Time Goes By, Nothing Really Changes.
Recently, a 9th grader from John Sedgwick Junior High in Port Orchard, WA was suspended for wearing a dress and heels to school. There was no specific reason for the suspension reported in the papers, there was no comment from the school or the school district.
I believe this reaction by the school and school district will be interpreted as a green light for bullying by students. By suspending him for wearing a dress and heels to school, they are saying what he did was wrong. By suspending him for wearing a dress and heels to school they are saying that kids that dress/look/act differently are wrong. If the school says you are wrong, the kids will follow that line of thinking by bullying those that are different.
I went to that exact junior high almost thirty years ago, it was awful. It saddens me to know that nothing has changed and that differences are still discouraged, creativity is frowned upon, and individuality is punished.
When I told the school counselor that I was being picked on in gym class (guys would punch me in the back, purposely trip me, and call me fag), I was told by the counselor that it was just how guys joked around and I could probably use some toughening up. The counselor must have mentioned it to the gym teacher because he told me to “stop being a pussy” and to not “go crying to the school counselor” about situations where I should just be sticking up for myself and “holding my own.”
Those years at John Sedgwick Junior High were where I learned to hate myself. I hated how I could not be “normal” and fit it like the other kids. Or at the very least, I hated how I could not be invisible to the guys that picked on me. I was afraid of gym class, afraid of the bathrooms, and even afraid of lunch break. Any unstructured time at school was available time for me to be bullied.
Kids that are bullied and dream to be invisible and left alone kill themselves because that is the only aspect of the situation that they can control. That is the only way to make the bullying stop when the school and their classmates are not protecting them.
So, while it saddens me to learn that my alma mater has remained an unsupportive and dangerous place for students that are seen as different, it doesn’t surprise me. I have moved on and rarely look back on those years at John Sedgwick Junior High, they seem like memories belonging to someone else.
In adulthood, I have found myself in a supportive community populated by self-confessed high school misfits. A group of hilariously talented people, some successfully artistic, some anecdotally creative, but all alive.