Students tell professionals that bullying pain is real
© Darrell Cole - Cumberlandnewsnow.com
Sharon Mitchell from the Department of Justice talks to the Nova Scotia chiefs of police and police boards annual fall conference in Amherst on Friday. Looking on are four high school students from the Halifax area who spoke to the conference about bullying.
AMHERST – Professionals need to be prepared to help when they received reports of bullying, four Halifax area high school students told the provincial chiefs of police association and police boards fall conference in Amherst on Friday.
The four – Brianca Toulaney, Bailey Fraser, Alex Cooze and Ryan Mitchell– gave emotional presentations to the conference, reminding participants that the harm caused by bullying is real.
Speaking to the conference, Mitchell said he was beaten up, picked on and abused by his bully through school until one day he decided he had enough and had a physical confrontation with him.
Mitchell said he went to the principal with his concerns and his bully’s father said it was a case of boys being boys.
He said the situation got worse after his sister, who looked out for him, graduated from high school.
After trying out for and making the school’s hockey team, he learned his bully was a teammate and things escalated.
“It was my worst nightmare all over again,” he said.
Mitchell said he could not talk to his principal or his parents because it hadn’t worked the first time and he got to his breaking point. While he was reacting to a bully, he was declared a troublemaker and made to apologize and shake his tormenter’s hand.
“I had to shake hands with the person who had picked on me for six years and was told it was my fault,” Mitchell said. “I was told I was in the wrong for something that should have been stopped years before.”
When he goes to speak to schools Mitchell tells students he was wrong. He said it was wrong to physically confront his bully, adding it took years to repair his reputation.
Instead of fighting or making an even worse solution, he told students to go to their guidance counselor, their teacher or parents.
He also called on everyone to remember those who have taken their lives because of bullying and he asked the victims of bullying to make it to another day because, despite what a bully says, they are worth it and life is worth living.
Toulaney said she never realized her best friend was a bully. She said her friend’s actions seemed OK because she never did anything to her, but she has had to live with the guilt for years.
“I could have said something, but I thought no one cared,” she said. “I eventually realized my best friend was a bully and I stood by and did nothing about it.
Since then, she said, she has reached out to all those her friend bullied while she kept quiet.
Fraser was very emotional explaining the pain and suffering she experienced at the hands of her agitator, adding the torment she suffered when beyond school to include the Internet and painful messages that told her she was worthless and that no one would care if she died.
Her parents spoke to her school’s principal and were told it was just “girl drama” that would pass.
She said her parents knew something was wrong and said one of the hardest moments of her life was hearing her mother break down in tears because she thought she had failed her daughter.
“One little girl brought the strongest woman I know to her knees,” she said. “I decided then that I had to be strong for myself and my mom.”
Fraser said her parents’ support is the reason she’s still here to tell her story.
Cooze said he was targeted from Grade Primary because he had a different appearance. He said he was considered a nerd and constantly made fun of.
As he got older he thought it would go away, but it only got worse as he moved to junior high and then high school. He tried to impress the bullies by laughing at their jokes and telling his own jokes. He even stopped studying so people would stop thinking he was a nerd.
“Looking back if I’d just been myself it would have been a lot better,” Cooze said.