As you grow up, you inevitably encounter bullying in its various forms.
In preschool, it could have been the boy who took your favorite crayons. In elementary school, bullies seem to discover new forms of torture such as wedgies and stealing lunch money.
Whatever the case, we all subconsciously learned to take precautions to avoid being the victim. In middle school, we tried to deal with our uncertainties and awkwardness by blending in. Some girls at this age form exclusive groups that eventually turn into the cliques you might see on a high-school campus.
As we enter high school, we begin to feel invincible – like we honestly believe nothing bad could ever happen to us. We are allowed to explore more and possibilities open up, but unfortunately so do things such as drugs, sex and everything else that can lure you into making bad choices.
Sometimes these factors breed a playground for bullies to exercise their full potential of doing damage.
Reflecting on the stories I’ve heard of freshmen at other schools being dunked in trashcans and other horrors, I feel like I got lucky. Extreme forms of bullying were never a serious issue if you lived in the Windemere area like I do.
Five years ago, there was only one middle school, and my class was the first to complete all three years at . We eventually moved onto a newly built high school together. It wasn’t unusual to have new students from other local schools and cities registering every other week to be a part of our campus.
I think this affected the attitudes of many of the teenagers in this area because we didn’t think the differences were bad and we became interested in getting to know them. When everyone was relatively new to the community it was illogical to pick out someone who we thought didn’t belong.
For this reason, I admire the dynamics of Dougherty Valley because if you walk down the hallway, it's clear that it would be silly to label people under rigid categories like other schools do.
Dougherty is ridiculously high achieving as a whole, so the "nerd" label either has to be thrown out or apply to everyone. Almost every student has participated in at least one sport on campus, about a third of the school is in band and the rest take art, drama, speech and debate, run clubs or do all of these at once.
This pretty much ruled out the rest of the labels such as “band geeks” or “jocks.” But it doesn’t mean we don’t have our own set of problems unique to our school.
A club on campus called the GSA, which stands for the Gay-Straight Alliance, is run by students Cierra Green and Ethan Choy. It has been widely recognized and many students of different orientations participate.
It provides an outlet for students to release their frustration about things that happened on campus or to become more comfortable and have a sense of belonging. This Friday, the club is promoting an event called "The Day of Silence," a grassroots project sponsored by GLSEN the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
The day, held annually, protests the harassment of students with different sexual orientations and their supporters. Dougherty is somewhat of a haven for these students because most of the time their treatment doesn’t change just because of their preferences.
More than 80 students have chosen to be silent; they will wear red and their mouths will be covered with duct tape. This represents the suppression of their voice and their fight for equality.
Others will wear ribbons to support the cause but still be able to talk. At the end of the day, those who were forced to remain silent will peel off the tape and scream out any frustrations they’ve had dealing with bullying and not being able to defend themselves.
The concept is to teach students to take advantage of the gift of speech, and to help others understand what people go through every day.
Students of GSA want to broaden the idea to all kinds of harassment and Leadership has signed up to support the event.
I will be a duct-taped participant.
According to the club adviser, this experience changes people. Hopefully, some at Dougherty will change for the better, too.