Women of the ELCA

Commentary and reflections on issues, events and trends in our church, society and world, as seen through the lens of our mission and purpose and our ministries.

Bullying comes in many forms

Posted on November 30, 2010 by Deborah Bogaert

We’re hearing a lot about bullying, particularly teens bullying one another at school and what adults ought to be doing to stop it. But what happens when the bully is the adult?

A friend of mine recently moved her family to another state for a new job. Her oldest son, a freshman, had been in advanced social studies back home and so was placed in the senior-level class at his new school. So in his first few weeks at his new school, he found himself traveling to Washington, D.C. Fantastic! Until the trip actually got underway.

To keep the trip affordable, up to five guys would be sharing a room. No problem there, except for some things the teacher in charge started to say to them.

“Now I know you’ll all be in close quarters, but don’t get any funny ideas—I don’t want to get back from this trip with a bunch of fags.” Dylan was shocked. He’d never expected to hear something like that from a teacher. But nobody else said anything, and so neither did he.

But that wasn’t the only comment made over the course of the trip. There were many more, similar comments over the time they were in D.C.

On the last day of the trip, this same teacher was trying to hustle everyone out of the hotel on time when he stopped by Dylan’s room. Three guys were finishing up packing, and he and another guy were finishing up in the bathroom. So this teacher says, “What are they doing in there, dry humping each other?”

Well, Dylan finally had had enough. He came out of the bathroom and told him, “You’ve been saying stuff like this all week long, and I’m tired of it. Maybe you all do things a little differently here, but where I come from, this is bullying. Maybe somebody is gay, and so what—they don’t need to hear that kind of crap.”

Bullying indeed.

After a somewhat tense ride back, Dylan got home and finally later that day told his mom why he was in such a bad mood. He asked her what she thought he should do. She left it up to him.

A couple days later, he went to the principal and told him everything. His roommates were called in, and slowly, his story was backed up and others came forward. The social studies teacher will end up disciplined and may even lose his job.

It makes you wonder how many times prior to this trip this teacher got away with that. And how many kids felt like they just had to put up with it, and whether there were some who were very badly affected by it because maybe they were questioning their sexuality.

Have you heard about the It Gets Better Project?  It started in September 2010 with a single YouTube video recorded by author Dan Savage to try to inspire hope among young people facing harassment. Since then, more than 6,000 other people, both gay and straight and many of them well-known public figures, have recorded similar videos—including our presiding bishop, Mark S. Hanson.

Meanwhile, I’m proud of the new kid in town, the freshman, standing up to an authority figure. Way to go, buddy.

5 Responses to 'Bullying comes in many forms'

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  1. Marie said,

    on November 30th, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Way to go! What an amazing boy! It takes a lot of courage for someone so young to stand up to an adult like that.

    P.S. Ironically, if anyone is “questioning their sexuality,” it’s probably the bullying teacher. Seems to be on his mind an awful lot, doesn’t it?

  2. Deb said,

    on November 30th, 2010 at 11:41 am

    I am so impressed that a teenaged boy would have the courage and conviction to speak out like that. My hat’s off to him.

  3. Joe said,

    on November 30th, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Kinda puts us adults to shame doesn’t it? How many times have we heard garbage like this and kept silent or chuckled or even, sadly, participated in it?
    This is a fine young man & I pray that he continues to stand up for the right. Maybe he’ll be a leader who leads by example & not just with words.

  4. Jeremy said,

    on November 30th, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    My mother, who is very strongly affiliated with her church, passed this along to me, because this has been such a major part of my life in the last few months and, really, for the last nearly-38 years of my life.

    I was a victim (or, rather, a survivor, because I refuse to let myself be a victim) of bullying all through school, because I was perceived as different. I pushed myself very hard to stay positive and keep to myself in school, graduating and getting out of my hell-hole of a small Western town, where my parents still live. I grew and became a stronger person because of and in defiance of the bullying. I shouldn’t have had to go through that.

    I can’t tell you how it makes my heart and soul sing to see these messages on a website affiliated with a major mainstream religion. So many “religious” groups are concerned with making the world into their view of it; it’s nice to see that some people are actually walking the talk of the true teachings of their spirituality.

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s my belief (I hesitate to say “hope” because that implies a possibility of failure, in my mind) that there are more and more young people who feel like Dylan did and refuse to let the small-mindedness of anyone make not only their lives but the lives of many other people difficult. Good for him for being a man when someone else was showing him exactly how not to be one.

  5. Rodeli said,

    on November 30th, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Dylan is to be commended for standing up for what is right, he was not afraid of the cost to him. There are adults, including “Christian” ones, who will not only stand up for what is right, they participate in bullying–I know from my own experience. Like Jeremy, I chose to stand up and be a survivor and not another victim. Esp. since my child was involved. It cost me part of my family because they valued their relationship with the bullies and not their blood. Sometimes the bullies are in our families and in our churches.

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