KARLA MARTINEZ/Coachella Uninc
Editor’s Note: October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and in California this week Governor Jerry Brown will decide whether to sign into law Assembly Bill 256 (Garcia), a bill that would crackdown on students who torment others online and after school hours. A 2008-10 study from KidsData.org found that in California schools, 42 percent of 7th graders, 35 percent of 9th graders, and 28 percent of 11th graders reported being bullied at school at least once in the past year.
It’s hard for me to admit this, but in the 5th grade I was a bully. I would torment other girls in my school by constantly trying to hurt them with my words and actions. I even picked on kids who were older than me because I’d convinced myself that I wasn’t afraid of anyone. I would go after people I disliked or who I considered a threat – anyone who tried to act tougher than me.
At the time, I didn’t think about those I was hurting. I was more concerned with my own situation. My parents were going through a divorce. My siblings were too young to understand, but I was completely aware. I was filled with anger because I couldn’t stop my parents from splitting up; I felt helpless and alone. Although I had friends, I didn’t trust them enough to let them know how I was feeling.
Then one day, things went too far. My friends and I didn’t like a particular group of sixth-grade girls, so we planned to attack them when they least expected it. We hid in the school bathroom, ready to attack. It was only then that I noticed blades in my friend’s hand. I was shocked when I saw them, and for the first time, I was afraid. I convinced my friends to postpone the fight until after school. We did not jump the sixth-grade girls when they walked into the bathroom – but they did see the blades before my friend had a chance to put them away.
Later that day, my friends and I were called into the office. The sixth-grade girls had reported us to the administration. The police were called in and we were questioned about the blades. We were threatened with expulsion, but we ended up being suspended for a week.
For me, the experience was a wake up call. I realized that my life needed to take a drastic turn, and I committed myself to making a fresh start in middle school. I eventually stopped talking to the friends who had a bad influence on me. I focused on my studies and found that learning could be an escape. I began thinking about the future and all it held for me – I began to have dreams.
I never had a chance to apologize to the kids I bullied, so I would like to offer a sincere apology now to everyone I hurt physically, verbally, and emotionally. My intentions and actions were wrong. I can only imagine how my classmates felt, and how their family members must have felt because of my childish actions. I know I would be upset if my little brother were being bullied.
These words have been hard to write, but hopefully they will be read by other young people who are bullies, like I once was. I know the burning feeling inside when things don’t go your way, how you bottle up your anger until you explode and take it out on innocent people you see as weak. I hope that one day, like me, other bullies will come to see that the sooner you make a change and stop hurting others, the sooner you will be able to start working toward your own dreams.
Karla Martinez is a sophomore at Olive Crest Academy, a public charter high school in Coachella, California.