Friday, November 19, 2010

Last week I wrote about Glee's new storyline that covers bullying and the problem with bullying in our schools.  Little did I know that this week has been Anti-Bullying Week in some schools.  Today while I was reading the stories in my RSS feed I noticed one from Topless Robot (It's not as dirty as it sounds) that really got my blood boiling.
The story was about a blog posted by Carrie, a blogger for Chicago Now, in which she told about her daughter being bullied in first grade for being into Star Wars:

Family Camp - Michigan 025.JPGI have often thought of bullying as a problem that faces children older than mine, but a recent conversation with my first grader has given me pause.  Maybe it starts right here, right now with our little ones.

At summer's end, Katie and I went to Target to pick out her backpack, lunchbox and water bottle for the new school year.  After great deliberation, she chose a Star Wars water bottle to match her Star Wars backpack.  

Katie loves Star Wars, and she was very excited about her new items.  For the first few months of school, she proudly filled her water bottle herself and helped me pack her lunch each morning.

But a week ago, as we were packing her lunch, Katie said, "My Star Wars water bottle is too small.  It doesn't hold enough water.  Can I take a different one?"  She searched through the cupboard until she found a pink water bottle and said, "I'll bring this."

I was perplexed.  "Katie, that water bottle is no bigger than your Star Wars one.  I think it is actually smaller."

"It's fine, I'll just take it," she insisted.  

I kept pushing the issue, because it didn't make sense to me.  Suddenly, Katie burst into tears.

She wailed, "The first grade boys are teasing me at lunch because I have a Star Wars water bottle.  They say it's only for boys.  Every day they make fun of me for drinking out of it.  I want them to stop, so I'll just bring a pink water bottle."

I hugged her hard and felt my heart sink.  Such a tender young age, and already she is embarrassed about the water bottle that brought her so much excitement and joy a few months ago.  
These kids are in First Grade and already they are picking on someone for being different.  Possibly the most confusing thing about this for me, is they are picking on her for liking something that most, if not all, of them like themselves.  Shouldn't these kids be embracing the fact that there is a girl that likes the same things as them?

Carrie asked for other females who love Star Wars to comment so that Katie could see that she's not alone.  Currently there are over 1000 comments on the site, and happily there is an update reporting that Katie has been sitting with her parents a reading a few of the comments every night.  She even wore a Star Wars shirt to school!

But how many other kids are there out there who are being bullied into submission at such a young age?  How many boys and girls are being teased because they like something different from the other kids of their gender until the give up liking it to conform?  I am glad Katie got a happy ending, but I'm worried about all the kids out there who won't.

So what say you people, is there something we can be doing to raise awareness about bullying and try to stop it?  Leave your ideas in the comments.


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