The Cure for Bullying

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK

Bullies have been big news lately, and rightly so. From the verdict against Tyler Clementi's roommate to the new documentary Bully, it seems like what has long been kept in the dark is finally being aired out. That said, as someone who has been bullied and as a mom of a child who has been bullied (is this genetic too? My poor kids), it's hard to watch. I have friends going to see the documentary this weekend, and even though I've been invited, I don't think I'll attend. It's still too painful. Without going into all the awful details - kids used to hawk loogies into my hair and empty their lunch trays in my bag - suffice it to say the shame, pain, and grief from being bullied have stuck with me well into adulthood.

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Thankfully it's not something I've had to think about much since graduating high school. That is, until my own kids have started approaching the age at which I was tormented. When my first grader came home from school with a bloody nose and scratched face, I completely lost it. My reaction probably scared him more than the original incident had. Suddenly I envisioned for him a future in school like the one I had had, and I was desperate to do anything to save him from that. Desperation. That's a feeling I know too well.

But today, it's different. School administrators, while not as helpful as I personally would have hoped, were light years better than the teachers who ignored my incidents. Other parents were supportive. The teachers were caring. All of this made me realize that the cure for bullying is bringing it out into the open. Talking about it. Acting on it. Anything but ignoring it.

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My kids are already much smarter, cooler, more interesting people than I was, but even better, bullying and being bullied are part of the public conversation now. As a mom that gives me great hope.

What was your experience in school like? Do you think bullying is handled better these days?

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