Sean is in sixth grade. He does well academically. He is not particularly athletic, but he isn’t clumsy. He likes to read. His parents, who are very conservative, keep close watch on his social life; as a result, he is not active on the social scene at school. He does go to social events for his age group at church. He is kind of quiet and average in physical size.
Sean carefully poked his head around the corner of a hallway. Students were changing classes and the hallways were busy. The coast seemed clear, so he turned the corner, heading for the library. He was so focused on getting to the library that he didn’t see the precisely placed shoe of a classmate that caught him on the ankle. Sean fell awkwardly to the floor, with books falling out of his stuffed backpack. Students turned and laughed. Jeremy’s hand came out of the crowd to pull him up. Jeremy said, ”Wow, G.G., I told you to be careful in the halls.”
A teacher on hall patrol asked Sean if he was alright. Before Sean could answer, Jeremy told the teacher that G.G. was fine, just a little clumsy. As Jeremy disappeared into the crowd of students, the teacher asked, “Sean, you okay? What’s with the G.G. thing.” Sean picked up his books. One of them had been damaged by a student in the group that had witnessed his “fall.” He answered the teacher quietly, saying that he was fine; he didn’t answer the inquiry about G.G. Sean hurried down the corridor before the teacher could say more. The teacher made a mental note to check on Sean later, but then quickly forgot as a couple of students began to tussle just down the hall.
After library period, Sean headed for his locker to collect books for that night’s homework. Written in pencil on the outside of his locker were the letters GG. Sean sighed, feeling overwhelmed; he packed his backpack, looked both ways down the hall, and quickly took off for the parking line, where his mom was waiting.
“How did your day go?” she asked.
“Alright.” He thought about telling her about his struggles, but then her cell phone rang and she began what he knew would be a long conversation. He settled into the back seat of the SUV, ignored his younger brother and sister and started to think again about the last four miserable weeks and how they began. Compared with other days recently, today had been a good day. Jeremy had only harassed him twice. Some days it seemed that every time he turned around Jeremy or one of his group was there to mock him, attempt to trip him, pinch him or bump into him. He heard the taunt of GG often each school day.
Almost every waking minute of every day, Sean thought, Why couldn’t I have just said, “Yeah, it was a great game?”
The problem had started about four weeks ago on a Monday. Jeremy was in an older grade and playing football for the J.V. team. Jeremy was a good football player and quite pleased with his new-found status as a rising star. His favorite college team, State U, had just won a big game on Saturday. Jeremy was bragging during lunch about how good the Wolfpack was. He was at the next table from Sean and yelled out, “Hey, kid, wasn’t that a great game!”
Sean looked up and said, “Uh, I don’t know, I didn’t see the game.”
Jeremy, who was in rare form and getting louder, said, “You didn’t see the game? It was the biggest upset of the season! Don’t you like State U?”
Sean replied, “Ah, I really don’t follow football, I have too much schoolwork.”
“YOU DON’T FOLLOW FOOTBALL?!?!”
Sean, not realizing the danger, said, “No, not really.”
“Oh, I remember who you are. You’re the kid who won the science fair project. You’re a geek!”
Jeremy turned to his friends at his table and loudly exclaimed, “How can anybody not like football, even if he is a geek?” One of the table mates said, ”I don’t know—maybe he’s gay.”
Jeremy exploded in laughter. “That’s it, he’s a gay geek! A gay geek! I know, every time we see Sean here, we’ll call him G.G., because that’s what he is—a gay geek! Come on, guys, we gotta get to class.” On the way out of the lunchroom, Jeremy knocked Sean’s tray to the floor and laughed even harder.
Sean sat in total bewilderment and shock. In the space of ninety seconds his life had become a nightmare.
Sean’s story is a composite, drawn from real-life situations. The school setting is generic; it could be a public school, private school, or a Christian school. The story is not pleasant, but scenarios like this are occurring throughout schools across the country.
Stories like Sean’s are not unusual. They are more common than most of us would like to think. From time to time we see some of the more spectacular illustrations of bullying highlighted by video-clips on Drudge or on YouTube. But, bullying episodes like Sean’s often fly under the radar, unnoticed in the busyness of school life. For children trapped in these bullying scenarios, life can be a nightmare; miserable and intimidating. I personally know of scenarios like Sean’s that have gone on for two or three years. It is a bad situation for kids like Sean, and it is also a bad situation for bullies like Jeremy. If no one stops him, he may grow to become a lifelong bully.
So what can we do for Sean? We will look at this in the next post.