Confessions of a bully (victim)

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By Vince Luecke

Two days of bullying-prevention training dredged up plenty of old school memories earlier this month, most of which I wanted to keep buried.

Yes, Mom, it's true. I was a bad bully in elementary school and in one of life's lessons in justice, was in turn bullied at times in junior-high school.

For those who haven't noticed the stories in The News, Tell City-Troy Township School Corp., is taking part in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a well respected effort that strives to help schools and communities reduce bullying of children.

Representatives from William Tell Elementary and Tell City Junior High schools attended the March 12-13 training, which introduced them to the system. I was one of several community representatives invited to take part.

It's hard to distill the program developed by Scandinavian bullying-prevention researcher Dan Olweus into a few words, but one basic goal is to teach students who witness bullying to step in on behalf of the victim.

As most of us can remember from school, most bullying situations involve lots of bystanders, including those who urge on the bullying as well as those who want it to stop but are afraid to say something. The Olweus system encourages students to walk over and stand next to kids being bullied and to encourage them to report it.  

Bullying prevention wasn't a priority when I was in school. I can't remember any formal instruction of why we shouldn't bully or why we should help the unlucky ones who are singled out.

As a grade-schooler, I tormented kids who were different or who had problems, taunting a kid who stuttered, another who was overweight (I was thin then) and will never forget laughing out loud when a girl wet her pants. I kept reminding her of the incident day after day until a teacher yanked my arm one day and sat me down for a verbal attitude adjustment. I left the girl alone but turned on others, such as a buck-toothed boy, asking out loud at recess if he was kin to beavers or had a mom who cooked corn on the cob every evening.

I teased students who took too long to finish their math or writing lessons or had too many red marks on their quizzes. I was a smart student but had an even smarter mouth.

One teacher's aide called me "conceited" one afternoon and I remember running to the dictionary to see what the word meant.

In junior-high I became a bullying victim, a tables-turned experience due partly to being a new kid in a bigger school and the geekiness of puberty.

Heritage Hills High School, at the time, had young and older students mixing all the time in hallways and I drew attention from juniors and seniors. Being a nerd, I carried a big stack of books to my morning class, enough for my three sessions. I was trying to keep from running to the lockers after every class, but my load of books made a tempting target for cooler upperclassmen. They knocked the books away, hitting them with their hands or grabbing the arm that was holding them. I remember hunting for books and tablets in a stampede of laughing students.  

I've heard of studies showing that bullied kids are more likely to become bulliers later in life. The opposite was true for me. Yes, bulliers are more likely to get in trouble and perhaps end up in prison. Perhaps the kids who tormented me are doing hard time. But I doubt it.

People of all ages have to learn to get along with others and that means dealing with people with poor social skills, bullying attitudes and smart mouths. I've been all three.  Times are thankfully changing as society realizes the many effects of student bullying. No student should fear going to school. By reducing bullying and no longer overlooking its occurrences, we can build brighter futures for our future generations.

That will mean more happy school-day memories as we adults look back.