Can I Sit with You?


An Open Apology to Kirk

By: mom2spiritedboy
Age at the time: 6

Dear Kirk,

I am sorry that I did not stick up for you more in the first grade
I am sorry that I didn’t ask you to come to my house to play
I am sorry that you didn’t get to live with a forever family
I am sorry that the kids at school were so horrible to you
I am sorry that they called you “Kirk the Jerk”
I am sorry that I do not remember your last name

If I could have it all to do over
. . . I would have played with you at recess when no one would, EVERY day, not just sometimes
. . . I wouldn’t have let go of your hand when we were walking home and other kids were coming
. . . I would have shared my Jos Louis with you on the field trip and sat with you on the bus
. . . I would have been your best friend

I am glad that I kicked those boys HARD with my Cougar boots that day they were bullying you after school. I wish that there wouldn’t have been a need for anyone to have to protect you – I wish people could have been nice to you and that grown ups would have made the world a safer place for you.

I think of you often. I feel much shame and sadness for the things that never were and all that should not have been. When I watch my son as he struggles so much to fit in, I often think of you. I will do better by him than what was done for you.

I am sorry and I hope life got better. I hope you found someone to sit with on the bus and who would share their lunch with you.

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Karen Morley

I hated Karen Morley in year 8. She had naturally blonde hair so light it was nearly white. Her no-makeup skin revealed the colourless spots beneath to the world. When she laughed her small teeth were yellow against the red of her too-large gums; and she laughed a lot. Her clothes were boring and old fashioned, as if her gran had chosen them. She had no friends. Despite all of that, the boys seemed to love her. They flocked around her like seagulls around fish! And she had a boyfriend called Colin.

But she was so boring! She never said anything. She just laughed. She laughed at their jokes, she laughed when they teased her, she even laughed they asked her questions instead of giving an answer. But still they flocked.

Tania and I often stood frowning, arms folded, watching in disbelief. Now Tania and I – we were interesting, clever and funny. We could joke back, tease them with attitude and hold our own in any debate. We knew about football, politics, psychology and Marc Bolan. We also spent a lot of time on our clothes, hair and makeup. So why were they hanging around with her? She couldn’t even crack a joke and she had yellow teeth for goodness sake!

I can’t recall much about what we did to Karen Morley that year. I do remember Colin kicking Tania really hard in the playground for calling Karen names. I don’t remember the names that we called her but I expect being boring and yellow teeth were mentioned. We were outraged at his reaction. We had just wanted the boys to see what we saw. They were supposed to turn against her, not us.

Three years later Karen Morley and I sat together in the Form room only a couple of months away from leaving school. All animosities had long ceased. We chatted and laughed about teenage girly stuff. Then suddenly she told me that Tania and I had made her life Hell in year 8. She said we had sent her a card on her birthday and when she’d opened it “We all hate you” was written inside. I was devastated. I saw all the pain of that year in her face.

Karen Morley was a nice, pretty, not particularly clever person. She had never done anything to hurt me, but I had really hurt her. I remember that I said I was sorry and did not know what else to say. I wish now that I’d told her what pretty hair she had, how attractive her laugh was, and how destructive and powerful jealousy can be.



If I Had Grown Up Online? Reflections on Bullying

By Amy Looper
First published online at the MindOH! Blog
Reprinted with permission from the author

When I first heard about Ryan Halligan, a 13 year old boy who committed suicide a few years ago, I was sad to hear of yet another child taking their life due to bullying. While watching the recent Frontline show “Growing Up Online”, I was particularly struck by new information his parents shared after establishing contact with some of his friends in an effort to get answers to so many unanswered questions about their son’s suicide.

I was completely horrified to hear his parents talk about a web site Ryan had visited that teaches kids the best way for them to commit suicide based on taking a personality test offered there.

A few days after watching the Frontline special I just couldn’t shake this profound sadness out of my head. I had a rush of vivid and unexpected memories about a kid I knew in elementary school back in the 60’s who had repeated first and third grade. Everyone knew who she was and teased her relentlessly calling her stupid, retard, dummy, the usual hurtful stuff some kids will say to those they see as different, or as lower on the proverbial playground food chain. Even more abusive and shocking, some of the teachers chimed in on this ridicule. Calling her out in the classroom with snide comments and making her stand out in the hall. This kid couldn’t catch a break.

She was out for a week one semester because her father had died. Kids and teachers were nice to her for a few days but eventually the usual taunting picked right back up. Then one day while we were at recess, one of the bully boys came over and took the girl’s jump rope and quickly fashioned a hangman’s noose over a tree branch. He grabbed this picked-on girl by the arm, threw the noose around her neck and gave a big tug with all of his weight. Easily twice her size, he jerked her up and she was swinging in a matter of seconds. I mean, being hung right there in front of everyone. Not one kid moved to help. I think we were all stunned.

Grabbing her neck with her hands, choking and struggling to get free, the bell rang to end recess and the bully boy let go of the rope. She fell to the ground. The teacher was coming toward the big tree, but when she saw the girl fall to the ground, the teacher turned around and left her to pick herself up. No one helped her. We all just filed back into class like nothing had happened.

That little girl was me.

What I realized about Ryan Halligan’s suicide was if the bullying I endured as a child was complemented by the resources of a 21st century online world, I too could have easily opted to check out the suicide web site and — even worse — acted on it.

It shook me to my core.

Even though I was very lucky to have loving parents guide me through my trying times as a child and see me into successful adulthood, they still had no idea of the many sad and lonely days I spent because I couldn’t articulate the full extent of what was happening, much less even understand what I needed.

This is why I’ve dedicated the rest of my life’s work to meet kids in their technology-based culture, leveraging technology in every way possible, to create positive content options, a lifeline to life skills for all kids to learn how to confidently navigate the fast paced world and myriad of negative influences they’re faced with daily.

If you’re a parent, teacher or simply care about youth watch Frontline’s “Growing Up Online.” Even though the show could have used more coverage about the positive things happening online for kids, it is still an important eye opener for offline adults.