John Westphalen’s Story

“As a student, I went through many years of bullying at school, mostly in junior high and the first couple of years of high school. Though still very confused and unsure of my sexuality, every day I would be subjected to verbal harassment, being called “fairy,” “queer,” “gay-boy,” and many other names. Occasionally the insults would be accompanied with kicks, punches, or knocking books out of my arms. One day in junior high, at the end of the day, as I was attempting to wind my way through the crowded hallway in order to exit the building and board my bus, a group of boys grabbed me and shoved me into the phone booth on the front hall. I tried to force my way out, but was no match for the boys holding the door shut. During what seemed like an eternity, they would open the door repeatedly to spit on me, then close the door once again. Finally, I saw my math teacher and saw my opportunity to get out of this horrific situation. I screamed and waived frantically. We made eye-contact. Then she fixed her eyes straight ahead, and walked on, leaving me to my tormentors. These boys did finally head to their own buses, and I made it to mine just before it pulled out. When I got home, I told my mother what had happened, but she was overwhelmed with six kids and was ill-equipped to extract me from the hell I was experiencing in public education. When I became a teacher, and eventually an administrator, I vowed that I would never tolerate bullying as I encountered it. I hope I was successful, at least in some situations.”