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Bullying issue brings back memories

June 24, 2012
JOHANNA?BOYLE - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

Monday evening, I was sitting in a school board meeting, which by itself isn't so unusual - June is the month of budget hearings, after all.

This meeting, however, will likely stick out to me for quite a while because all of the meeting's public comment time was filled with members of the Negaunee High School girls basketball team speaking in defense of their coach, whom they feared would not be reinstated to his position because he swore at the team while putting a stop to an alleged long-standing case of bullying against one of the team's members.

And it sticks out to me because not because the coach swore - I had several teachers who swore in class - but because bullying is so often easily hidden and it's easy to forget that. Even if it does draw the attention of a teacher or coach, it isn't usually made public in a place like a school board meeting, that is until it goes as far to cause the one being bullied to injure themselves.

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While it might be hard to catch a bully in the act, I have absolutely no doubt it is a regular part of life for many of the students in the area.

I know because I was bullied. I've been made to feel like less of a person because I was new in school and because I was fatter than other people around me and because my clothes were easily compared to something the bully's grandmother might have worn, or so they said.

One incident found me repeatedly pushed into a snowbank, another actually left a bruise on my shin. Really there's not enough money in the world to make me willing to repeat the seventh and eighth grade.

But it's complicated because I, too, engaged in mean-spirited teasing, laughing at someone else, making fun of them, usually along with a larger group of friends. I'm not sure you could have ever considered me the ringleader of the group, but that doesn't matter, I was still there. And that made me a bully, too, almost at the same time I was being bullied myself.

As much as the bullying I experienced made my life very difficult for a couple years, I've gotten over it. It happened, definitely had an effect on my life and how I approach things and I've been able to process that and move on.

What is much harder to do is move past the fact that I caused someone else pain and that is something I do wish I could go back and change, much more than taking away the instances where I was bullied myself.

The problem is, there's no magic switch when you get out of high school that magically removes bullying from your life. If that is the case, I know more than a handful of adults who missed that particular procedure.

Only when you're an adult there's even less of a chance that someone - like a teacher or coach - is going to step in to see that it stops.

Anyone can be a bully, just as easily as becoming a victim of bullying and I think it is rare to find someone who is purely one or the other, although I hope my own experience has helped me to make sure I'm not one of the bullies now.

The point of this column, though, isn't to allow me a blanket venue to apologize to anyone I may have hurt in the past.

It's intended to be a reminder to make sure kindness is behind your words and actions, because kind is one thing a bully is not.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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