What were you doing in 2005? I can easily recall what I was trying to accomplish. I was a grade 9 student at Bathurst High School at the time, trying to get the courage to do something that no one ever thought I would do – come forward as a sixteen-year-old teenager who endured years of bullying. Come forward to try to accomplish one task, prevent bullying by the year 2008; the year I graduated from High School. In ten years, bullying has changed dramatically. The forms of bullying have changed, the way bullying is reported has changed, the way schools handle bullying has changed too… The year that, at the time, I was hoping would be enough to prevent one more kid from being silenced about the pain, the thoughts, the abuse they were enduring. The same thoughts, abuse, and the pain I was enduring.
I was kicked, burnt, spit on, called names because of the way I walked – a name that that unfortunately I will remember for the rest of my life.
Prior to going public, I wrote an anonymous letter to the editor of my local newspaper The Northern Light. That letter turned into a column written by the editor of the paper at the time. His column was entitled “Even in so-called enlightened times, bullying is still a problem”. That headline spoke volumes to me, and it still does today, but for a different reason.
I can clearly remember the nightmares, the night sweats, the headaches, not being able to do my homework because I had to pay more attention to: was I going to get thrown down the stairs? Tripped? Shoved? Kicked? How could I concentrate on learning while trying to prevent another sleepless night? I remember two students who I went to school with, two girls who were sisters who publicly never got identified, and how they burned the back of my neck on the way to school, and how unfortunately, no punishment could be handed out because a) no one would say a word on what they witnessed in fear that they would be the next target and b) the location the bullying happened – on a school bus. The bus driver didn’t see the incident happen and the bus did not have a camera.
In ten years, bullying has changed dramatically. The forms of bullying have changed, the way bullying is reported has changed, the way schools handle bullying has changed too and most importantly youth hopefully know they now have a voice, and can speak out and get bullying support when they need it most. To any child or teen who is afraid of coming forward to tell someone, I have a very important message to you, your parents and family: tell someone. Over a ten-year span, I’ve been able to help grow a national anti-bullying charity, share my story about how a student with cerebral palsy was bullied, and most importantly, I can now help other youth and their families get the support they need.
Policies have come and gone over the years, some have helped prevent another child enduring what I did while others are newer and provide something that was not there when I was in school – more support for teachers, more information on the new forms of bullying.
I’ve been recognized for my tireless work, ranging from my first award being the Chaleur Youth Outstanding Awards, a part of an award ceremony that the Bathurst Youth Centre offers, to Community Leader Awards, to most recently the Order of New Brunswick in 2011 at the age of 21. The youngest New Brunswicker to receive this honor since its creation.
Over the next years, I hope to see more programs, support networks, laws, and policies to help handle this problem. To the educators who did all they could with the resources they had at the time, thank you. To the media, especially The Northern Light and MAX 104.9 FM (formally CKBC), thank you for helping tell my story. To the national media, thank you for helping get my message out, coast to coast to coast.
To any child or teen who is afraid of coming forward to tell someone, I have a very important message to you, your parents and family: tell someone. Tell a teacher, a guidance counsellor, a school official. Tell someone. You do not need to live in silence. Any child or teenager or their family can reach out to BullyingCanada 24/7 for support, information and resources by telephone at: 877-352-4497, or by email: email@example.com