Andrew was a six-foot nine-inch freshman entering North High School. Even though he loved basketball and was fairly athletic, he hadn’t filled out as yet and was extremely insecure about his slender physical appearance. Even on hot afternoons, he refused to wear shorts or go shirtless when the guys would play basketball “shirts against skins.”

Andrew was a hard worker both in academics and on the basketball court. As a freshman, he made the junior varsity squad. One of the upperclassmen on the varsity team named Will latched onto Andrew and never missed an opportunity to call him “skinny” or “giraffe.” On the court or in the school hallways, Will would make fun of Andrew and try his best to embarrass him.

On rare occasions, the coaches would have the junior varsity starters scrimmage with the varsity squad. Andrew and Will both played the forward position. As soon as Andrew stepped onto the same court as Will, he became totally unfocused. As a result he missed passes, tripped over his own feet, and couldn’t even seem to make a simple two-foot bank shot. Will didn’t hesitate to spread the news. Andrew lost all confidence and concentration when he had to scrimmage with Will.

It was normal for other classmates, girls and boys of different classes, to hang out in the gym and watch the basketball teams practice. On Tuesday, Will felt the need for some attention. The teams were doing the usual layup drill to begin practice, varsity on one end and J.V. on the other. Will broke rank, ran up behind Andrew, and pulled his pants down to his ankles in front of everyone. Andrew was humiliated, and most of his blood seemed to rush straight to his face. He stood on the court in his underwear, a bit frozen for a couple of seconds before he quickly bent over to pull up his pants. All Andrew could think about the entire practice was When will this be over?

A few weeks later, after yet another altercation with Will in the hallways, Andrew decided to strategically place a broken chair in Marybeth’s place in science class. The science teacher was a new, cool teacher, and for that reason the class was filled to capacity. Marybeth’s desk was near the front of the class. Marybeth was significantly overweight. When she came in late and sat down, she flattened the broken chair to the ground and bounced up again as the entire class laughed. Marybeth was completely devastated. She hastily gathered her belongings, ran out of the class crying, and hid herself in the girls’ bathroom. How could Andrew humiliate someone when he knew what it was like to be bullied and humiliated?

This story illustrates the ripple effect of bullying. From Will to Andrew and then Andrew to Marybeth, this secret tsunami destroys one life after another from the inside out.

Have you ever asked yourself, why are people mean to each other? Why do we as humans hurt one another? There are many reasons. For meanness to be considered bullying, it needs to have at least these three elements:

  • It’s characterized by name-calling, physical (including sexual) harm, rumors, stealing, breaking things, humiliating, or intentionally isolating or rejecting someone.
  • It is repeated.
  • A power differential develops between the bully and the victim.

It’s probably not news to you that boys are more likely to be physically or verbally bullied. Girls are more likely to be the target of social or psychological bullying, which is less direct and more likely to go unnoticed for a long time. Girls are more frequently bullied than boys, and sadly, students with disabilities are more likely to be bullied than their peers.