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Bullies aren’t getting the message

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By Alexandra Hehlen

Editor’s note: Names have been changed to protect students’ identities.

Students have heard it all. They’ve heard it at Rachel’s Challenge assemblies and they’ve heard it in the voices of countless students. The message to bullies telling them to stop what they are doing, has been sent repeatedly.
These voices make bullied students at Los Alamos High School feel like they are not alone, that there are students out there — nearly too many to count — that are in the same situation.
Yet, the voices are distant and it is time for everyone at LAHS to realize that some students have been subjected to bullying.
Bullying, according to several interviewees, has its roots in the middle school atmosphere, where students must make the difficult transition from being an elementary student to being a high school student in the span of two or three years.
Middle school often acts as a melting pot, with a melee of students coming from many different schools.
This confluence of students in large numbers tends to lead to stereotypes, especially for teens that are unique or different than others. Abraham* said, he was known as the “weird” kid when he entered middle school.
Annie* is another student that dealt with bullying. “People called me ‘freak,’ ‘stalker,’ ‘weirdo,’ ” she said. For her, it continued throughout middle school. The names changed and she was called, “wrist-cutter” and “emo.”
Another bullying victim, Shamu* said, “They gave me nicknames like ‘Mitch’ and put a ‘b’ instead of (the letter) ‘m.’ ”
The names were not just labels, though. They — as students like Annie may have noticed — were blows to self-confidence and self-image.
Despite the negative effects on the victims, they seem to not be noticed by bullies.
One might ask why bullies behave the way they do, if they don’t notice what their actions are doing to their victims.
One main reason is power. Oftentimes bullies themselves are insecure, although they usually do not show it. Picking on someone smaller, lets them have control over an aspect of their lives.
“In middle school, people would trip me down the hallway,” Thomas said. This happened because he was shorter than some of the bullies. Victims of bullying are recurrently — but certainly not always — seen as “different” from the rest of the student body.
There are several things that might set them apart: height, the way they dress or the way they act are just a few determining factors.
Yet, some experts say that being themselves is what defines them, so it’s important for them to remember to remain who they are, no matter what people say about them. Holding fast to their personality can actually ward off bullies.
If bullies notice that they are not influenced by their comments and actions, they might stop.
For Shamu, the bullying did not stop until high school.
She said, “The bullying got to a point where it was really unbearable and I felt like I couldn’t go on. It hurt a lot. It got to a point where they vandalized my locker.”
For Abraham, it never stopped and was compounded by tensions at home, when his parents divorced.
“I was bullied, picked on, tortured. And it never stopped. Ever.”
The question that so many victims ask themselves is, “how can I make it stop?”
The solution is to take initiative. They should tell parents, a teacher, a trusted adult or go straight to the principal. Being assertive in exposing bullies is key. Adults will want to help the victims and oftentimes, when they directly report a bully’s behavior, the teasing stops. Bullies seem to be easily intimidated in the company of helpful adults or friends.
When asked what she did to making the bullies stop, Shamu said, “There was one friend. She just went along with the bullying. We got together a lot and we worked a lot to change things. We went up to them and told them to just stop. They didn’t like it, but they stopped.”
Those that bully others need to stop before anyone else is hurt emotionally. They must also realize there are consequences for their actions and they be penalized as a result.
For those being bullied, the message is out. Be assertive. Show the bullies who’s boss. Standing up against bullying may not be an easy task, but it pays off.