On April 27, 2013 I performed this speech for Pasadena Bar Association’s 3rd Annual Speech Scholarship Contest. This speech falls under the topic “The Existence of Bullying and Society’s Obligation to Respond.”
<Editor’s Note: blogger Emily Zheng is a sophomore at Arcadia High School.>
Where were you when you were twelve years old? Probably fresh out of elementary school, eager for middle school. A new school means new friends, new teachers, new classes… What have you accomplished since sixth grade? Have you gone to college, married the love of your life, and had a family? Have you gotten a job that you love after so many years of hard work and passion? Think about everything you’ve done since then…
Emily Zheng (second from right)
Relish these memories, because Bailey will never know what his future will be like. Bailey, like so many other victims across the globe, will never know what it feels like to be a teen or an adult. Bailey O’Neill, 12 years old, died in January after being beaten and attacked in his school in Glendolen, Pennsylvania. He suffered from several seizures and a medically-induced coma after a concussion and broken nose. Similarly, Spencer Reints, 13 years old, suffered a black eye, a broken nose, and a broken tooth after being beaten unconscious and kicked several times in the head at his school, but is still being punished because the incident was reported as simply a fight. These victims, two out of thousands, are being punished for the terrifying epidemic that is inflicting our peers and children: bullying. One out of four kids is bullied, with up to 40% of students saying that they have been digitally harassed. Nine out of ten LGBT students have been harassed at school. Eight percent of students miss at least one day of class per month for fear of bullies and are more likely to drop out of school. Some kids are so tormented that suicide has become an alternative for them. Bullying makes kids scared of even going to the bathroom or walking down the hall. Fear and anxiety that builds up in a bullying victim can make it difficult to focus at school and cause them to suffer from loneliness, depression, physical illness, and low self-esteem. But the bullied are not the only ones affected. Bullies are more likely to skip school, drop out of school, smoke, drink alcohol, get into fights and be arrested at some point in their life. Sixty percent of boys who were bullies in middle school had at least one criminal conviction by the age of 24. Society has marked bullying as a threat and a problem, but what can we do to help save lives and children in our community? Ending suicide for bullied youth starts with supporting laws that help create a safe, supportive, and positive environment for everyone. Organizations such as The Trevor Project actively work at the local, state, and federal level to influence public policy and nonpartisan advocacy efforts, especially in areas that address mental health and suicide prevention. Organizations like The Trevor Project support full funding for youth suicide prevention and research, including annual professional development for educators on youth suicide prevention, comprehensive and inclusive suicide prevention policies in all school districts, and inclusive laws that prohibit school bullying and harassment. But you can start off small by working with individuals in your community. When you witness bullying, or hear about it from someone, don’t remain a bystander! Safe ways you can support the victim include reaching out in friendship and including the victim in some of your activities. Befriending those who are bullied and having your friends do the same will significantly improve the life of the victim by providing companionship in times of need. There is definitely strength in numbers, and every school has more caring kids than bullies. Unite and speak out about bullying and cyber-bullying. You’re not changing the world… Instead, like Steve Jobs said, you’re simply making a dent in someone’s universe. Bullying is a huge issue in our communities today, but each individual, one step at a time, working together and becoming friends, will bring this epidemic to an end.
— By Emily Zheng