Letter to the editor: A retrospective on bullying 10 years later

ROB FRENETTE

What were you doing in 2005? I can easily recall what I was trying to accomplish. I was a grade 9 student at Bathurst High School, trying to find the courage to do something no one thought possible. I was a 16-year-old teenager who endured years of bullying, and now I only wanted to accomplish one task: put an end to bullying at my highschool by the time I graduated.

At the time, I was hoping it would simply be good enough to prevent one other kid from being silenced about the pain, thoughts and the abuse, which were the same pain, thoughts and abuse I was enduring.

I was kicked, burnt, spit on and called names—names that I will unfortunately remember for the rest of my life.

Prior to going public, I wrote an anonymous letter to the Editor of my local newspaper The Northern Light. That letter turned into a column written by the editor of the paper at the time. His column, which began with “Even in so-called enlightened times, bullying is still a problem”, spoke volumes to me and it still does today, but for a different reason.

I can vividly recall the nightmares, night sweats, headaches and not being able to do my homework because I had to pay more attention to the possibility of being thrown down the stairs, tripping, or being shoved or kicked. How could I concentrate on learning while trying to prevent another sleepless night?

Two sisters from my school would burn the back of my neck on the bus ride to school. They were not punished and never publicly identified. No one spoke out because they were afraid to become their next target. Additionally, it went unnoticed by the bus driver and there was no camera.

10 years later, bullying has changed dramatically. It has become a nationwide public policy focus. The forms of bullying have changed, the way bullying is reported has changed, the way schools handle bullying has changed and most importantly, youth now know they have a voice. They know they can speak out and get support when it’s needed. During this time, I’ve helped build a national anti-bullying charity, shared my story about how a student with cerebral palsy was bullied and how I can help other youth and their families get the support they need.

Policies have come and gone over the years. Some have helped prevent another child from enduring the things that I did,while others are newer and provide something that was not there when I was in school—more support for teachers and more information on new forms of bullying.

Whether it’s an elementary, high school or university, bullying still exists. These tools of support are available to help all young people through the trauma and pain.

Over the next few years, I hope to see more programs, support networks, as well as laws and policies to help handle this problem.

To the educators who did all they could with the resources they had at the time, thank you. To the media, especially The Northern Light and MAX 104.9 FM (formally CKBC), thank you for helping to tell my story.

To any child or teen who is afraid of coming forward to tell someone, I have a very important message for you, your parents and family: tell someone. Tell a teacher, a guidance counsellor, a school official. Tell someone. You do not need to live in silence.

Any child, teenager or their family can reach out to Bullying Canada 24/7 for support, information and resources by telephone at: 877-352-4497 or by email at support@bullyingcanada.ca

*** Rob Frenette is the Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of BullyingCanada Inc., a national antibullying charity.

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