Ella F., Junior
A friend of mine and I once almost got expelled from a summer program for bullying. The absolute last thing I wanted to do was leave; spending four weeks under the warm California sun studying art was my idea of paradise. But, our fate was being decided, and we had no choice but to wait until a decision was reached. On the college campus that summer, five hundred kids were attending courses in their given art discipline, enjoying the pre-college experience and each other’s company. The administration of the program was composed of the director: a strict, older man, and two seemingly friendly women. Most kids never had to spend a minute with them. Unfortunately for us, these were the people to whom we had to reluctantly apologize, to plead our case and hope they would spare us from the inevitable parental punishments and disappointment if we were to be sent home. After a day or so of wondering and waiting anxiously, it was decided that we would be able to stay in the program. We were not spared, though, from being yelled at by the program director, and a leftover feeling of anger.
The bullying that we had been in trouble for was sending a photo to a group chat, a meme that was, indeed, intended to be offensive to a certain individual. It was on purpose; it was meant to be revenge. After this bullying incident had been reported by its victim, we were yelled at by all three members of the administration. They called our actions disgusting, and they claimed that we were “marginalizing” the boy it was directed at. We were in the classroom, and had been excitedly awaiting a visit from them, thinking we would be getting good news. We were expecting that we would soon be hearing that Grant would be expelled, that the boy we had gotten revenge on would be gone soon. Instead, they were mad at us, much to our surprise. They even acknowledge what the boy had done to deserve it, the reason we wanted to get back at him.
We asked if he would get in trouble as well as us, and they told us no. “To get expelled, you need three strikes. What he did amounts to two and a half.” That’s what they told us. We realized that we had come closer to expulsion than a sexual harasser.
Our retaliation had been in response to this boy, Grant’s, actions. From the beginning of the program’s four-week session, a few girls had been receiving a multitude of strangely invasive and inappropriate text messages and Snapchats from him. He would often excuse it by saying it had been a joke, but yet, these efforts continued. These actions towards me and others were, at first, tolerable albeit uncomfortable. This soon escalated into him telling everyone – teachers included –stories about me that were completely untrue, the details of which were disturbing to say the least. Unfortunately, many people believed him. It got to the point where many girls felt unsafe around him, worried about what he might do or say if they were alone. It seems as though if someone is making others feel unsafe, they should be asked to leave. Yet, he only had two and a half strikes.
In the eyes of the adults running the program, my actions were much worse than his. I had hurt someone’s feelings; I was marginalizing someone. It seems ridiculous, and my friends and I were completely shocked, disappointed, and angry. But, we were forced to accept it, as there was nothing we could do. We continued to walk in pairs through the hallways. We did not get the protection we wanted, or deserved. We should not have been as surprised as we were; it seems fitting, now, that he would be protected. As infuriating as this is, it is not shocking. And this type of thing continues to happen. Were we wrong to do it? Maybe, but who really deserved to get sent home?