacher heard him, but he just went on with the lesson as though nothing happened.

I remember being in the locker room changing for gym class, when one of those bullies came up to me. I knew what was coming so I tried to look away, but, of course, that only gives a bully power. He walked right up to me and pushed his face close to mine, and asked, Are you gay?

I stammered and stuttered, knowing however I answered the question would be wrong. No, would get me called a liar. Yes, would probably mean worse. So, I stayed silent, and he asked again.

Are. You. Gay?

I closed my eyes wishing it would all go away and when I opened them again he was even closer. He kept coming closer and then he kissed me, on the mouth. Then he shoved me into a locker and said, I knew it, and ran outside. By the time I got out to the basketball courts he had told everyone that I tried to kiss him.

They say that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger; sometimes. Other times it just makes you afraid to walk the halls alone.


Bina said...

My best friend Beth, (blindasabat-beth) had a cousin, Jeff, who was gay. I love that boy. Not in THAT way, but aside from Beth, he was my closest friend. I'm a mean little thing, and no one would mess with me because if they did, my popular, good lookin' brother would kick their ass. So if anyone tried anything while I was around, I set them straight. I think Beth has his story somewhere on her blog. It's very sad, and very wondergul, intelligent, kind, loving man died. I still miss him.

Laura said...

Bullying in schools is a bigger problem than many realize. It goes on to some degree in every school. It can be subtle or not so subtle.
In San Francisco, the private schools step in quite a bit. Most have anti-bullying policies. Several high schools and one grammar school that I know of, suspended students for cyber bullying.

That got me to wondering where did the schools' responsibility begin and end. Did they have the authority to do that on another child's word? I was asking this as a psychotherapist who really just wanted the answer to question. Then a beautiful young girl, who was bright, athletic, went to one of the top schools in the Bay Area committed suicide due to cyber bullying.

I got my answer.

We are all responsible.

frogponder said...

One of my tutor students told me about how he stood up for a Downs Syndrome student in his class and I said that was the right thing to do. Later he was making demeaning comments about a gay student and African Americans and then we had to have a *talk*. Sigh. One step forward, two steps back.

Bob said...

Bina: I'll look for that post on Beth's site. Thanks.
Laura: Your last sentence says it all.
FP: It is a constant move ahead/fall back struggle, but almost all strugles fit the bill.

Beth said...

Anyone who thinks bullying is nothing more than "kid's play" is probably a former bully. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of it, or stood up for someone who has, knows how damaging it can be.

Wonder Man said...

grade school memories, right? I've been through some craziness, but I'm stronger for it