After 35 years, I finally grew a pair. That’s right, I finally stood up to a childhood bully. The end result of my adventure, however, is still quite a shock.
Let me explain.
I was bullied as a teenager as I grew up in a small town in New Jersey. In those days, it was quite common for the tough kids to bully the not-so-tough kids: the so-called faggots. I was labeled a faggot because I was never good at sports or gym class. I didn’t know how to throw a football. I couldn’t hit a baseball and allegedly ran “like a girl.” In elementary and middle school, I bravely bared the brunt of it all—the taunts, the name calling, the kicking and the tripping. All were routinely part of my school day.
The bullying came to a head in my freshman year of High School when I was playing football in gym class. There, out on the field, in front of everyone, my gym shorts and underwear were pulled down to the ground.
There I was: naked, exposed, embarrassed, and scared in front of what seemed like the entire world.
I was barely fourteen years old at the time, but I can still see the expression of the girl facing me, ready for the play. While I rushed to pull up my pants, the laughter, the name calling, and the humiliation began.
Immediately after the incident, I ran and told the coach what happened. I was shocked that he brushed it off as nothing. No discipline was administered to the offending student and no counseling was offered to me. In fact, the incident was never reported to the principal; it was largely ignored. The day after, the PE coach gathered the class together, frankly announced what happened and asked that it not happen again. Thankfully, shortly afterwards, I moved to Florida and escaped the humiliation forever.
Or so I thought.
Recently, while browsing through Facebook, I saw the person who bullied me on my “People You May Know” list. After all these years, I thought it was finally time to grow some balls, stand up and give him a piece of my mind. I sent him the following private message:
I wanna tell ya that you’re a f*uckin asshole for pulling my pants down to the ground in front of everyone at KHS. I hope you’ve led a miserable, pathetic life as I can still feel the humiliation after all these years. If it had happened today, you’d suffer serious consequences. Instead, all you received was a slap on the wrist—a gym class discussion with all of us the next day—even more humiliating for me. I hope that moment you bullied me made you happy.
Yes, it was childish. Yes, it happened 35 years ago. Yes, I’m now a grown man. But, I don’t care. It was empowering! I finally grew a pair. I waited all day for him—all day—to reply to my message, but I received nothing. The Facebook message was marked as read.
Because school bullying has been a popular national news topic of late, this incident became fresh for me again, and I wrote an email to the school guidance counselor. I explained the incident and inquired if she could explain the school’s lack of disciplinary action at the time. I also asked what the policy is today if such an incident occurred. I didn’t want pity or even an apology; I was simply looking for acknowledgement. I was also looking for some comfort in knowing that today’s bullying victims can rely on the school to be their advocate.
To my amazement, two months went by with no response. Finally, I sent a second email. This time, I copied every assistant principal and guidance counselor that I could find from the school’s website. I stated that I was not happy that my original email was ignored—much like my bullying incident was ignored. I informed them that I write for a successful internet blog and would not be shy to disclose, once again, them brushing my concern aside—just like they had years ago.
Within minutes, I received a reply to my second email. One of the vice principals assured me that he had replied to my original email asking me to contact their “SAC and Bullying Specialist” to obtain the information I sought. I knew it was a flat-out lie. I had never received an email, and besides, this was added to his reply:
When and if I see Kinnelon High School castigated in print, I will be in contact with you. I am surprised at your threat, as it resembles bullying.
I was aghast. Once again, I was being bullied. And for the third time, they brushed my concern aside. This time, however, instead of being bullied by a punk kid, I was being bullied and threatened by a public school. Public schools should stand as an icon of the neighborhood – trustworthy and interested in the welfare of their students and the community. It’s disturbing that this school is seemingly interested in securing their false reputation and not interested in listening to the facts of a bullying victim.
For the record, in my email to the school, I informed them that I intended to write the facts only: my initial humiliation, the lack of discipline from the school, the school ignoring my recent email, and my intention to call them out on it. Presenting facts is defined as journalism, not bullying.
The sympathy I have for today’s bullied students at Kinnelon High School is immeasurable. I worry that bullying victims may not be able to rely on this school to be their advocate.
I finally stood up to a childhood bully, and now I’m standing up against a bigger bully. I’m standing up to a school that doesn’t seem to give a damn.
Yep, after 35 years, I finally grew a pair.