Dr. Jonathan T. Jefferson
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” – Harvey S. Firestone
Chapter three of my book MUGAMORE begins with the above quote. Bullying is one of the topics touched upon in that chapter, which is based on true personal accounts experienced during the 1976 – 77 school-year. Believe it or not, as I keenly look back on my third-grade experiences, I believe the merciless physical and verbal abuse endured may have inadvertently led to beneficial outcomes in the trajectory of my life.
How, you might ask, could being bullied have possibly produced positive outcomes?
Well, let’s consider that I had just been transferred from my neighborhood school to a higher performing school ten miles away. As a late-year baby (November), I began kindergarten at age four. I was physically smaller than most of the other children; especially the boys, and now I was academically smaller as well. Canadian hockey fans know the benefits of being born earlier in the year (author Malcolm Gladwell gives extensive attention to this topic in his book Outliers). In my case, consistent fear for my physical well-being made focusing on third-grade academics difficult at best. After a miserable school-year fraught with repeated absences, I was back in the third grade the following school-year (’77-’78). However, the gift of retrospect maintains that this was the best thing that could have happened to me. During my second third-grade stint I found the other children were more my size -- physically and academically. Consequently, I quickly found my stride and soon after began to thrive above and beyond expectations.
Clearly, I am not a proponent of bullying, nor am I promoting it as a path to some greater end-game. It was just a coincidence that it contributed to a pivotal decision made for me by a concerned teacher. The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) that became a law in New York State on July 1, 2012 is a step in the right direction. It “…seeks to provide the State’s students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.” To make this law complete, employees of the school system should have been afforded the additional protections (no intimidation, no taunting, & no bullying), and statements against cyber bullying should have been included.
To learn more about what you can do to contribute to a bully-free society, visit the following sites: www.bullying.org, www.cyberbullying.ca, and www.bullyingawarenessweek.org. There are a growing number of resources available on this topic. Hopefully, in the near future, no child will need to experience the perils I did my first year in third grade.