Friday, October 20, 2006

The Bully Chronicles: Stepping on Toes

The bullying began with something really small – my toes!

Shortly after I beat the never-beaten-before Josh in a game of Around the World using Math Flash Cards, our class lined up to go to the bathroom. Josh and I were chosen as “Line Leaders” since we had been the top two at Around the World.

We stood outside the bathroom, waiting for another class to finish their turn. Our teacher wandered off to talk to the other teacher. I remember this moment very clearly – Josh looked at me, smiled, and deliberately stomped down on my foot! I yelped and grabbed my foot. Our teacher hurried over to see what was wrong.

“He stepped on my foot!” I tearfully pointed at Josh.

Our teacher fixed her eye on Josh. “Did you step on her foot?” she asked sternly.

“I don’t know what she’s talking about,” he lied.

I could see the confusion in our teacher’s eyes. We were the two smartest kids in class. We were both well-behaved. Finally, she asked B, who in line behind Josh.

“Josh didn’t step on her foot,“ B corroborated Josh’s version.

Mrs. Swanson then asked A1 in line behind me. I saw A1’s cheeks flush bright red. “I didn’t see anything,” she claimed softly.

I couldn’t believe it. The rest of the class was keeping an eye on Josh, who I imagine gave an imperceptible smug smile. Mrs. Swanson had no choice. She had to believe the kid with the witnesses. So, I had a sore foot and a new reputation as the girl who made things up.

After that pattern was established, it became unbreakable. I dreaded our three-times-a-day bathroom breaks, because whenever he could, Josh (or one of his boy lackeys) would step on my foot – hard. I’d try to move out of the way, but then I’d get in trouble for not staying in line.

I told my parents about it. They talked to Mrs. Swanson, who had to admit she’d never seen Josh do it. She also had to deliver the bad news that no one else in the class had seen it, and proposed that perhaps I was making it up.

I wasn’t, of course, but my parents were torn. There wasn’t any proof, and I had just started school. Maybe I was lacking attention? So, they told me to just try to stay out of Josh’s way.

Well, that advice turned out to be impossible to follow.

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