By Adam J. Holland
As a newspaper reporter in northeast Texas, Jimmy Isaac regularly gets a firsthand look at the quirky, evil, sad, and funny sides of life. He has reported from the scenes of murders and devastating house fires, and has taken notes from inside the basket of a hot air balloon and experimental aircraft. Though his daily beat creates for him a very colorful world, the 34-year-old writer still has a dark thought that lingers from his childhood.
Isaac, like millions of others, was a victim of bullying in school.
Unlike a lot of adults, he doesn’t have a long list of memories that involve violence on the school playground. Isaac’s scars are emotional.
“I played soccer in second grade, and there was a girl on the team,” Isaac says. “I kind of had a crush on her. She was white. I told a neighborhood friend, who wasn’t happy that I, a black boy, liked a white girl. He turned on me.”
The former friend began spreading a rumor that Isaac was gay. That his given name is Daniell (pronounced as Dan-yell) didn’t help matters in his rural northeast Texas community.
“I became the ‘gay-rod’, the ‘faggot’ ... those are the names I can repeat in a fairly clean setting. And it continued,” Isaac says. “I had not one single friend between second grade and Thanksgiving of the sixth grade, when I transferred to (nearby) Tatum. I had some friends at that time, but not too many.”
About 18 million children will be bullied this school year on playgrounds, in classrooms, and in cafeterias, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In many cases, the act will involve physical harm, while some bullies will wield words. Then, of course, there is cyberbullying -- the use of social websites such as Facebook and MySpace to intimidate or embarrass someone through gossip.
But educators who are using the methods of Rachel’s Challenge or the Trevor Romain Co. -- two similar national programs that are relatively new to the school scene -- are fairly confident that such episodes of violence and rumormongering are becoming much less frequent on their campuses. The reason: Both programs work to involve everyone in changing the culture -- the bullies and their victims, bystanders, parents ... and educators.
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