A Light Goes Out in Folsom
My much loved community has recently been hit hard by a horrible tragedy in which a young boy took his own life due to years of being bullied. His name is Ronin, and he was a cheerleader for the Vista Jr. Eagles, a great organization that my own daughter cheered for as well. He was the only male cheerleader on the squad.
More importantly, Ronin is somebody’s big brother. He is somebody’s son. He is somebody’s grandson. He is somebody’s cousin. He is somebody’s team mate. He is somebody’s friend. But now, he is gone.
We have heard this story before, right? Then I ask you, why does this keep happening? Sure, schools have anti-bullying rules, parents tell their kids to be nice, etc…but with each passing year, we somehow have fewer smiles to brighten our days.
Our community has received so much support from the world over the last week. Cheerleaders have been wearing green and purple (his favorite colors) in his honor, moments of silence have been observed in schools, as well as at cheer competitions. All of this is wonderful, of course, but we must do more.
Like Ronin, I was bullied badly in the 7th grade. I have heard so much ignorant commentary about bullying that it makes my stomach hurt. Here are some examples of some ignorant comments I have heard recently, along with the truth:
“If you fight back, you will be left alone.” – I was small for my age. My tormentors were a lot larger than me, and I was absolutely terrified. Anything I would have done would have most likely resulted in injury – on me.
“It toughens you up and gets you ready for the real world.” – Really? What kind of world is the real world, exactly? Let me tell you something…being bullied results in many things, but toughening up is not one of them. Instead, I lost all self-confidence and I became lost and withdrawn. I became socially awkward, and my opinion of myself deteriorated. These things still live within me today. I am not tough. Not even a little bit. If anything, it destroyed any amount of toughness I had.
“It’s just part of growing up.” – It shouldn’t have to be. Shame on us as a society for allowing it to happen.
“Kids will be kids.” – Only if we let them.
When I went through this, I did not have support. In fact, nobody even knew I was going through this. I did not speak out. I was too afraid to do so, because I felt the results would have been catastrophic for me, both physically and socially. I did not want anyone’s pity, and I did not want to appear weak. Instead, I just took it for as long as I could. It got to the point to where I absolutely hated school, and lost interest in pretty much everything. I didn’t want to tell my parents, because I didn’t want them to look at me like someone who couldn’t take care of himself. In addition, I was ashamed of myself, and I didn’t want anybody to know. But one day, my life was threatened, and I was terrified to go to school. I had to ask my principal to drive me home that day, because I was scared. I finally told my parents, and we met with the school. As expected, there was nothing they could do, unless they physically saw an incident occur. Bullies aren’t stupid. They aren’t going to pound me in front of a teacher.
Up until now, I have very rarely talked about all of this. Those were dark times for me, and I don’t like remembering the experience. But recently, a very wise child told me that the reason I went through this was so I could help others in the future. She was right. If my story can open up the eyes of others, it will be a step in the right direction. Based on my own experience, here are some things that I want everybody to be aware of:
- Those being bullied will very rarely speak out, and when they do, you are most likely getting only a small part of the story. Trust me, it is more severe than they are letting on. Watch for any types of changes in behavior. If your child or friend is afraid to go to school, please ask about it. Sure, maybe it is because of a test they didn’t study for, but it could be because of something serious. Again, they will not want to talk about it.
- They will not ask for support, no matter how bad they need it.
- If you see bullying, or hear about bullying, speak out right away. These days fighting back can get you suspended or expelled from school, but somehow the story needs to get out there.
- A bullied kid will not “get over it.” Anybody who says this has never been through it. It robs you of your personality, your joy, and sometimes your desire to simply be part of the world. It pierces the soul and spreads like a cancer.
- Don’t talk TO your kids about bullying. Talk WITH them. This has to be a two-way conversation.
- Practice being kind to others. Your kids, your friends, everybody is watching and learning from you.
- Stand up for those that are hurting. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t sit back and let bad things happen to a person. You might think there’s nothing you can do, but you are wrong. Standing up for somebody might be scary, as you may fear becoming the next target. But let me tell you something, remaining silent will be much worse.
- Everybody is different. Please either love me and accept me for who I am, or kindly get on with your life and leave me alone. The only thing we all have in common is our humanity. That should be something we cherish.
- Stop pointing the finger at schools. They are only responsible for your child while your child is at school. With social media today, the torment can go on for 24 hours a day. Ronin was home-schooled for the last year. Yes, they need to do more, but they are not solely responsible. You are. I am. We are.
- If you have a story, tell it. The more people are aware of the effects of bullying, the better we can fight it. If you don’t have a story, please feel free to tell mine.
Yes, Ronin was a cheerleader, but that is not the only reason he was bullied. As his parents have stated, he was bullied just for being Ronin. As for my story, I have no idea why I was targeted. I guess it was just for being me.
I am sharing my story on Heart of Cheer because the cheer world is a huge part of my life, and I can’t think of anybody better to spread awareness than cheerleaders. The cheer community has already shown so much love and support. Just remember – just like you lift up your athletes on the floor, lift up their spirits out in the world.
Somebody needs you, but they are afraid to tell you. You can look at Ronin’s cheerful smile, and have absolutely no idea how much he is hurting. Help them. Always let those around you know that they are loved, and wanted. You may never know it, but you could be saving a life.
By: Brandon Caylor
Guest Blogger, Heart of Cheer
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