In bullying prevention, the homecoming queen reigns anew!

Dear Engaged Bystander: Where ever I travel, I look for stories. I hear them all of the time, but then one story really touches my heart. Maybe it is the pain that I am feeling with the number of suicides by gay teens. Maybe it is because my son was bullied in 6th grade. Maybe it is the hope that someone else will help us care for our kids and that one person can make a huge difference. What makes this story so mesmerizing to me is that the special someone who steps out of her comfort zone can be the popular girl in her senior year. 

I want to thank Melissa for sharing this story with me, her sons for having the courage to make it through, and everyone in this story for being willing to share this hope that things do get better!
Minnesota Twins
Last year, our twin boys Maverick and Tyler started 7th grade in a school that included 7th through 12th grade kids. We expected some bumps along the way but Tyler was getting quieter and pulling into himself. We also were concerned about the friends he had chosen to hang around in school.

At first Tyler didn’t want to talk about it. Finally, after hours of talking to him about being available to support him with problems or getting into trouble, he started to cry. 
He said, “You just don’t understand. They will put me in the hospital. They will slit my throat.” My son went on to explain how they were growing marijuana, selling it to younger kids, and how they had connections that could make his life miserable. He had cut himself because the pressure had just gotten to be too much. He didn’t know who to turn to. He was too scared to come to us or tell anybody. We immediately filed a police report and went to the school administration with our concerns.
The school response was not nearly enough. The older kids were given a short suspension, then returned to school, and just as my son feared, cornered both of the boys while alone in the bathroom and again threatened physical harm.
The situation began to affect the boys’ grades, their ability to make friends, and their personal safety. They felt failed by the school, their friends and the system. We did everything we could. We continued to meet with the school and offer suggestions for keeping them safe and protecting them. We got them involved in individual counseling and they started taking medication to help with the depression and anxiety issues.
Then one day, a senior named Emily found them at their lockers and said that she was worried about what the older kids were saying to them. She wanted them to know that she didn’t support her peers acting like that and she wanted the boys to know that they were not alone. The next evening they came home with a note from Emily that said, “I want you to know I am serious. I am here for you anytime and you can talk to me. Keep your chin up.” She gave her home phone, cell phone and email address if they needed to talk to her. It changed the boys’ outlook immediately. Tyler stated, “Maybe there is hope, mom. Maybe I am not all alone. She is pretty popular, you know”.
I had sat in therapy sessions with my sons for months and listened to how one had written suicide plans and neither one of them knew how to get out from under the pressure. With one act of kindness and bravery, Emily made them think there was hope. She had seen Tyler hunkered down in the corner of a hallway and decided she had to do something. She continues to check in with them daily and make sure that they know she is around. The school needs to have a better response and take some responsibility for what happens on school grounds. But Emily has shown that even one person can make a huge difference. And for my twin sons, that was key to what they needed to begin to change their lives.
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