“All of my accomplishments and enjoyable moments are overshadowed by the pain and harassment that was thrust upon me. Just looking at my surface, you would see a confident young woman, as sturdy as a rock. You would never think that I was broken, broken into a million pieces like shattered glass, all because of the work of a group of senior boys.”
You want to reach out to these kids and envelop them in a big warm hug and tell them that they are smart, sensitive human beings, a thousand times better than their tormenters.
Teen Ink magazine, which helped me conduct the essay contest and chose the finalists, observes that bullying is compounded by social media because nice kids will casually press the button on a vicious comment that they might never express face to face.
“Today’s problem isn’t so much the bullying itself — bullying has been around for centuries,” says Paulina Puskala, 17, of Marquette, Mich. “The problem is that it is difficult to escape it.”
“Technology-enabled bullies contain the ability to harass 24/7,” she added.
Many of the essay writers argue that adults are either oblivious to bullying or turn a blind eye to it. In any case, they say, students themselves have to take the lead in making bullying uncool.
One such initiative was outlined by Emily-Anne Rigal, 18, of , Va. After being tormented about her weight, to the point that she had to switch schools, she founded We Stop Hate, an organization that she describes as “more than just an antibullying program. It’s a call to action to stop hate: stop hating on yourself, stop hating on others.”
The program has helped thousands of young people, she says. Lady Gaga has declared herself inspired by Emily-Anne.
All these essay writers are my winners, and their full essays are posted on my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground. And now excerpts from the grand prize-winning essay, which also contained a ray of hope. It’s by Lena Rawley, 17, of Montclair, N.J.
“Teenage girls are cruel super-humans from a distant galaxy sent here to destroy us all,” she began. “They have the self-entitlement of a celebrity heiress and the aggression of a Roman gladiator. Like vampires, they feed off the blood of the weak. They’re pubescent monsters.”
“Not only was I a former teenage mean girl, but I was tortured, tormented, isolated and socially maimed by them as well. When they acquire a target, teenage girls, with the determination of a private assassin, will stop at nothing to take down their target.”
“I was the wounded gazelle. ... Vicious rumors began spreading around and dirty looks and foul words were thrown my way in the hall. I was forced off the lunch table and into social .”
“I received an e-mail from the ringleader of the group. I opened it up to reveal a headline that bluntly stated, ‘Fifty Reasons Why We Can’t Be Friends With You.’ Underneath the headline, as promised were neatly 50 reasons, ranging from my body to my personality to my clothes, that clearly stated the reason for my alienation.
“I felt sick. But I wasn’t going to let them get me. Those hyenas didn’t deserve my tears. I deleted the note, picked up the pieces and moved on. I found friends who were kind and accepting. Friends who wouldn’t devour their own.
“My experience, while evidently not ideal, is something that I would not change. I don’t see it as a stain upon the fabric of my life, but more like an embellishment. A decorative brooch I wear with pride, a brooch that cries: I overcame bullying, so can you.”Continue reading the main story
On Thursday the column by Nicholas D. Kristof misstated the location of Paulina Puskala’s home. It is in Marquette, Mich., not Marquette, Miss.
Nonfiction | Fiction
Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard : Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying by Sameer Hinduja (2009)
Focusing on how technology can facilitate or magnify bullying behavior, this resource provides proactive strategies, current research, and legal rulings to protect students from cyberbullying.
The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander : From Preschool to High School : How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence by Barbara Coloroso (2008)
A guide for parents and educators offers advice on recognizing bullying behavior while making suggestions on how to appropriately discipline bullies, protect children, and formulate constructive school and community practices.
Bullying: Deal With It Before Push Comes to Shove By Elaine Slavens (2003)
Offers advice on how to deal with bullying, for targets, bullies, and witnesses.
Bullying : Replies, Rebuttals, Confessions, and Catharsis : an Intergenerational and Multicultural Anthology edited by Magdalena Gómez and María Luisa Arroyo (2012)
Springfield community leaders and activists Gómez and Arroyo worked with children, teenagers, and parents—both the victims and the bullies—to put together this searing anthology of original essays, poetry, plays, and commentary on how bullying has affected their lives.
Cyberbullying by Lauri S. Freidman (2011)
Explores the issues surrounding cyberbullying–bullying through the Internet–by placing opinions from a wide range of sources in a pro/con format.
Cyber Bullying : Protecting Kids and Adults from Online Bullies by Samuel C McQuade (2009)
Before the advent of the widespread use of the internet, bullying was confined to school grounds, classrooms, and backyards. Now, the virulence of bullying has taken on new meaning, as bullies take to the web to intimidate, harrass, embarrass, and offend others. Through email, cell phones, text messaging, and social networking sites, bullies can carry out their bullying in many cases without ever having to confront their victims, and often without consequence.
Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories edited by Carrie Jones and Megan Kelley Hall (2011)
A timely and moving collection of personal stories about bullying from authors as varied as Lauren Kate, Jon Scieszka, Alyson Nöel, Lauren Oliver, Mo Willems and many others.
Girls against Girls : Why We are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change by Bonnie Burton (2009)
This guide for teenage girls explains why girls can sometimes be mean to each other, what to do if you are a victim of bullying, and the importance of treating other girls with respect.
Hey, Back Off!: Tips for Stopping Teen Harassment by Jennie Withers with Phyllis Hendrickson (2011)
Offers tips, strategies, and explanations about what harrassment is; discusses how the behavior originates from personality types; and examines how to deal with the harassers.
I Wrote on All Four Walls: Teens Speak Out on Violence Edited by Fran Fearnley (2004)
Nine teens share their experiences with violence and bullying.
Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope By Olivia Gardner with Emily and Sarah Buder (2008)
Draws on the correspondence between an epileptic victim of bullying and a pair of sisters who started a letter campaign on her behalf, in a volume that presents more than one hundred letters of encouragement received by the author.
Life at School and in the Community (Teens: Being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender Series) by Richard Worth (2010)
Strategies for coming out to ones friends, interacting with school personnel, and dealing with bullies. Advice is also given on how to organize groups such as gay-straight alliances.
Masculinity, Bullying, and Aggression: a Guy’s Guide by Sam Navarre (2012)
Explores the best and worst ways to handle aggression, the facts on bullying and cyberbullying, and how best to handle anger in everyday situations.
School Violence (Contemporary Issues Companion) Edited by Kate Burns (2005)
Varied perspectives on violence and bullying.
Teen Cyberbullying Investigated: Where Do Your Rights End and Consequences Begin? by Tom Jacobs (2010)
Presents a collection of landmark court cases involving teens and charges of cyberbullying–including sending threatening emails, spreading hateful comments on blogs and sending threatening messages using a false identity–urging readers to think about how the computer can change their lives and hurt others.
Understanding Girl Bullying and What to Do about It : Strategies to Help Heal the Divide by Julaine E. Field, et al. (2009)
This book covers the causes and characteristics of girl bullying; outlines assessment, prevention, and intervention methods; and provides an original 10-session curriculum for small groups. (Annotation from Amazon.com)
Vicious: True Stories by Teens about Bullying edited by Hope Vanderberg (2012)
Essays by teens address bullying: physical, verbal, relational, and cyber. These stories will appeal to readers because the cruelty and hurt are unmistakably real—and the reactions of the writers are sometimes cringe-worthy, often admirable, and always believable.
We Want You to Know: Kids Talk About Bullying by Deborah Ellis (2010)
Presents interviews with students who have been bullied, as they describe their experiences with peers, parents, teachers, and school administrators, along with advice on the best methods that can be used to stop bullying behavior.
Why Good Kids Act Cruel : The Hidden Truth about the Pre-teen Years by Carl E Pickhardt (2010)
Why Good Kids Act Cruel is the first book to give parents the tools they need to understand why cruelty happens at this age and how to help their child through this difficult stage. This highly informative and useful book explains the psychology of early adolescent change, the short and long term effects of social cruelty, what parents can do, what the school can do, and much more.
Adam Canfield, Watch Your Back! by Michael Winerip (2007)
A much-welcomed snow day turns into an embarrassing nightmare for middle-grader Adam Canfield when, after being mugged by high school bullies for his snow-shoveling money, he becomes the focus of major media attention just as his co-editors at The Slash are launching a contest to out bullies at their school.
The Beckoners By Carrie Mac (2004)
When Zoe moves to a new town, she finds the line between victim and tormentor is easily crossed.
Boy Girl Boy by Ron Koertge (2007)
Larry, Teresa, and Elliot, three bullied high school seniors who plan to run away together from Illinois to California after graduation, try to figure out who they are and who they want to be.
Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja (2003)
Justin spends time with Jinsen, the unusual and artistic new student whom the school bullies torment and call Buddha Boy, and ends up making choices that impact Jinsen, himself, and the entire school.
The Bully (Bluford Series) By Paul Langan (2002)
Darrell Mercer, a 9th grader at Bluford, is at the center of this story. Darrell and his mother move to the Bluford area in the middle of the school year. Physically smaller than his peers, Darrell quickly becomes a target for Tyray Hobbs, the freshman class bully.
Bullyville By Francine Prose (2007)
After the death of his estranged father in the World Trade Center on 9/11, thirteen-year-old Bart, still struggling with his feelings of guilt, sorrow and loss, wins a scholarship to the local preparatory school and there encounters a vicious bully whose cruelty compounds the aftermath of the tragedy.
Burn by Suzanne Phillips (2009, c2008)
Bullied constantly during his freshman year in high school, Cameron’s anger and isolation grows, leading to deadly consequences.
By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters (2010)
High school student Daelyn Rice, who has been bullied throughout her school career and has more than once attempted suicide, again makes plans to kill herself, in spite of the persistent attempts of an unusual boy to draw her out.
Bystander by James Preller (2009)
Thirteen-year-old Eric discovers there are consequences to not standing by and watching as the bully at his new school hurts people, but although school officials are aware of the problem, Eric may be the one with a solution.
Charlie’s Story By Maeve Friel (2004)
After being abandoned by her mother at the age of four, living for ten years with her somewhat distracted father in Ireland, and being mercilessly bullied by her cruel classmates, Charlie Collins almost gives up on life.
Cracked by K.M. Walton (2012)
A teen takes a bottle of pills and lands in the psych ward with the bully who drove him to attempt suicide in this gripping novel.
Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (2009)
In this contemporary retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," a teenaged boy whose hands were amputated in an explosion and a gorgeous girl whose mother has recently died form an instant connection when they meet on their first day as new students.
Crossing Lines by Paul Volponi (2011)
High school senior Adonis struggles to do the right thing when his fellow football players escalate their bullying of a new classmate, Alan, who is transgendered.
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk (2010)
When Will Halpin transfers from his all-deaf school into a mainstream Pennsylvania high school, he faces discrimination and bullying, but still manages to solve a mystery surrounding the death of a popular football player in his class.
Defying the Diva by D. Anne Love (2008)
During Haley’s freshman year of high school, a campaign of gossip and bullying causes her to be socially ostracized, but after spending the summer living with her aunt, working at a resort, making new friends, and dating a hunky lifeguard, she learns how to stand up for herself and begins to trust again.
The Devil’s Toenail By Sally Prue (2002)
When he finds a strange weathered stone on the beach, thirteen-year-old Steve decides to pretend that it has mysterious powers that can protect him from bullying and can help him impress the gang he wants to join.
Dog Sense by Sneed B Collard (2008)
After he and his mother move from California to Montana to live with his grandfather, thirteen-year-old Guy gradually adjusts to the unfamiliar surroundings, makes a friend, and learns to deal with a bully, with the help of his Frisbee-catching dog.
Don’t Call Me Ishmael By Michael Gerard Bauer (2007)
Fourteen-year-old Ishmael Leseur is certain that his name is the cause of his unhappy school life as the victim of the worst bully in his class, but when a new boy arrives, he shows Ishmael that things could be different.
Dough Boy By Peter Marino (2005)
Overweight, fifteen-year-old Tristan, who lives happily with his divorced mother and her boyfriend Frank, suddenly finds that he must deal with intensified criticism about his weight and other aspects of his life when Frank’s popular but troubled, nutrition-obsessed daughter moves in.
Endgame By Nancy Garden (2006)
Fifteen-year-old Gray Wilton, bullied at school and ridiculed by an unfeeling father for preferring drums to hunting, goes on a shooting rampage at his high school.
Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King (2012)
Experiencing vivid dreams about meeting his long-lost POW/MIA grandfather, Lucky Linderman struggles to fit into a home life marked by a distant father, a weary mother and a cruel bully who compromises Lucky’s grasp on reality.
Exposure By Patricia Murdoch (2006)
Frustrated with being constantly bullied, Julie decides to get her revenge by taking compromising photos of her tormentor, but when the initial success of her plan takes an unexpected wrong turn, Julie must decide whether to be the bigger person and do what she knows is right with the evidence she has gathered.
Freak By Marcella Fleischman Pixley (2007)
Twelve-year-old Miriam, poetic, smart, and quirky, is considered a freak by the popular girls at her middle school, and she eventually explodes in response to their bullying, revealing an inner strength she did not know she had.
Freak Show by James St. James (2007)
Billy, a budding drag queen, survives bullying that would reduce most people to quivering jelly — and falls in love with a football player.
The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss (2002)
When girls want to be in a very exclusive middle school clique, they are at the mercy of popular, but dangerous Candace, who constantly tests their loyalty with games and tricks.
The Guardian By Joyce Sweeney (2009)
When thirteen-year-old Hunter, struggling to deal with a harsh, money-grubbing foster mother, three challenging foster sisters, and a school bully, returns to his childhood faith and prays to St. Gabriel, he instantly becomes aware that he does, indeed, have a guardian.
Indigo’s Star By Hilary McKay (2003)
Spurred on by his youngest sister Rose, twelve-year-old Indigo sticks up for himself and an American boy who has replaced him as the primary target of the school bullies.
Jumped By Rita Williams-Garcia (2009)
The lives of Leticia, Dominique, and Trina are irrevocably intertwined through the course of one day in an urban high school after Leticia overhears Dominique’s plans to beat up Trina and must decide whether or not to get involved.
Kiss Me Kill Me by Lauren Henderson (2008)
Longing to be part of the in-crowd at her exclusive London school, orphaned, sixteen-year-old Scarlett, a trained gymnast, eagerly accepts an invitation to a party whose disastrous outcome changes her life forever.
Leverage by Joshua Cohen (2011)
High school sophomore Danny excels at gymnastics but is bullied, like the rest of the gymnasts, by members of the football team, until an emotionally and physically scarred new student joins the football team and forms an unlikely friendship with Danny.
The Misfits by James Howe (2001)
Four students who do not fit in at their small-town middle school decide to create a third party for the student council elections to represent all students who have ever been called names.
Mousetraps by Pat Schmatz (2008)
When Maxie’s best friend from elementary school returns years later after a horrible act of violence against him, Maxie feels guilty about how she treated him and conflicted over whether or not she wants to befriend him again.
Names Will Never Hurt Me by Jaime Adoff (2005)
Several high school students relate their feelings about school, themselves, and events as they unfold on the fateful one-year anniversary of the killing of a fellow student.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind (Gifted Series, Vol. 1) by Marilyn Kaye (2009)
"Amanda Beeson is Queen Bee at Meadowbrook Middle School. If you’re not friends with Amanda, you’re nobody. But one morning gorgeous, popular Amanda looks in the mirror and sees a very diifferent face staring back at her. The Queen Bee is about to get a taste of life in someone else’s shoes." (From the cover)
Payback by James Heneghan (2007)
Newly arrived from Ireland, Charley Callaghan is relieved when the school bullies stop picking on him and find a new target in Benny Mason, but when Benny doesn’t defend himself and ends up committing suicide, Charley is overcome with guilt.
Poison Ivy by Amy Goldman Koss (2006)
In a government class three popular girls undergo a mock trial for their ruthless bullying of a classmate.
Racing the Past By Sis Boulos Deans (2001)
After his cruel father’s death, Ricky Gordon, still haunted by the brutal beatings and harsh arguments, realizes that he can no longer fight with the kids that torment him on the bus, and decides to run to school, which leads him on a new path of hope, in a dramatic story of determination and survival.
Revelación by Paticia Murdoch (2008)
For most of her life, Julie felt powerless whenever Dana entered her space, whether it was inside or outside school. Dana thrived on making Julie feel less than human by subjecting her to vicious verbal comments that went beyond the normal high school taunts. Then it all changed when Julie sneaked into her brother’s backpack and downloads photos of a sleazy party where Dana exposed more than personality. Now Julie has to decide how far she’ll go to get even with all the nastiness that Dana has dished out to her. Translation of Exposure by Patricia Murdoch, above.
Scrawl by Mark Shulman (2010)
When eighth-grade bully Tod and his friends get caught committing a crime on school property, his penalty, staying after school and writing in a journal, reveals aspects of himself that he prefers to keep hidden.
Shooter By Walter Dean Myers (2004)
When his friend goes on a shooting rampage at school, misfit Cameron has to rethink his views on his life and his place in the world, in a powerful tale told through interviews, diary excerpts, and newspaper articles.
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers (2010)
Regina, a high school senior in the popular–and feared–crowd, suddenly falls out of favor and becomes the object of the same sort of vicious bullying that she used to inflict on others, until she finds solace with one of her former victims.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999)
A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda’s freshman year in high school, as classmates torment her through rumors and exclude her from clubs and gatherings.
Stuck on Earth by David Klass (2010)
On a secret mission to evaluate whether the human race should be annihilated, a space alien inhabits the body of a bullied fourteen-year-old boy.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007)
When high school student Clay Jenkins receives a box in the mail containing thirteen cassette tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah, who committed suicide, he spends a bewildering and heartbreaking night crisscrossing their town, listening to Hannah’s voice recounting the events leading up to her death.
This Is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis (2009)
Bullied because of an incident in his past, eighth-grader Logan is unhappy at his new school and has difficulty relating to others until he meets a quirky girl and a counselor who believe in him.
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson (2007)
After finally getting noticed by someone other than school bullies and his ever-angry father, seventeen-year-old Tyler enjoys his tough new reputation and the attentions of a popular girl, but when life starts to go bad again, he must choose between transforming himself or giving in to his destructive thoughts.
White Girl By Sylvia Olsen (2004)
After her mother marries a Canadian Indian man, fourteen-year-old Josie finds herself living on a reserve outside of town and becomes a target of bullies for being white.