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American Annals of the Deaf

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Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School

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One student bullied me frequently. He would be riding his bike on the school grounds and punch me on the shoulder as he passed by me. I eventually got fed up with his antics and tried to attack him, but he pinned me down on the grass. He was Chinese and knew karate. Good thing I didn't get hurt badly. My mom and dad would sometimes call his parents to stop him from bullying me. This would work for a short time, but then he would be back to his old habits. This was pretty much a regular occurrence between sixth grade and eighth grade. M 88
Tormented similarly to this boy, one female participant was involved in a situation where her family took the perpetrator to court. Unfortunately, this was to no avail.

One boy took special delight in daily torture. This was made worse by the indifference of the teacher. This boy took pleasure in striking my head, especially from behind. (To this day, if a person comes up behind me to tap on my shoulder or get my attention, I will nearly come out of my skin with fright.) We took this kid to court, and the mom refused to show up several times. So, the judge threw out the assault charges. At school, the kid continued to taunt me by saying, "Nothin' you can do to get me." And, it sure was that way--from the teacher to the principal to the court system. It was a very bad time. F 84

Reading these stories brought back some painful memories of my own. As I read the bullying reports, I thought, "I guess I was fortunate to not be bullied too much." Then I wondered, "How much bullying is too much?" How can I compare the amount of bullying I experienced with that of someone else?

As previously mentioned, I had two friends on Mead Avenue, Mary Ellen and Bettina, who remain my friends to this day. There was another girl in the neighborhood, however, who took it upon herself to make my life miserable. She never became my friend, even though all four of us lived on the same small block throughout our K-12 years. This girl would regularly convince Mary Ellen and Bettina not to play with me. When they were "on her side," they would tell me lies that exploited my hearing loss, like "Gina your mother is calling you," and then they would run off and play without me. Or, they would hide in the bushes and yell my name, knowing that I would hear the yelling but not be able to figure out from which direction their voices were coming.

One particular incident burns in my brain. I was nine or ten years old. A deep pipe trench had been dug alongside my house. Mary Ellen, Bettina, and I would talk about how much fun it would be to play in that trench, although we knew that was probably forbidden. One day, they told me they had to go do their homework. A while later, from my bedroom window upstairs, I saw them running in that ditch with that other girl. I was so hurt and angry that I retaliated against their trickery by using a long rope to tie their three bicycles together in a most complicated manner. I am sure the rage I felt was similar to that of the boy who retaliated against the bully with a pencil. He used a pencil, I used a piece of rope.

Somehow I remained friends with Mary Ellen and Bettina. I am not sure exactly how that happened. I think I waited a few weeks and just went over to their house, or they came to mine, and we were friends again. But nothing was ever said about those incidents. After the rope incident, they never ostracized me again. The troublemaker was (mercifully for me) not around during our junior high years; she went away to a private school or lived elsewhere for a while.

To this day, I wonder why she engaged in this form of bullying. It bothered me enough that when it came time for my twentieth high school reunion, I made a point to ask her if she remembered these incidents. She said she didn't, so I dropped the issue. Still, I wonder.

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