The youth-written stories in YCteen give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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The Right School for Me—With No Bullies
Christopher R.
headshot

Names have been changed.

Finally, I was going to middle school! Many of my friends from elementary school were also going to M.S. 127, a public middle school in the Bronx. I thought middle school would be an awesome experience. But instead, I had the hardest two years of my life. It was like I walked into a trap.

In elementary school, there was no bullying. I made friends there, and they were nice to me. The classes were easy. It was actually fun to go to school.

So I was hopeful on September 9, my first day at M.S. 127. Four different academies with different types of students shared a three-story building. Mine was called Voices of Success Academy.

I walked into the building, and the place looked old. Many of the chairs were broken, and it was hot. The desks had drawings on top and gum underneath. The floor was broken in the corners.

The other kids were intimidating: Many were big, tall, and muscular and looked like high school students compared to a short unmuscular boy—me.

Loud Circus, Mean Clowns

I am mildly autistic and have an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, that states that I work better in a smaller class. But I do not think the school understood that. I was put in a class with 36 kids and two teachers. It was like a circus in there—students throwing papers at each other and talking and yelling. It was as loud as a daycare full of crying babies. All the noise gave me a headache.
It was hard for me being in that room. I felt agitated. I was going through puberty and I felt nervous around other kids. I worried what people thought of me. At fifth period I went to the cafeteria. This school assigned everyone to a boys’ table or a girls’ table for lunch.

But when I got to the boys’ table, they would not let me sit. There was space, but my classmates moved over to block me from sitting. One boy said, “Sorry, you can’t sit here.”

So I sat at the girls’ table. The girls weren’t mean to me, but still I felt embarrassed, especially on the first day of school. I didn’t tell my mom what happened because I was afraid she might turn it into a bigger issue. My mom is over-protective—she wants me to call her from everywhere I go. Mostly I don’t mind, but sometimes I want to be independent.

During the first weeks of school, I got bullied in the cafeteria. Occasionally I’m clumsy, and a few times I fell and kids laughed at me. One time someone bumped into me, and I dropped a bunch of Pokémon cards, and no one helped me pick them up.

Like They Forgot

I did have three friends: Alan, Steve, and Mike. I’d known Mike since 3rd grade, and he was more of a friend to me than anyone else. We hung out in school and occasionally went to his house and played with our Pokémon cards. The three of them were not bullied, and I didn’t talk to them about what I was going through. I didn’t want to talk about my personal issues because I was afraid of people talking about me.

In my second year of middle school, the bullying got worse—it got physical. Kids shoved me in the hallway. So I went to the dean of the school.

I said, “Can you please help me? I have been bullied for the past few months and I really need help.” He said he was going to take care of the problem, but he didn’t do anything. Then I went to the principal’s office and said, “Can you help me with my bullying problem? It’s been happening to me almost every day.”

image by YC-Art Dept

He said “We are taking care of it,” and then nothing. It was like they forgot or something.

The bullying hurt my grades. It made me not do my homework. I was mentally breaking down and I thought there was no way of escaping so I didn’t even want to try anymore. I was just tired of everything.

During the winter of my second year of middle school, two classmates started talking about how overweight I was. One of them grabbed my chest, around my nipple. All the anger built up from all the bullying made me lash out. I punched the kid who groped me over and over. Punching him was all my mind wanted to do.

A Sigh of Relief

During the fight we flipped over desks and rolled around on the floor. I got hurt all over. I felt dizzy, like I was going to faint. At first I only felt angry, but then I started to feel other negative emotions, like sadness and fear. My teachers pulled us apart and brought us to the principal’s office.

Nothing like this had ever happened before. I was a good kid, and I don’t like to fight.

The principal spoke to us separately and put us in detention for the whole next day. But I didn’t care. All I wanted was to pass my classes and leave the school. I didn’t feel guilty or scared of getting in trouble or anything else. I felt proud for standing up for myself.

After that, my mom helped me get a therapist. It was like a sigh of relief to let everything out in therapy. I told her how I was bullied nonstop and how I was teased about my weight. I told her everything I was going through. I could finally tell someone things that I couldn’t tell my mom. It was also great talking to her because I knew nothing would be shared with anybody. The therapist was nice to me and I liked that she was there for me every week.

I always felt better when I left therapy, but as soon as I had to go back to school it was the same old thing. Even with therapy and my determination to think positively, I had my first thoughts of hurting myself because I thought the bullying would never end. But I realized I was only 13, and I had more to live for.

Different kids kept picking on me, so a month after the fight I finally told my mom that I was being bullied and I couldn’t take it anymore. I told her that the school was driving me crazy and nobody there was helping me. My mom decided to take me out of school for a week and we started looking for other schools.

No Bullying Allowed

One school we toured was a small high school at Bronx Lebanon Adolescent Day Treatment Program. The school is part of a program that provides therapeutic services for teens with mental health needs. My mom and the staff there thought I’d been upset enough by the bullying that I needed more attention, in a mental health setting. They had therapists there who students could talk to any time during the week. The first floor was a clinic, and the second floor was the school.

One of the therapists, Ms. Williams, gave us a tour. I liked everything about the school. It was so small there were only two classrooms, plus a quiet room for people who need to calm down. The whole school had only 17 kids! Best of all, she told us there was a strict rule of no bullying. You could get suspended or expelled for bullying. So I switched schools.

When I started at Bronx Lebanon, I instantly felt more relieved. There were only seven kids in my class. When we behaved, we could go out on Friday and get lunch at a fast food place or a diner. On some holidays, we’d also get a $15 gift card from the therapists. It felt good to get that kind of reward and made me want to do well to get more.

I had Ms. Wedin as my therapist, and she was helpful. She helped me with my anger problem a little. She prescribed me medicine called Concerta to help me concentrate—I have ADHD—and another drug to help me manage my emotions. She also taught me coping strategies like breathing as I counted to 10 and walking away from an upsetting situation to collect my thoughts.

Most of all, I was so happy to not be bullied. That made everything better—my grades, my mood, and my confidence.

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(FCYU-2016-10-26)

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