In the year 2015, I would expect that we should have mastered loving one another by now. After all, we have had 6,000 years of practice! Unfortunately, this is not true. And it is the reason that we need to focus on things such as diversity and inclusion.
Recently, this was brought into focus in the area that I live. You see, I live in a super white area of the world. Washington state has about 4% African Americans. It is over 80% white. Seattle is on the list of the whitest cities in the US and I don’t even live in Seattle! I live in the privileged suburbs.
In these privileged suburbs, racism recently reared it’s ugly head. At the very same school that my son went to, 3 African American youths lives were threatened. Why? For being black. Simply being a person of color made these youth a target.
My son knows something about being a target just because of who he is. He decided to share his testimony with the local school board to talk about the issues he faced and what is and isn’t possible. And so, I share with you Colin’s testimony to the Northshore School District.
This is why we need to practice diversity and inclusion at every turn. This shouldn’t happen in 2015.
No child is safe until every child is safe. (written testimony below video)
Hello, my name is Colin Stewart, I’m nineteen, transgender, assigned female at birth, and I was a student of the northshore school district during my elementary and junior high school years. I decided, my sixth grade year, that I no longer wanted to deal with the seclusion and name calling I dealt with because of the intersections of my quirks, and interests, and decided being at a school the rest of my elementary class was not going to be at, was better than being at a school with the three friends I had. My logic being, at least the bullies that call me clown, freak, weirdo, and so on, wouldn’t be there. I could start over. I started my seventh grade year at Northshore junior high school, with high hopes of the friends I had always wanted, in an environment that was safe.
But nobody knew me, and I didn’t know them, and outside of a friend I made in choir within the first week of school, I didn’t talk to people much. I’m loud and outgoing, I love talking to people, but nobody wanted to talk to me. It didn’t happen instantly in this case. People slowly started repeating the phrases I was far too familiar with. Freak. Weirdo. Abnormal. Annoying. Lesbian. Bumblebee, because I happen to like the color yellow. I learned what it felt like to be tripped in hallways, and have our teacher hall monitor tell me I was in the way as I picked up my belongings, be slammed into walls hard enough that it left bruises, and to have a teacher tell me that he couldn’t do anything if he didn’t have names. I learned to say thank you to being treated cruelly, and that if I volunteered for lunch detention and then sat in the library during the rest of lunch, I could usually avoid a confrontation.
At the end of the school year, I didn’t rewaiver, and went to timbercrest junior high school for eighth and ninth grade. My experience wasn’t much better – with a week of school somebody asked me if I was really a lesbian. My life started to fall through the cracks as I struggled to maintain my studies and the few friendships I had. The last place I wanted to be while I was at home was school, not because I dislike learning, but because I was nervous of the next name, the next jab, the next time somebody decided they had the right to push my body around. I told a teacher at one point that I was being bullied and didn’t know what to do, and he told me, kids will be kids, and nothing happened. As I continued to struggle with keeping up with school while this was happening, a teacher pulled me aside, and told me, I was a failure, and that I wouldn’t go anywhere if I continued like this. Like it was all my fault.
In tenth grade, I left the school district after a few meetings with the school counselor at Woodinville high school, and told me there was no way she could make sure I was safe, even though that was the first year I was publically transitioned to Colin, presenting with my name, pronouns, and identity. I went to that school for three days, and within then, got called names I won’t repeat. I wavered into the Seattle public schools district and attended nova high school on capitol hill, which has a zero tolerance bullying rule. They make activism into a way of life, making sure that no comment about your appearance or gender or race, is just shrugged off like my experiences repeatedly were. The one time I was called a name at that school, I told a teacher, and within the day, the student was pulled aside and spoken to. He apologized to me. He had repeated scheduled meetings with a counselor about his standing with the school, and I never had a problem with him again.
The bullying and cruelty that is happening in the northshore school district currently, is not new, nor is concentrated to one environment, one group of people, or one school. Something needs to be done. Because I survived long enough to run away. But not everybody is that privileged.
No child is safe until every child is safe.
5 thoughts on “No Child Is Safe”
I very much appreciate the need for and richness of this post. So glad you did it. Thank you!
It was a family project. Thanks, Jamie.
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Terri, thank you for sharing this. Colin, I am so very sorry that you’ve had to endure what you did. NO one should be treated like that, ever. Thank YOU, as well, for bringing it to the attention of more and more people. Awareness is crucial. Our society IS changing, but it is happening so slowly that sometimes it doesn’t seem like it is happening at all. Each of us only has one voice, but together we can all effect real change. 🙂 Keep your chin up and never quit fighting to be heard.
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This is a very revelatory account. What does it take to make a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on bullying happen at a school? Commitment across the board and follow-up, I imagine, not only among the staff but also in the student body. No bullying; no compromise. I’m glad to know that works!
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I can’t understand how schools allow this kind of bullying to continue. I’m so glad that you are speaking out, and also that you found a school with zero tolerance for that kind of behavior. It is wonderful that Colin had the courage to speak out about this.