Aaron K Collett is currently a Communication major, with an emphasis in Digital Film making. Aaron blogs at Bringing Thought to Life.
< Part One
Part Two: Bullied and Bullying
Unlike many people coming out of homeschooling, I technically was not isolated – I got to go to a school with other people, I wasn’t stuck at home, and we referred to it in all ways as if it were a real school (spoiler: it kind of wasn’t). But “not technically being isolated” does not equal “had the opportunity for healthy relationships with my peers”.
For one thing, the school was K-12 with 60 students. We were almost literally a one-room schoolhouse. Now, the reasoning is student will learn to interact with people better if they have to interact with all ages. That can be true. It’s also true that it gives bullies a wider range of targets. And Christians are often not good at identifying and mitigating bullying, especially since the idea of God put forth by ACE is the biggest bully of all.
I was bullied pretty much from the time I started at RMCS in 1998 until the time I left in 2004.
It wasn’t the same person the whole time; sometimes it was older students, sometimes it was the teachers. In at least one occasion, to my eternal shame, I was the bully. It wasn’t any one thing – bullies are adaptable like that. But often it was because of my success academically, as far as the other students were concerned.
People lash out when they feel threatened. Because I hadn’t been in the program since elementary school, I was seen as an outsider. Since I worked so well in a self-paced program, I was an outsider that was threatening the status quo – I was better than them at “their” thing.
The teachers did not help, however. In fact, the teachers were a big part of the problem. Once, I reached the end of my patience, and went to the principal to report one particular person who had been terrorizing me particularly badly one week. Her response was to give me a chapter from the Bible to read and take care of it myself***.
Unfortunately, as is all too common, the abused becomes the abuser. Steeped in a culture which portrayed God as a merciless bully and being bullied every day myself, I projected. I became a bully myself. Not all the time, but once is enough. I shamed someone because of their height. The thing people have perhaps the least control over. I found out later she went home sobbing every day. I don’t know if she ever forgave me; I probably never will. But even if she did, I still did that harm. That won’t ever go away.
The curriculum, combined with the culture of abuse and bullying, created an awful high school experience for me.
I begged to go to a public school, or even home-school. I got to be home-schooled for one year, which was spectacular. I still had the curriculum issues (which I wasn’t aware of at the time), but the bullying had stopped. I didn’t have to worry who was going to terrorize me when I got to school in the morning.
I could just get up, have breakfast, and learn on my own, which was all I really wanted to do anyway.
End of series.
*** The passage in question was Matthew 18. Here’s the relevant bit:
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’[b] And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”
Those are instructions for adults. Who mostly have the same power level as each other. This particular student had at least two years, 100 lbs, and 12 inches on me. When you tell children to deal with their “problems” that way, you are setting them up to be bullied even more. It was almost criminally irresponsible for the principal of the freaking school to give those instructions to a child being bullied. And that’s even without the implied shaming for “tattling” on another student, or the implied shaming of failing to “turn the other cheek”.
My sister had a similar experience with an ACE church school just like yours. Her bully spread rumors, and convinced all the other girls to shun her. Fortunately, our mom was completely on my sister’s side, so when they were told that my sister basically just needed to “try harder” to get along, and apologize to her bully, she immediately left the school and never went back.
My church’s ACE schools had moms for monitors. The mommies protected their own kids and the poor kids whose moms weren’t able to be monitors got blamed for EVERYTHING.