I am going to tell you a story about an eighth-grader in Connecticut who decided to speak out, in a very personal way, about bullying. It’s a story which has created quite a stir. It’s a story which, I believe, could change how we address the issue of bullying.
Alye Pollack attends Bedford Middle School in Westport, Connecticut. She told WTNH news, an ABC affiliate, that she used to be a confident person until sixth grade when she became the target of relentless, daily teasing and bullying. She told reporters that she has been subjected to vile name-calling every day, names like whore, slut, lesbo, bitch, fat, freak, ugly, fag…
Alye is in eighth grade now, and she admits that she is depressed and has considered cutting herself because of the daily harassment she faces in her school. But she decided instead to take a positive step; to speak out, to be brave, and to tell people how bullying has impacted her.
Alye decided to make a video that would share her feelings with anyone willing to listen. She kept her video very simple. She never speaks, but holds hand-made signs written in crayon to get her message across, a message which could not be more poignant if it had been professionally done. The heart-felt words coupled with her sad, pensive expression speak volumes. It only lasts about 3 minutes, but they are 3 minutes guaranteed to both break your heart and make you want to do exactly what she begs for on one of her signs: “HELP!”
About 2 weeks ago, Alye first informed the website of the Westport Patch, her hometown newspaper of her plan and then posted her video on YouTube expecting that maybe 200 people might see it at the most, but to her surprise, as of April 1, the video has been watched more than 280,000 times!
The outpouring of support for this brave girl seems to be giving her some hope. In her interview, she said, “I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘I know not to say bad things. I think before I say something. And that’s just amazing, because they actually are being affected by my video.”
And the students at her school are not alone. Many have commented and sent videos in response to YouTube as well. In fact, Erika, a college student, told about her experience with bullying and encouraged Alye to email her if she needed to talk to someone. And for the first time in a long time, Alye is smiling again.
Something new and hopeful is happening in our world where bullying is concerned. Children are starting to stand up and be heard, and the Internet is helping to spread their message and their cry for help and support. Think about some of my recent blogs: Casey Heynes, who stood up to his bully in Australia, LaNiyaha Bailey, the little 6-year old who wrote a book about bullying with her mother’s help, and now Alye, the creator of this powerful video. And there are so many more.
What is even more encouraging is the outpouring of encouragement and support these victims have received. They have taken a risk by taking a stand against bullying and refusing to be silent anymore, and their efforts are being so well-received, both publicly and within their own communities, that it just might begin the healing process.
Maybe other victims witnessing the response these children have received will become bolder and more willing to speak up, too. Imagine if victims began to unite through their shared experiences, offering each other support and empathy. And imagine if all of those children out there, who are not victims but hate what bullies do, were to become more proactive in their own schools to confront bullying when they see it; to stop bullying within their own sphere of influence.
Can you see it? It is such a simple solution, a child-inspired solution. But it is striking a chord with children; it is creating a response because it is giving them a voice. Maybe those of us who teach need to find more creative and kid-inspired ways to give our children a voice so that they are more likely to speak up when they need to, either on their own behalf or someone else’s.
The status quo is not working. Bullying is on the rise. If the message needs to be heard by kids, shouldn’t it come from kids? I think it is worth a try, don’t you?