BY KATHY MCDONALD
After receiving an email from a grade six student regarding bullying on April 11th, I decided to rewrite my column. This is a topic that is near and dear to me because I myself have been a victim of bullying, my seventeen year old son has been a victim of bullying and my best friend has been a victim of bullying. One thing I have learned about bullies is that if they go unchecked as kids they just become bigger and better bullies as adults. With the advent of social media bulling is getting easier, meaner and invariably the bully gets away scot-free. That is why at the Peel District School Board we have invested a lot of money, professional development and social capital into eradicating bullying. At the PDSB we strive to create safe and caring schools and teach character traits that help to foster such an environment. Are we a bully free entity? No…..But we are working diligently to tackle this “cancer” head on.
First, I would like to define bullying as established by the PDSB anti-bullying policy, as described to students in a kindergarten to grade five school. Bullying is being mean to others on purpose to hurt them or their feelings. Bullying behavior involves unequal power and control. Bullying is repeated behavior. Bullying can cause physical injury but may also include emotional and psychological harm. In the student agendas examples of bullying are also given they include threats, rumors, telling lies, cyberbullying, deliberate exclusion, racial slurs, name calling, damaging someone’s property or hurting someone’s body. “Bullying is defined by the Ministry of Education as “a form of repeated, persistent, aggressive behavior that is directed at an individual or individuals that is intended to cause (or should be known to cause) fear, distress and/or harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem or reputation. Bullying occurs in a context where there is real or perceived power imbalance.”
When I decided to run for Trustee for wards 3 and 4 for the PDSB the bullies were out in full force. I got emails telling me to drop out of the race. I had a Sir Lankan lady tell me she would spread rumors in the South Asian community about me. She called me lazy (an adjective that has never been ascribed to me before), she would make condescending and hurtful comments about me. I had people make fun of my family members. How did I deal with these bullies? By diligently pounding the pavement day after day with my daughter in the stroller talking to the residents of wards 3 and 4. I gathered hard working individuals to help spread the word about all the work I have done in the community and my goals as a Trustee. I made only one promise; to work hard to represent my constituents. I got representatives from the South Asian community to give testament to my track record of helping anyone in need as the school council chair for two schools within the Board. Whenever I was feeling down because of their personal attack on me and my family I would imagine them running naked in the streets. That would get me laughing!
The best revenge was being sworn in as a Trustee on December 1st 2014, it’s receiving and graciously accepting glowing emails and being honored with various accolades from the South Asian community as well as several other community groups. It is in serving diligently the residents of wards 3 and 4. Now that I think about it, they have all disappeared from my life, these bullies are but a distant memory. Their power is lost; I guess bullying me is no more fun because I live by the mantra of Eleanor Roosevelt” No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
My son was a short and hefty brainiac. But he was mine and I loved him. However each grade up until grade four there was always one little jerk that took pleasure in taunting, harassing and belittling him. Benjamin was about a foot and a half shorter than everyone; but he made up for his height in his ability to excel in all he did. He was always the kindest, brightest, quickest and most helpful. He was not a perfectionist but always tried to do his best and always had the biggest smile. Each school year I would go through the three week ritual of daily visits to the principal’s office until they were able to get the bully to desist. He would be beaten up for being smart. He would be beaten up for being short. He would be beaten up for winning too many trophies or competitions. He was almost hospitalized and permanently maimed by an angry white student whose mother was undergoing dialysis. When I threatened legal action that situation was quickly rectified. But the proverbial straw… yes the proverbial straw. Benjamin got fed up, had enough in grade four. Let us just say that after the schools biggest and “baddest” bully was finally confronted by his littlest victim no one has ever bullied him again. You see sometimes you just have to stand up to the bully and confront them head on and refuse to be victimized anymore. By the way, today Benjamin is a gorgeous, tall, track athlete and he is still a brainiac with a 97% average in an IB program. (I am his mom I can brag).
My best friend was constantly harassed by some female members of staff in leadership positions. He is racialised and over qualified for the position and is often subjected to subtle yet severe mental stresses. Often referred to as” you people” or because of his natural pleasant disposition being called “part of a country club”. Unreasonable and inhumane demands were being made. As a nonunionized worker he had to take legal action to get this stress inducing behavior to cease.
In the end whether you have to just simply excel, defend yourself or take legal action a bully should never be ignored because they just become bigger and better bullies. Their tyrannical reign will know no bounds if they are not forced to stop and exam their actions. Invariably bullies move on to easier or more vulnerable targets. So it is crucial that they are dealt with within the confines of the law. As we say in Jamaica. “If you fight with a pig you will get dirty and the pig will love it”. So don’t’ dirty yourself. Be assertive, and even if you’re shaking inside walk with your head held high and never let them see you sweat. So Walk Good-Belle Marché.