Please read Bernita Bradley's (featured with First Lady Michelle Obama) blog on bullying. Which does not get as much attention as this week's count day gets, because Count Day deals with money!
Today is Count Day, the day schools count every student in order to receive their funds from the state. This week schools are calling families to stress the importance of attendance, are offering ice cream and pizza parties, and some are raffling off iPads and bikes.
But are we sending our children the message that they count every day? Bullying - not budgets - should matter more to our school and community leaders. In our school environment where butts-in-seats matters more than addressing bullying, our children suffer - and after continued, unaddressed bullying, they may take it in their own hands to stop this suffering. I would know.
On my 14th birthday, I had planned to give a very special gift to myself. I planned every last detail, and I just knew I would be successful in giving myself this gift. So much so, that I walked to school that morning thinking, "I will show them all.”
I made it through all of my classes that day. During the final hour of school, I asked to go to the bathroom. I went to a bathroom on the first floor, and sat in the last stall. I removed bottles of pills from my bag, opened each bottle and gulped down every pill held inside of them, and sat back thinking it would all be over soon. No more pain, no more teasing, no more name calling and no more hiding behind smiles.
You see, I tried it all.
Getting angry, fighting back, and laughing at the very jokes others cracked on me. I remember them just like it was yesterday. “Big Birtha, BBB.” Notes on my back, jokes about fast food, oh and the time a young man threw a snow ball across the street and hit me dead in my face for no reason. My face was numb for days. I did not start out mean, did not even want to be mean, but it was all I had, and I was tired of it all.
The school bathroom became full of girls putting on makeup. Instead of staying in the bathroom, I decided to walk home telling myself the pills - my gift to myself - would work quicker that way.
As I walked, I became more and more lethargic and I eventually began to wander aimlessly from a friend’s home I had stopped at. Later I woke in the hospital bed to see my family, who were so hurt by my gift to myself. I fell unconscious again hoping I would just die.
I couldn't even do that right were my thoughts.
I laid in the bed thinking how overwhelming the bullying combined with my family life left me feeling crushed, and how I wanted to leave it all behind. Fortunately, after counseling and some time, in which I learned ways to love myself, I realized that I was saved that day for a reason, a purpose.
Today, I still get stares and whispers at times, but I no longer let it worry me. I have a bigger purpose now. I am an advocate for my own twelve year old daughter. This week, my daughter called me from school crying, and she begged me to take her home. As it turns out, she was the victim of bullying - not for the first time. This time, she was taunted by five boys, who decided to lift her chair while she was in it. In trying to resolve this issue with the school, it was clear to me that any discipline for her bullies would have to wait until after count day. In the meantime, my daughter would be stuck in a class with bullies who knew there were no consequences for their actions.
Today, she is not at school. Promises of pizza or ice cream parties would not protect her from bullying. Allowing her to dress down does not make up for her being in a classroom with bullies. But, those boys who bullied her? With the importance of count day, they have not been immediately reprimanded.
Again I ask, do our kids count every day?
Yes, bullying has gotten even worse in recent years. Every year, we hear stories of youth who decided to take their own lives and some who chose to take the lives of their bullies before doing so. How do we change this? How do we as mothers, fathers, and guardians ensure that not another child considers it a gift to take their precious life from this earth?
Restorative practices are in place in some schools and communities, but the culture of bullying is instilled in so many, including the individuals charged with supporting our youth. Sadly, I have seen and experienced settings where school staff embarrass students in front of their peers, and have expectations that those children would not be negatively impacted by their actions. What do we do when this occurs? I am constantly telling myself, we cannot just continue to tell children to talk about it or not worry about the words and actions they’re seeing and hearing on a daily basis.
I don’t necessarily have concrete answers, but I want to figure out how do we start focusing on helping our children heal? Why can’t today’s headlines focus on how our children matter, and not whether their butt is occupying a seat?
The little girl in me wants something better for my daughter, and all of our children. I say we must do something to say, “OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT WIDGETS, THEY MATTER EVERY DAY AND SHOULD COUNT AT ALL TIMES TO ALL OF US.”
So, I’m asking you, if you feel frustrated as well, and are tired of our babies being treated less than human, help me start a conversation about bullying and solutions to the harmful effects many of our children are experiencing in the chaotic school environment here in Detroit. Let the conversation and healing begin here and also check out @DSchoolsRock and Bernita Bradley and Brian Love on Facebook. #Voices4Ed #ChoiceIsOurs
(Doing the work)