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Students Need to Stand Up for Their Peers With Illnesses and Disabilities

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I’ve read some articles recently about students with chronic illnesses or disabilities being bullied at school by their own peers all because they looked or acted differently. Schools should be a safe haven for every child, healthy or not, where they can express themselves without fear of being teased. I honestly thought that since Columbine, most schools throughout the United States were taking a zero tolerance policy against those who tormented others but it seems to be short lived since we’re now dealing with kids bringing weapons to class and shooting at those who’ve been harassing them.

I was bullied in grammar school and the teachers along with the principal did nothing any time I reported that I was being harassed. Instead, I was the one who got in trouble all because I just didn’t want to be pushed, called very nasty names, or tormented in class or on the bus every single day. I would come home crying, begging my parents to take me out of the school because I just couldn’t take the constant abuse. To make matters worse, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when I was 12 and the bathroom rules were stricter once I reached seventh and especially eighth grade.

Certain teachers wouldn’t allow the girls to use the restroom because all they’d do was put on makeup and come back to class. In my case, I just needed to be able to leave without having to explain myself. I wound up having my mother write a letter to the teachers explaining my condition and that I couldn’t wait. For the most part, they understood and allowed me to leave when I had to but I was targeted yet again by a certain group of girls who prank called me at home because of it. I couldn’t identify who was on the phone but I’ll never forget how they taunted me claiming that I was “teacher’s pet” or “what makes you so special that you can leave class any time.” It got so bad that at one point I took a whistle and when I received a call, blew it into the phone receiver never to be bothered at home again.

I wish that all schools throughout the country implemented a stricter zero tolerance where bullies would be dealt with on the spot and not days/weeks later so patients like myself wouldn’t have to be stressed to the point where their symptoms flare up or even worsen. Also, victims shouldn’t be punished by asking an educator for help with their situation and classmates who observe altercations should work together and stand up for their rights to be able to learn in a peaceful environment without violence or abuse. It reminds me of a song that was sung in grammar school. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Maybe if the tormentors spent a month in our shoes such as being poked, prodded, undergoing invasive and painful tests then they’d realize (hopefully) that we have enough to deal with health-wise and instead of giving us grief, they’d apologize and leave us alone or be given mandatory counseling for the rest of the school year to find the cause of their anger/bitterness and work on improving their behavior so they’d become contributing members of society when they got older.

Those who have chronic health conditions shouldn’t be made to feel less of a person because they are different physically or mentally. Students should work together as a team to find the solution(s) to bullying instead of being part of the problem by doing nothing when one of their peers is targeted. Many neighborhoods have “Take Back the Night” to end violence in their community. Why can’t schools have “Take Back the Classroom” to end violence/bullying in the educational system?

Getty Image by Highwaystarz-Photography

Originally published: April 10, 2018
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