City Desk

Kids Say the Darndest Things (About D.C.’s New Anti-Bully Law)

Vince Gray, scourge of bullies

Mayor Vincent Gray signed an anti-bullying measure into law today, making the District the 18th jurisdiction in the nation to make being mean to other kids a crime. Supporters hailed the law as a great move for the city’s kids, so we figured asking the kids what they actually thought about bullying might be a good idea.

Jason Cedillos, 13, attends Oyster Adams Bilingual School in Woodley, where he says there isn’t all that much bullying. “There’s a little bit, but it’s not really big,” he says. Asked what should happen to the bullies, he says, “I think they should just talk to the kids and see what’s causing them to take their anger out.” And when he says “they,” who is he talking about? “A counselor, a teacher, someone close to [the bully].” No mention of bureaucratic involvement.

Seven-year-old Emma and nine-year-old Luke Morehead are from Delaware, but the siblings say they have no bullies in their school. If he did encounter a bully, Luke says he would “tell a teacher, walk away.”

Javate Joseph, 12, insists there are no bullies at Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science. The school teaches its students about bullying, though, and Joseph is an expert. He recites three kinds: verbal, physical, and cyber-. “They tell us not to bully and show us clips of bullying,” he says.

When asked, Joseph says he thinks bullying should probably be illegal. “It can kill people and it’s harmful,” he says. “You can hurt somebody’s feelings and they can want to kill themselves.” But the kid says he’s never encountered any bullying; everyone at his school is nice to each other.

Of course, some kids do encounter milder forms of bullying. Madison Byrd, 7, says there are two bullies in her class at Jennifer Elementary, presumably the one in Waldorf, Md. “They talk about other people, like, ‘their clothes don’t look cool,’” she says. “Bullies are mostly telling people to change their life and be cool, but they’re not cool.”

Byrd’s friend Ajah Hawkins, 8, agrees. Hawkins goes to Harriet Tubman Elementary in Columbia Heights, where she says she has been bullied. She says bullies should be suspended from school. Byrd and Nikaya Richardson, an eight-year-old student at Garrison Elementary in Shaw, nod in agreement. But when the idea of the government preventing bullying comes up, their answers aren’t so simple. “No,” Byrd and Hawkins say when asked if bullying should be illegal. But Richardson says yes, and then Hawkins changes her mind.

At her school, Byrd says, the teachers talk to the kids about bullying, but the kids can handle it on their own, too: They just annoy the bullies. “I annoy them too because sometimes they be mean to me,” Byrd says.

Hawkins has a counterintuitive solution to the bully problem: Give them their own school, and let them bully each other. “I think all bully kids stay in a group and see how it feels,” she says.

The bullies at Marie Reed Elementary School in Adams Morgan, where 10-year-old Jordan Waldroa goes, mostly pick on the younger kids. He doesn’t like the bullies, but he agrees with his 15-year-old friend Jamil Key, who points out that bullies aren’t bad people through and through, that circumstances can push them into mean behavior. “Sometimes they might have been bullied themselves,” Key says. “It’s not their fault.”

“It’s not their fault, but it really is,” says Jordan's 13-year-old brother, Michael, who goes to Lincoln Middle School in Columbia Heights. “Even if you did have bad parents, you shouldn’t take it out on others, though.” Assigning blame and beating out the bullies might not be quite so simple as the politicians would have it.

No bullies could be found for comment.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Joe

    Did you ask any of the police officers on duty at the school? Or, did you go to any schools that had police officers on duty? Contact me when you want to do a follow up to this story. Do it right the second time.

  • seeseehpounder

    Well look at Joe trying to bully Julia. Hey Joe, Julia is not a chicken you're a turkey. I attended 13 different schools growing up because there were bullies at each one. Instead of standing up for myself I would hand over my lunch money and change schools. They also used to call me Stinky Nuts because I'm allergic to soap therefore my nuts stink. They were being factually accurate with that name, but I thought it was mean and it would make me cry. I told one of the bullies "I know you are but what am I" to which he replied by kicking my fucking ass so bad that I peed my pants. This just added fuel to the fire and the bullies started calling me Pee Pee Dingleberry which doesn't even make sense but still made me cry and suck my thumb. That bullying experience was actually when I was in college so I obviously had to transfer to another school. I picked Lincoln Technical Institute and am currently rushing Sigma Nu. It's exciting and I'm hoping to to make a lot of frat brother friends. I'm already planning some pretty big things for Greek Week even though I haven't gotten in yet. I just hope this doesn't distract me from my class work. So far I haven't had any problems with bullies at LTI but I'll let you know Julia. Hang in there and don't let this Joe character get away with bullying you. Walk away and tell an adult.

  • Charlie

    I know someone who is Jewish and he talks about the painful memories he has from the anti-semitic things other students would say to him at school. I am surprised because I never heard anyone say anything like that.

    I sometimes think of school as the job that children perform. In the workplace this type of behavior isn't tolerated because the business could be sued for allowing a hostile work environment to exist. Think of anti-bullying laws as serving the same purpose.