Dear Rule-Makers at Public Schools, please be the solution instead of the problem…I realize you’re busy and you feel most comfortable following a big fancy handbook of rules, but students are people, and should be dealt with on an individual basis. I understand the need for some sort of order, maybe some protocol, but if the details offered in this article are correct, you just look silly, and you make me want to homeschool the kids I haven’t even had yet…  And you guys wonder why teens are so angsty…

I was in the 8th grade (like 18 years ago) in a middle-class, relatively “safe” neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, at a school that has never had a reputation for having issues. At that school, I was the victim of severe verbal harassment, physical bullying- I was slapped in the face, punched, pushed down, regularly. I witnessed girls getting their heads bashed against the tiles in the locker room (on several occasions. Not “a few” but several, lets just say in excess of ten, to be clear). I had personal property stolen and vandalized. I counted the days I was “legally” allowed to be absent and still graduate, and made sure I took all of them off, and I was legitimately sick often because of the stress.

I never provoked the bullies- who were not comprised of one mean girl, or one vicious mini-gangster, but of several adolescents who had no concept of self-respect or respect for others, and whose actions were never punished. Not.once. It was the way of the world at our school.

The most memorable (positive) moments from 6-8 grade are few and far between. I built a totem pole out of foam-clay that survived the 94′ Northridge Earthquake and remained on my teachers shelf – and is, as far as I know, still there. (It should be, it was awesome.) I made a book of 52 Haikus. I created a mock-newspaper centered around Greek mythology, and made a cologne ad that said “ZEUS: WHAT A GOD.” I played the mother of an alien named “Arbo Glog” in a school play. I sang several solos in the advanced choir, where my teacher doted on me- she is probably the only reason I survived that school.

Academically, I grew at a normal pace, I guess. Mostly I was transfixed on my survival, which sounds dramatic, but what sort of attitude is a child supposed to feel when they are taunted or hit on an almost-daily basis? The school called my home every time I was absent- a policy enacted, I’m sure, to avoid truancy, but no one did anything when I reported the things that happened to me.

I have a feeling things haven’t really changed. Out of the 1500 or more students, maybe this only happens to a small percentage. I can’t really tell you. But I highly doubt it. And whether it happens to 1 child or 100 children, it is still a problem.

But you know what doesn’t surprise me, knowing what I know about middle schools and the way the students are treated? That an 8th grade student was bombarded about a photo on her notebook. Not a controversial photo with a swear word or gang colors, but a photo of her brother, a US soldier, and one of her softball team. From what I gather (from the article on LAIST) this has something to do with some stupid rule about maintaining order. I can’t imagine I’d agree with it if I read their handbook, but I bet you that in the two times the girl was pulled aside and had to try to negotiate the harmless photos on her binder, the school officials could’ve stopped another child from being terrorized by a student doing worse things than decorating their personal belongings.

In the end, the little league photos were not approved, but the soldier photos remain. I am proud of my country, but I am ashamed of the public school system.