I still remember being bullied in school—yes, all these years later—because I was assumed to be gay. I was called ‘fag’ in the hallways of my high school and dubbed a ‘queer’ because I couldn’t climb the rope in gym class.
Who knew climbing a rope made you straight?
I also remember junior high school when one other student mercilessly taunted me by calling me ‘fag’ every single time he saw me. One day, after, of all things, gym, I was in the locker-room changing clothes and this student came up to me again and shoved his face real close to mine and asked if I was gay.
I stammered and stuttered, trying to figure out in those few seconds what the right answer would be; the right answer might keep him from punching me in the face, I’d assumed. I finally muttered, ‘No.’ Then the oddest thing happened; this student kissed me, full on the mouth and then walked away.
The bad news? It was a pretty awful kiss for my first male/male experience. The good news? He never, ever, called me a fag again; in fact, he never spoke to me again at all.
But it was torture, waiting for those names to be uttered at you, and it made going to school so painful that I often wondered how I could stop going. I never contemplated suicide—other than as a passing thought followed quickly by, How would that solve anything—but I did lie awake at night and pray I could get through the next day, and the days after that.
So, remembering how tortured I felt, I cringed as I read the story of an unnamed student at West Ashley High School, in the Charleston County School District of South Carolina, who was bullied so badly that he attempted suicide. The difference between his story and mine is he was allegedly bullied by his teacher. And now his mother has filed suit against the school and the district.
The cases alleges that Alan Ingram, who is not named as a defendant though he’s named throughout the complaint, that male student—referred to as John Doe in court papers—by repeatedly telling the class that the student was gay:
"In early April 2013, Ingram began bullying plaintiff in class, in front of plaintiff's classmates, by telling plaintiff's classmates that plaintiff was 'gay,' and by calling plaintiff names and belittling him in the presence of his classmates. This continued on a daily basis for an extended period of time …
"During this time, Ingram repeatedly belittled plaintiff in front of his peers, calling plaintiff names in class such as 'Gay,' 'Gay Boy,' 'Mrs. Pete,' 'Mrs. Peters,' and other names. Ingram repeatedly told plaintiff's classmates that plaintiff was in a homosexual relationship with another male classmate and that they were 'boyfriend and girlfriend' …
"Further, Ingram encouraged and asked other students in class to pick on plaintiff as well and similarly belittle him during classes."
Awful; a grown man treating a young boy, not to mention a student he was supposed to be teaching, like that, but the teacher reportedly also told the boy’s classmates that the student was in a homosexual relationship with another classmate, and he encouraged those students to pick on John Doe as well.
The boy’s mother says that because it was a teacher who started bullying her son, he felt as though he could not report the bullying to school administration. The student later attempted suicide by hanging himself. Luckily, he was found in time, but the emotional damage has been done. He has withdrawn from school and is being home-schooled. He is also receiving mental health counseling.
As I said, it was torture enduring those days in school, but I cannot imagine the pain of having a teacher, someone you are told you can trust, someone you are told you can go to if you need help, being the one who starts the bullying and asks others to join in.
If it’s true that Alan Ingram did these things, it’s pretty frightening to note that he is still teaching at West Ashley High School.