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Giant step towards ending bullying

By Staff | Oct 6, 2013

Wednesday should be an interesting morning in Blue Earth.

After all, it isn’t every day that the name of the city, Blue Earth, is changed to Orange Earth. Or that the famous Green Giant statute is turned into the Jolly Orange Giant.

It is all part of a national publicity stunt that will help promote October as Anti-Bullying Month and Oct. 9 as Unity Day, to unite against bullying. It will also promote having kids and adults send in their stories about being bullied and what they did about it.

The problem of kids being bullied seems to have increased lately, to the point of becoming an epidemic in schools across the country. Thousands of kids stay home each day because they don’t want to face being bullied some more.

Some, unfortunately, take more drastic measures to end the torment.

With the advent of electronic social networking, kids can be bullied even without going to school and having to face their tormentors. It is a whole new level of cyber-bullying which some of us older adults can hardly fathom.

But to be honest, bullies have been around a long time.

And sad, but true, kids who are a little different and don’t fit in are often targets for those bullies.

I know. I was once bullied. So here is my story.

It happened in ninth grade. I had attended school in Southern California from kindergarten through eighth grade. But for ninth grade, my family moved to Denver, Colo., and I attended a junior high there that had grades 7 to 9.

That meant I was the new kid in school and everyone else already had their circle of friends.

Plus, I had several other strikes against me.

I was a small kid barely five foot tall and about 98 pounds. I had blond hair and looked like a surfer. I was from California, after all. And I was smart an A student. That is not always a good thing.

One very large, rather ugly and not very smart boy in particular decided it was his job to bully me every time he saw me. Every day. All day.

Finally one time it came to a head.

I was walking down the hallway, wearing a new California-style Madras shirt. Do you remember those?

This one had a short cloth loop in the middle of the back. I assume it was meant to hang the shirt on a hook in the closet, as if boys actually ever thought about hanging up a shirt.

My bully came up behind me, put his finger in the loop and pulled hard.

I think his idea was to jerk me off my feet, or at least to rip off the loop.

But instead, he ripped most of the shirt off my back.

He thought it was hilarious. I didn’t.

I reacted by shoving him backwards into a row of lockers and slugging him right in the face with my fist.

Well, at least in my memory that is what happened. In reality I am pretty sure I did take a swing at him, but it was probably a glancing blow to the chest, at best. I doubt I could have actually reached his face.

A teacher, who saw only my ‘vicious’ attack, sent me to the principal’s office.

Luckily, the principal believed my story, especially since I was wearing a shredded shirt, and sent me off with just a warning to go pick on kids my own size. He probably meant seventh graders.

I would like to be able to say that my standing up to the bully meant that he quit picking on me. That my life got better at the school and other kids looked up to me as a hero.

But, that didn’t happen.

The bullying eventually did stop but only because the next year, for 10th grade, my family moved to Aurora, Colo., and I went to a new high school and made some good friends.

I probably also gained a few pounds, grew a few inches, cut my hair and lost the California surfer attitude. That all probably helped too.

As a former bullied kid, I am glad this issue is finally getting some big-time public awareness.

Schools take it seriously these days, and hold sessions about students respecting each other, such as the seminar Blue Earth Area did last week in the Frost gym.

And, if turning the big green guy orange for a week, and changing the name of my town to Orange Earth helps in any way to change attitudes and save kids from being bullied, then I say, ‘Let’s go for it.”

Go Big, Go Orange. Be a Giant.