Yesterday, while the entire nation was mourning the loss of 9 people who were senselessly killed in a church in Charleston, there was another tragedy that flew under the radar. A smaller story about a young 16 year old kid named Kennedy LeRoy who was bullied at his high school because he was different, because he had Aspergers Syndrome. He killed himself while he was alone in his room a week ago today because of depression and because of the torment that he experienced at his school. I don’t blame you if you didn’t hear about this story, I wouldn’t have heard about it myself except I saw a blurb on my Facebook feed about it from Autism Speaks. It immediately hit me right in the gut because, that very well could have been me in that story. I could have been Kennedy.
I didn’t get bullied until I entered 1st grade, but after that bullying was a pretty regular occurrence in my life. I can remember being followed by groups of kids and laughed at, they would chase me on the playground, trip me up, surround me.
I remember being in second grade and using the restroom in my school, I would go into a stall to urinate as I didn’t like being crowded and some kids were trying to get into the stall to make fun at me. While trying to keep them out the stall ended up being rammed right into my forehead using a huge bruise which I can still vividly remember seeing. I wouldn’t use public restrooms for a long time after that, holding in my need to go until the point of pain so that I would not be abused.
I remember a girl publicly asking me out one day just so that she could publicly dump me several hours later, all of the girls would laugh and snicker at me for the rest of the day making sure I knew that she wasn’t ever really my girlfriend, I was 10.
There was a school dance and 2 of the ‘cool’ kids told me to come behind the bleachers because they had a secret to tell me. I willingly went, happy to be accepted by kids that were obviously cooler than me. While the first kid leaned in to tell me the ‘secret’ the other kid snuck behind me and put me in a choke hold. I couldn’t breathe and struggle to fight him off but they ran off before I could really do anything.
I accidentally backed my chain into a kid once who proceeded to push me around violently. I remember being scared to even tell the principal about this for fear that I would get suspended for fighting even though I didn’t fight back.
Kids would hide behind doors waiting for me to walk pass, they would call me names. Once in six grade several kids signed my yearbook with sexually explicit messages, asking if I ever had wet dreams, wondering when I would have sex, someone even told me ton get a sex change. My mom went through the year book with white out erasing those messages from the book but not from my mind.
In high school I had kids who were supposedly my ‘friends’ who would prank call my home all hours of the night. I would get teased for not showering, I would get teased for being fat, it finally got to the point that, just like Kennedy I would sit alone in my room for hours on end just listening to music, wondering why it was so hard for me to make friends. Wanting nothing more than to be accepted for who I was.
I barely survived High School, I don’t know how I did, I am surprised that I didn’t end up like Kennedy and others that I have heard of. I guess having the few friends that I did was enough to get me by but school was hell and I am glad I never have to relive those days. Being an adult is easy compared to the nightmare I went through.
I do not share all of this, many of which I’ve never publicly given details about, to make you feel sorry for me. I share it so that maybe after reading this you’ll want to become more involved with what is going on at your children’s school, does your kid know who the bully’s are? Are you kids being bullied by them? Are your kids the bullies? The more we know, the more information that comes to light, the safer are schools are going to be. Most bullies have issues of their own, I’ve learned this by talking to some of my own bullies as we’ve gotten older, I’ve learned a lot, many of my bullies were suffering some form of abuse at home, being aggressive at school was how the handled it. Is that an excuse for their behavior? No but it does explain a lot, the problem goes even deeper than we think, if we as a community can help get kids safe maybe, just maybe, there will be less bullying at school. Maybe someday we will not have to read about kids like Kennedy LeRoy in the past tense, we can read about the amazing things they are doing in their lives. One more suicide because of bullying is one too many. What are you going to do to help stop it?