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The Backlash of Standing Up To Bullying: One Girl’s Story

Back in my sophomore year, I transferred from a private out-of-town high school to the larger public school a couple blocks from my house. Sitting in a class called Multi-Cultural Perspectives, I met Lucas. He was a guy that whenever the teacher would leave the class, or under his breath in front of our African American teacher, he would make a smart-assed remark about women, people of color, or anyone with a different sexual preference.

Dealing With Bullies

Wearing our school’s scarlet and grey football uniform, I watched as he whispered to the other football players around him. Our Friday class had a substitute teacher, and we would be watching the movie The Laramie Project, and they were laughing about it In case you’ve never heard of the movie, it’s about a gay man in Laramie, Wyoming who was beaten and left for dead by two men. Authorities later deemed the murder a hate crime. The experiences and reactions of the people of Laramie was turned in to a play and later a movie.

Our elderly substitute sat in the back of the classroom, her glasses reflecting the crying and heartache acted out on screen. When we’d finished the section allotted for the day, we sat in the bright fluorescent lights waiting for the bell to ring. I overheard Lucas make an awful remark about the deceased man; something along the lines of, “It was his fault.” I had reached my boiling point. I’d watched him laugh with his friends about people of color. I watched how he spoke down to the girls in my class and refused to take them seriously. And now I’d heard him say a gay man deserved to die for who he was.

I turned towards him and asked why he said that? Wasn’t this class meant to teach us about acceptance? Lucas’ smile remained as his eyes squinted at me and he said something under his breath about how I should just go worry about my “Buddhist religion.”

Was That The Right Way To Stand Up To Bullying?

I exploded with anger yelling, “You racists, sexist pig. Who do you think you are?” The rest of the class stopped their conversations to look at me. The new girl who knew no one, who had no real friends yet, yelled at this guy. They had watched this sexist, racist bully mistreat anyone who was even slightly different than him, and no one had said anything.

I spent my lunch period in the art studio shaking. I tried to wrap my head around what I’d just done. Would anyone ever be my friend after I yelled at this popular football player? I emailed my teacher that day when I got home to apologize for acting in such a way.

Unfortunately, I didn’t handle the situation as best as I could. I was wrong to call him out in front of everyone and to yell at him in class. As a result, I had to speak with both his academic advisor and mine to “work out” what happened. I never had another class with him again. As the semesters passed and we lived very separate lives, I’d see him in the halls and his eyes would avoid mine, ignoring for the next three years that he’d been called out.

Jackie Montalvo is a journalist, college student, and travel junkie.

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