Brian’s Story

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Hear selections from Tyler’s Suite live at the Heartland Men’s Chorus’ event Identify on March 25 and 26. Get Tickets Now

When I heard that we were doing Tyler’s Suite, I knew it was going to be a difficult experience for me because I have a strong connection with the sentiment behind the story. Some people just do not understand the toll that bullying takes on people, no matter what form it’s in.

I grew up in a small, rural town where there were no openly gay people. I got teased incessantly by my peers about being gay even before I knew I was. I grew up learning that it was easier to hide who I was than be myself. I’ve thought of taking my own life more times than I can count for something that is a part of me. Unfortunately, even with my friends and family, there are just some things that cannot be shut out.

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However, I can say that they are the one thing that have prevented me from going through with suicide. I could not bear to cause them that pain, even to relieve my own.

Being able to share in this story helps reinforce that everyone should be able to embrace their true selves without having to hide them away.

The messages in Tyler’s Suite are so powerful and resonate so much with me that it is sometimes hard to make it through them without breaking down in tears. That is a testament to how powerful this story is and how much more powerful it becomes when set to beautiful music.

Brian Sixbury is a member of the Heartland Men’s Chorus of Kansas City. Follow the chorus on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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Cheyenne’s Story

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When I was in 8th grade, I would have never predicted how intolerable my high school career would be.

I was always the chubby girl who died her hair different colors and wore tons of black. I put myself out there as different in a school where being Caucasian was the minority.

Looking back, I feel guilty for not just fitting in, but I experience depression, so my mind takes me to some dark places.

My bully was after me for months. He was a friend of some of my friends so he was always around calling me fat, ugly, stupid. He was telling me that no one will ever want me, and any little thing I did around him was always followed by a rude comment.

I didn’t want to lose my friends, but I also was so tired of being constantly knocked down.

I’m already a shy, sensitive person, and he absolutely loved tearing me apart.

In the middle of my eight grade year, I fractured my ankle and was put on crutches for two weeks.

After school one day we were just standing by our lockers when my bully comes up and asks if I tripped over a box of Twinkies.

That day, I went home and cried, not knowing the situation on the other side.

After eighth grade, we went to different high schools. I hadn’t heard from him until I learned about his suicide.

I later learned his mom left and his dad was a drunk who went to jail while he was a teenager. His dad ended up causing a car collision that involved a child on a bike, then he was charged with involuntary manslaughter. All he really had was his grandmother, but she was getting older. I’m sure he would have been heartbroken if anything were to happen to her.

He took his life on Christmas in his grandmother’s house so he’ll never know the feeling of losing his grandmother.

I came to the conclusion that my bully was so much more tortured than I was.

Recently, I learned that bullying is a matter of self reflection. It’s not the fact that your overweight or worthless. It’s where that bully’s mind is at. If he had a problem at home, he probably teased me more. I may never know the real situation. But it absolutely turned my perspective around.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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Joe’s Story: What I Learned By Being Bullied

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My name is Joe Mannetti. I am an anti-bullying blogger for the We Are 1 Voice group based in Florida. I became involved in this journey as a result of what I witnessed and experienced myself. I have not shared my personal bullying ordeal in this forum until now. This is my story.

I moved to Connecticut after the cost of living in Los Angeles became too much to handle any longer for me. I selected Connecticut because it was where my mother and father resided. I was broke, and I did not know where else to go. My family and I had been mostly estranged with minimal contact for over two decades while I resided in Southern California. I thought that re-connecting with them along with the relatives I had been separated from might offer some support during this transitional period of my life. 

I was in a new environment. Things were different. I expected them to be that way. But, nothing could have prepared me for what happened within almost a year of moving to what I hoped would become my new home. My father had been complaining of trouble breathing. He was scheduled for a doctor’s check-up, and I was going to drive him there and discuss the results afterwards with him. We were both concerned. My father never made his appointment. I found him dead in his house on the floor clutching his heart and reaching for the phone. I was devastated. But, the nightmare had only just begun.

My father’s relatives had always displayed a propitiatory stance with my father. While my father’s body was being dragged out in a body bag, these same relatives entered his house, broke out beer that they took from the basement, and began giving directions about how my father’s funeral would be coordinated as an event to promote their restaurant – the restaurant he had left a month before dying. I was shocked. The police were shocked. They asked them to leave the premises. They refused. Later, the funeral director informed me that he had been screamed at over the phone by one of those same relatives to take orders from her based on her business schedule regarding the funeral. The bullying had begun. When I saw a public post on social media promoting an event after the funeral at the restaurant those relatives managed, I called it out along with their behavior. That was the beginning of cyber harassment directed against me that went on for close to six years. Sixteen fake profiles popped up on social media, usually impersonating people of color or LGBT people. These profiles networked with all of the people in my social media network. The comments these profiles made attacked me by making insulting remarks about my physical appearance, denounced me as a liar or someone who was mentally ill and not to be listened to, and more.

tcf-social-joe-manetti-tile_1080x1080The cyber harassment was instigated and created mostly by my father’s relatives. But, it was supported by other people in the community. I was blind-sided each time that I witnessed one of them give a thumbs up to these posts attacking me as well as my mother. The sense of betrayal also added to the feelings of isolation and loss I was experiencing after finding my father dead. I attempted to move away from the area several times. I blocked each and every profile, along with profiles that gave such posts a thumbs up. I never responded or engaged with the relatives or others who supported the harassment. When they could not get to me via social media, a note with my image and vicious comments in red ink written across it was left on the windshield of my car for me to find after coming home from a Gay Pride Parade. My mother also received threatening and bullying notes in the mail. Finally, the relative who had been the chief instigator of the bullying, confronted me in a parking lot. She followed me to my car, blocked my way, and hurled insults at me insulting my masculinity while daring me to put my hands on her the entire time. 

I did go to the police. I did file reports. I did seek support. But, I was in an environment where no real effective support was offered or made available. I was also in a much more provincial environment with no comparable semblance of an LGBT community like the one I had enjoyed being connected to in Los Angeles. I had lost my support system.

In looking back, I have recognized a few truths.

1. I have learned that bullies consistently pick vulnerable targets. I sensed, from the beginning, that I was an outsider when I moved to Connecticut from Los Angeles. I perceived this even before the cyber attacks took place.

2. The ability to attack was made more readily available when I was more vulnerable after the death of my father. All of us, no matter how strong, have moments in our lives when we are in a more fragile state than others. Experiencing the death of a loved one is always a difficult time. It was immediately following my father’s death that the viciousness of the bullying and cyber bullying intensified. I was an easier target to those who were predisposed to bullying me from the beginning. They simply waited for the most opportune moment to launch in with their attacks.

3. There was not much effective support offered to me while I was being cyber bullied, and nobody in any position of authority or leadership stepped up to confront the bullying. In fact, a great many influential people in the local communities where I was living at that time actually supported and encouraged it. This allowed it to continue and escalate.

4. Bullies rarely continue to be bullies without support. What allowed the cyber bullying that targeted me to go on for years was the support the bullying received from so many people. They supported the bullying with silence or refusing to call it out, pretending that they did not know about it, or actually joining in with the attacks themselves. None of the bullying was ever effectively confronted, and none of the people involved with it have ever taken responsibility or apologized for it. Not one person from any local LGBT organizations that I had supported in the area stepped up or took a stand against the bullying that had attacked me as well as others in LGBT communities along with the people of color who had been mocked all over social media with the fake profiles.

WHAT I LEARNED

LGBT people need safe spaces. This is especially so in environments where there is an overwhelming lack of diversity or LGBT communities. I was made a target for a variety of reasons. But, one of the chief variables was the overwhelming lack of a supportive and diverse LGBT environment that I experienced when I moved from one location to another. 
Individuals, particularly LGBT individuals, need to have a readily available and effective support service that they can contact if they are being attacked or cyber bullied.

Excluding people or dismissing their pain as “whining” when they reach out for support can often make them internalize a sense of shame over the entire situation. I experienced this profoundly while I was being harassed. If a supportive environment is perceived in which the individual feels he or she can be heard as well as be themselves, it can save a life.

Nobody knows how to deal with all of this when it happens to them or someone they love. It’s learning process. I am still learning. The Tyler Clementi Foundation is helping all of us learn together. We have only just begun to take cyber bullying seriously.

Joe Mannetti is an anti-bullying blogger, public speaker, and multi-award winning LGBT activist. He has a Master’s degree in counseling, and he currently resides in Florida.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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O’Neal’s Story: “I always knew I was different.”

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I always knew I was different. I was always told so. My name is O’Neal Leon Wyche, Jr., and I’m a Champion Against Bullying. ​​

I grew up in a small town in South Georgia where everyone knew each other and their secrets. I was fortunate to have a loving mother and supportive stepfather, a safe home and food to eat. I had clean clothes on my back everyday, but they weren’t the right clothes. On picture day in the 2nd grade, my mother outfitted me in a dress shirt, trousers and a tie.

As I walked into the school, the majority of the other kids were dressed in regular casual clothing —T-shirts, jeans, sneakers. This wasn’t the first picture day that I’d worn dressier clothing to school, but it was the first time I’d notice the unusual stares from kids in the hallways. As soon as I stepped into my class, a few of my classmates, particularly three boys, burst out laughing. They’d made fun of me before, and today was no different.

​“Nice tie, O’Neal,” James said, barely able to contain his laughter. “You’re so corny!”
His words punched me in the gut, and I was terrified. That terror and feeling unsafe through teasing, taunting followed me for the next nine years of my life—though this was only the prelude for things to come. James would mock me and say mean things in class and at recess. In retrospect, I understand it now, but when you’re seven years old you don’t really understand why someone is being so mean to you.

O'Neal Wyche TileAs a child of Jehovah’s Witnesses growing up in the South, I didn’t know that having more feminine mannerisms and my religious beliefs would be the reason why I was bullied. But as I grew up, I was reminded of these differences constantly. As we went through each grade, James, John and Derrick bullying increased and got more intense. His aggression toward me led other students to tease me too, at his daring.

One particular day in Physical Education, he convinced a girl who would often get sent to the principal’s office for causing havoc in class to pick on me. She cornered me in the back of the gym and kept pushing me saying,

“What you gonna do? I dare you to push me back.”

While this was happening James and his friends were laughing in the background. None of the other students did anything, and I was afraid that if I did push her back we would both get in trouble—something I always feared as a kid. She then proceeded to grab my neck and choked me up against the wall. All the while, she was laughing and saying, “Do something.” Eventually the coach saw what was happening and broke up the huddle, but I knew that I lost. And this would only make the way I was treated worse now that a girl had humiliated me.

The environment at school became so bad that I would consistently return home crying, and I woke up in the morning not wanting to face another day of name-calling, hurt feelings or a possible ambush by other kids. I decided to share the details of what was happening at school with my mother. She told me that she understood, that these things happened all the time. She encouraged me to be strong and not let their words get to me—as hard as it was to internalize. My mother always told me that I was a very intuitive kid, which was a blessing and a curse. And while I knew her advice came from a good place, I could predict the results of her counsel. And as much as I tried to swallow my pain, when James and the other students would bully me, I couldn’t contain my shame.

My grandmother was a paraprofessional at my elementary school, so I began confiding in her. This was one of the smartest things I did—to a point. My grandmother spoke with my teacher and principal, and collectively they all began noticing each interaction I had with other students. And while this minimized the bullying in the class, it continued outside of the classroom.

​When I was in the 4th grade, the teasing from the same group of boys became verbal. I would hear outbursts in class:

“Why are your clothes so tight?”
“You act like a girl.”​
“Look at the way you hold your hand and walk.”
“You’re a sissy.”
“I saw you knocking on doors with those Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

O'Neal Wyche School PhotoI was a very timid and soft-spoken little boy: the kid that sat in the front of the class with his homework completed. I never wanted to get in trouble, so I never said anything back to the bullies. My sister Rosalyn, however, was the complete opposite. She has always been a strong outspoken person that didn’t care what anyone had to say about her. We’re 11 months apart in age, and we always went to the same school together. I always knew she was just down the hall in class, and I would see her at lunch or at recess. I began telling Rosalyn about the boys that were teasing me. “No, O’Neal,” she said to me after I told her what they’d been saying to me. “Nobody is going to treat you like that.” And she fearlessly approached them the next day after school.

While waiting to be picked up by our grandmother next to the big oak tree in front of the school, one of the boys came over teasing and pushing me around. Immediately, my sister grabbed him by the neck and pushed him up against the tree.

She tackled him to the ground as she screamed out, “Don’t bother my brother again!”

At that moment one of the teachers on outside duty saw what was happening and ran over to us to break up the fight. My grandmother also arrived and yelled out of the car window, “Rosalyn! Get off that boy and get in the car!” Although I was happy about what she did, it only made things worse. Her teacher scorned her the next day, and was sent home with a citation. Worse, I had allowed Rosalyn to fight my battles and had become more of a coward in the bullies’ eyes. The teasing continued to escalate.

As years went by, the bullying continued until it became my normal. As a freshman in high school, I realized that regardless of what my mother, grandmother or sister did, I was alone and I had to handle it by myself.

The first thing I had to do was question why these things were happening. I wanted to understand what the boys bullying me did. Through their eyes I started to analyze the way I walked, spoke and dressed. I realized the way I walked was lighter than the football players headed into the locker room. The way I talked was softer than the other boys who raised their hands in class. The way I dressed was more precise, too, like I was trying to express something. I saw what they did, suddenly, and it frightened me. This was the time when I was supposed to be a man, chase after girls, assert my strengths and rise up like the other boys. But the path, for me, was not as clear.

Even at home I was afraid to communicate this fear. Surely my mother, a religious, God-fearing woman would have taken my worries as reason to fear what kind of man I was. Maybe she’d even question my sexuality. The act of telling my family would have transformed the long-standing bullying into a conversation my family was not ready to have. So, just as my mother had told me, I kept it all inside: a secret from everyone including my sister. I was not only confused and hurt, but afraid of what would happen.

Things began to turn around, however, once I realized I was not alone.

During that year, one weekend in 1999, I watched a film called Cruel Intentions, which involved two vicious, wealthy siblings at an elite Manhattan prep school making a horrible wager to seduce a fellow student without falling in love. The brother, Sebastian, was a stylish, young guy that had everything and could have any girl he wanted, except for Annette, the object of the bet. Of course, he ultimately falls in love with her and changes his way—but it’s too late. And while some might write “Cruel Intentions” off as just another 90’s teen movie, Sebastian inspired me in two incredible ways: by finally identifying the root of his participation in bullying, and seeing someone change to embrace what they feel in their heart. His bullying came from insecurity just as strong as my own. And when he embraced connection with another person over how he was perceived by others, he showed his true capacity for love. He was an authentic human being with his emotions and also the way in which he expressed himself, which ultimately changed the way I thought about myself. I realized that if it came from a place of truth and expression, I could be whoever I wanted, wear what I wanted and do what makes me happy. And I saw the kids who bullied me as being just as insecure as I was and able to change.

With this new resolve, I immediately began the transformation process in stepping into my true authenticity.

I stopped dressing to fit in and started wearing clothing that I felt comfortable to me. Surprisingly, they happened to be dressier clothing—the clothing that had precipitated the bullying. The first day of junior year, I walked up to the high school in my new threads and a new attitude. I was confident waiting with all the other students for the bell to ring. I knew that I would get uncomfortable stares and teasing. I was a bit nervous, but I refused to falter. For the first time in my life, I truly embraced my uniqueness, not letting my worries get in the way of my liberation.​

It was the first time I felt alive and my true self.

This realization also shifted my focus to my future—which included experimenting with new clothing and personal style, creating art, being the only guy that actually enjoyed sitting in Home Economics. I even started a school dance crew that went on to win 1st place in a local talent show. I chose to change what was happening to me by embracing myself and putting my desires before anything else. I ignored the bullying and it eventually became silent noise.

O'Neal Wyche PortraitAs I learned more about individuals who are bullied and why students bully other students, I learned that those young boys were facing a terrible home life and were bullied by their parents and older siblings. Yearning for life’s necessities such as a safe, clean home. All things I was blessed with. I understand now and hope nothing but the best for them. This experience has truly helped mold me into the man I am today.

Special thanks to Shane Lukas, Stephen Jordan and Noah Ballard for the push and help with bringing this story into fruition.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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Susane Colasanti’s Story: Embracing Your Outstanding, Outsider Self

Susane's Story

When I was a teen, I would have been mortified to admit I was being bullied. My junior high and high school years were the worst time of my life. As a poor kid at the rich kids’ school in a small town, I was targeted for not having the same experiences as everyone else: for not wearing the right jeans, for living in an apartment instead of a huge house, for being a science nerd, for sucking at gym…really, just for being different. I was embarrassed by all the ways I didn’t fit in.

I am not embarrassed anymore. Because I have turned the negative experiences of my past into something positive.

After I left for college, I realized that the kids who were different in high school would become the grownups who change the world. You have to stand out—be outstanding—if you want to make a difference. I couldn’t believe I’d wasted so much time wishing I had fit in with a bunch of people I would never have to see again for the rest of my life. Out in the real world, I was surrounded by hundreds of accepting people who rocked their unique qualities. And I was finally one of them.

What made me keep holding on through my horrible teen years was the hope that one day I would be living my dream life. All of the bullying I endured has manifested in strength, insight, and my purpose in life: To reach out to teens and help them feel less alone. By writing teen novels like Keep Holding On, I can hopefully connect with teens who are feeling desperate. I know what it’s like to feel like you’ll never be happy again, that giving up would be a relief. On your worst days when you can’t even stand to be in your own skin, please know that you can create the life you want to be living. You can find your place to belong. You can be the person you want to be.

You are the change you’ve been waiting for.

tcf-post2163-susanecolasantiHelping others is an excellent way to make this world a better place while increasing the positive energy in your life. You can take a stand against bullying by being an Upstander with the Tyler Clementi Foundation. As an Upstander, you pledge to support anyone who is the target of abusive words or actions.

Speak out, stay strong, and never give up.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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Lana’s Story: When Failure to Respond to Bullying Drove Me to Suicide

Lana's Story

If you are facing any kind of stress, harassment or feelings of hopelessness, don’t wait another moment to reach out for help. Here are some great organizations that can help you now: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), The Trevor Project (866-488-7386) and the Jed Foundation

I’m really questioning the stories with schools filled with best friends and adults who are willing to help. The truth is that if you decide to speak up about bullying at your school, you should really think hard about who you can truly trust. Just because someone carries an Anti-Bullying Specialist title doesn’t mean that she cares what happens to you or will be honest. That’s what I learned. No matter how small your issues are to others, someone should be there for you. But your oldest friends could turn on you. That’s what I learned.

I was bullied at West Morris Central High School in New Jersey for almost two years. The bully didn’t punch or kick or hit, but she constantly cut me down and cut down my friends behind their backs. I was scared. I faked illness to cut school. It was the Captain of the school team. She was 17 and I was new, just a freshman at 14, so I didn’t say anything. But then my parents figured it out.

The Coach was informed, but she ignored eight written and verbal complaints. When we finally got past the Coach, the school said the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act prevented them from doing anything. The toughest anti-bullying law in the country, the one they passed after Tyler Clementi’s death, was the whole problem. The only thing they were allowed to do was to launch an official investigation, but the bully would definitely be cleared if I didn’t file a written complaint. So, my parents and I filed a written complaint. All we wanted was for someone to tell the other girl to leave me alone.

Make Your School Free of Bullying starting on #Day1

Download your free two page #Day1 Toolkit with more information about the Day 1 Campaign: how it works, how it will help your school and how you can get in touch with us to share your Day 1 Stories!

The ABS skipped our appointments three times in a row without telling me. I even saw the bully walk right in to speak with her during my time slot. So, when the ABS finally grabbed me later and told me how timid I was, my nerves were destroyed.

It gets worse. She asked me to tell her what happened but kept interrupting me. I wasn’t allowed to say anything that was in the written complaint. I hardly got a word out before she changed the subject and started talking about my grades and how, actually, I was stressed about my grades. “No,” I told her. Then she asked if my mother was putting too much pressure on me. My mother? How did she even come up in this conversation? “No,” I told her. So then she said I could come to her for counseling about my academic stress if I wanted and told me to write my story on a piece of paper, but I couldn’t repeat anything in the written complaint. A few minutes later the bell rang, and I had to go take a test. She wouldn’t let me finish later.

A few days later, I heard from a friend that the ABS was calling people in to ask about things and to ask about my mother. My mother? Again? Why is the ABS asking about my mother? The next thing I knew, the ABS emailed me to ask me the names of everyone I had been speaking to about the complaint. It had just been this one friend who contacted me, because she was being a friend. But I said nothing. Later I found out that the bully told the ABS about this girl. The ABS punished my friend for talking to me about bullying. So, first I was too scared to talk to my friends about bullying, and then, the ABS ordered me not to talk about it at all and punished any friend that talked to me. It would have been nice to have friends or just someone to talk to; I wouldn’t have any friends for much longer.

The ABS interviewed 13 witnesses about an incident that was 10 months ago at the time. The coach managed to see nothing and another six couldn’t remember things. Another six did back me up and several noticed that the Captain and me didn’t get along afterwards. I have their written statements now. However, the ABS wrote that ‘not one’ witness corroborated my telling of the incident. The official verdict was that I had made up the whole thing.

Naturally, the ABS told the bully first, and the bully told all my friends before I even knew of the decision. By the end of that day, I didn’t have friends left. Who could be friends with me when the school told them I was a liar? The ABS’s report was a loaded gun in the bully’s hands, and the bully used it to make me an outcast at school.

The bullying spread. It had been just one girl who was making me miserable, but now, it was her, her friends and all my former friends who were making me suicidal. The coach also tried to make my life unlivable as well and kick me off the team. She told me and my parents to stay away from the bully, but the same coach let the bully do anything. The bully wouldn’t let me talk to anyone at all without coming over so I would have to leave. I was totally alone, even in a crowded gym. It worked. I quit. But nasty rumors followed me and I was miserable, and I was alone. I didn’t know where to turn. I decided the only way out was to end my life. The sad thing is that I didn’t decide to fight back until they locked me up and strip-searched me in the emergency ward which was its own horror.

Even when I got back to school, the school wouldn’t do anything at all. The bully’s friend started harassing me. For example she told me she hated me with a burning passion and that no one liked me. In front of witnesses. Admitted it to the teacher. But the school said that was not bullying.

Now, I’m telling my story on YouTube, but the school is still hostile. They said that my email to the other students about bullying violated the acceptable use policy for email. It turns out that anti-bullying is not an approved educational objective at West Morris Central; I have that in writing. So, my experience is that I’m really and truly not allowed to talk about bullying in school. The statewide Week of Respect is coming up soon. That’s when we all get together and talk about how bullying is bad and how adults always do the right thing. That’s not what I learned.

But from experience, I can tell you that what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger. Since my videos came out, several other students in school have come to me with similar stories. I really think there’s at least one other student in real trouble because our ABS will not even take notice of what has happened to her. My life would have been a lot easier if I’d just shut up and suffered the bullying. At the same time, it’s so clear that what’s happened is wrong. I don’t know how this will end, but I can’t stop now because I know that’s not me. My school really doesn’t believe that bullying is something to be concerned about. The next bullied kid might really kill herself, and I can’t let that happen.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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James’ Story: An Unsuspecting Victim Meets An Unexpected Villain

James Story

From the moment a student enrolls, school becomes our second home. We create connections with our peers, mentor relationships with our teachers, and we learn the hallways of our schools inside and out. School serves as a refuge from conflicts in our personal lives, and sometimes the only solace we have is the familiar classroom of our favorite teacher.

Teachers are our de-facto parents for seven hours of the day. A teacher is who you run to for help when you’re being bullied.

But what if the bully is your teacher?

I was a freshman in a new school when my Biology teacher became my bully. In my personal life, I was struggling with my transgender identity. I was still coming out to my friends and family when I stepped into her classroom.

Make Your School Free of Bullying starting on #Day1

Download your free two page #Day1 Toolkit with more information about the Day 1 Campaign: how it works, how it will help your school and how you can get in touch with us to share your Day 1 Stories!

Under the guise of a unit on chromosomes, we began to discuss trans identity. The instructor shared her thoughts about how trans people were ‘freaks of nature’. What began as a simple conversation rocketed into a Google image search and what seemed like a slow-motion slideshow of every trans person she could find online. My class laughed and pointed. They used slurs that made my skin crawl. None of it would have happened if my teacher had not started and encouraged the conversation.

My eyes stung and my heart weighed a hundred pounds. My teacher never singled me out during the conversation, but she didn’t have to make me feel alienated and wounded. I felt bullied.

As I left my classroom that day after our hour and a half lesson on why my identity was weird and wrong, I felt distinctly unsafe. My teacher was no longer someone I could talk to when I was called names in the hall, or laughed at during lunch. I was an unsuspecting victim. She was an unexpected villain.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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Toni’s Story: Living Beyond Being Bullied and Beaten

Kidda's Story: Her Burn From Bullying Incident

If you are facing any kind of stress, harassment or feelings of hopelessness, don’t wait another moment to reach out for help. Here are some great organizations that can help you now: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386) and the Jed Foundation

During my 7th grade year, I trusted a friend with one of my deepest secrets. I explained to this friend that I was a lesbian. At first, I felt great! After all, I finally had a friend who I could share this part of my life with. However, one day we had a discussion about it in a private message on Facebook. Come to find out her friends had gotten onto her Facebook, saw our conversation, and before I knew it, my conversation was forwarded to almost everyone we went to school with. I went into school the next day to see kids laughing at me while I walked by, to hear comments such as “Ew she’s gross!” or “Oh, look here comes the lesbo.”

2016-09-tile-tonis-story-1080x1080In the following days, I decided to pretend to be sick so my Mom wouldn’t make me go to school. That plan eventually had to end after four days of not going to school.

When I got back, the situation had worsened. Not only did the whole 7th grade know but the entire 8th grade knew. There was no escape. My worst fear had happened! I had already made a big decision coming out to one person, but to be forced out to every single one of my classmates was unfathomable.

As time went on, I felt beaten down. I wished I didn’t have to go to school, and when I would get home, I would spend hours in my room crying. A thought I would often ponder was, “Maybe the pain would end if I killed myself. Maybe people would care then.”

There was no one I could turn to for support. My family was homophobic at the time, and the teachers stood by and witnessed me being bullied. Even after I told the guidance department and the principle multiple times, it did me no good. I had even been told by my guidance counselor, “Well, Toni, you should have expected this. If you didn’t want anyone to know you shouldn’t have told anyone.” It was that blame that finally silenced me. I began thinking it was my fault, and that I deserved everything that happened.

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As things were getting progressively worse for me, I still didn’t know what was to come. One day I went to the gym locker room to change for gym class. As always, the teacher would leave us there to change by ourselves and have us line up after we changed. This day was different. These girls had started picking on me while I was in the locker room, and they began to push and hold me down as I tried to fight. One of the girls had a lighter. She took out the lighter, held it upside down and burned my arm with it. I’ve shared the picture with you of the scar that remains.

After they were done, I felt defeated. After that, I still kept silent. After all, I had been told what was done to me was my fault.

Throughout the rest of my school years, I was bullied, and I had very few friends to reach out to for support. I never went to prom, never joined any teams, even though I was great at softball.

I am now twenty-two years old, and I realize that what was happening to me was not my fault! It was the school’s job to protect me, but instead they blamed the victim. If the school had followed their anti-bullying policy and had kept a better watch on students, I believe I could have had a better childhood.

Do you have a bullying story to share?

Your voice is important. It’s critical that real people hear the real harms and implications of bullying so that we can all understand the importance of standing up for those who need it and preventing hostility before it claims another victim.

By sharing my story, I hope to empower some of you! It makes me cringe every time I hear someone committed suicide because of bullying. Everyone who is picked on has worth. I want say to those who have been bullied or are being bullied: You are not useless, you do not deserve hate, and most importantly, you deserve to be in a place where you feel safe. Hang in there! There is a way better life waiting for you just around the corner.”


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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Brandon’s Story: Witness to Invaded Privacy Via Facebook

Brandon's Story Image of Person Staring at Facebook
I was a freshman in college in 2006, when 18-year-olds across the country were discovering that their MacBooks came with cameras. One of them was Anna, who lived in my dorm and decided to use hers to spy on her roommate.

Anna’s roommate was shy and awkward; whenever I saw her, she was reading a book by herself in the dining hall. She became the butt of Anna and her friends’ jokes, which I occasionally overheard. I don’t know what compelled Anna to take it one step further – to record her roommate – but she did.

To her grotesque delight, she ended up with a recording of her roommate masturbating. She posted it on Facebook, enabling privacy settings that meant only a small number of her hometown friends could see it. A friend of mine overheard her bragging about it. None of us ever saw the video, which fortunately never seemed to spread beyond Anna’s group of friends.

Portrait of BrandonAt one point my friends and I discussed whether there was anything we could or should do about it. We ultimately decided that as much as we wanted Anna to be punished for what she did, it was best that her roommate never find out about it. As far as I know, she never did.
 
A few years later, when I heard about Tyler Clementi, I couldn’t help but think of Anna and her roommate. I hope Anna knows how much pain she almost caused her roommate, and how lucky she is that her roommate never found out about it.


Do you need information about cyberbullying? Find cyberbullying resources here to assist you or reach out to the Tyler Clementi Foundation directly for assistance.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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Marci’s Story: Being Gay in the 70’s

Marci Redmond
Growing up in the ’70s and trying to figure out who you were was very hard. I knew I was gay when I was about 8 years old.

When I was in the 4th grade, I had told someone I thought was a friend that I liked girls. She appeared not to care at the time, but the next day in school, I started getting the mean looks and people wouldn’t come near me. I finally figured out what happened when I started hearing, “You’re a butch. Stay away from me”. On my way home, two girls I attended school with jumped me while screaming, “Butch, dyke, and homo!”

I know first-hand about bullying, and whatever I can do to help someone who has been bullied, or prevent bullying, I will do.

Do you have a story to tell about bullying? Share your story with others, and together we will end bullying.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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