April 23, 2004
Reported by Theresa Schmidt
The 5th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School this week is a grim reminder of the need to stop bullying in schools. A local woman says the school bullying she went through as a child still haunts her--she says it was so bad, she often thought about suicide.
It's hard to imagine how school yard bullying could lead to terrible violence such as Columbine, but some adults who were brutally bullied as children admit-- they can identify with the kind of anger that might have triggered the bloodbath. Berit Dupre of Lake Charles says bullying she suffered started because she was from Germany. "I cried a lot. I was told that the parents didn't want the kids playing with me. I got blamed for the war. I was called everything from Hitler's daughter to his wife, to his granddaughter. I mean it was just-- it was a horrible, horrible thing."
Plus she says kids made fun of the eye stigma she suffers. "Dancing eyes. That wasn't the worst of it. They called me some other names because of my eyes." Berit says the bullying she endured went from first grade until graduation from Sulphur High in 1976. "I threw my cap up and said, 'Thank God I'm out of prison.'" Berit is married with children and works in a department store. But she says the hurts she suffered have never really gone away.
"Like sometimes I still have nights, where I have nightmares. I see the kids' faces and I hear them, calling me names. It's just something that once they start ingraining it in your brain, it just seems to stay there."
Berit is speaking out with the hope her story will help spare other children from the anguish she went through. She urges adults to stop and prevent bullying. "It's a very big problem. And parents and the teachers and the school system need to address the fact that it needs to be tended to. I mean it needs to be dealt with."
And she urges the children who are victims to talk until somebody truly listens. "There's a lot of kids that commit suicide because of the bullying. Quite a few times in school I contemplated it. I thought about it. It would have been, to me, it would have been so much easier if I was just gone. It just makes you feel so low, that I thought about it a lot."
Berit applauds groups working against bullying. They include broadcasters. The actor in a public service announcement urges, "If you know someone who's being bullied-- tell somebody. You'll be a hero. And you don't even need a red cape for that."
And the U.S Department of Health and Human Services has a web site for kids and parents. It plays a hip sounding cartoon & jingle: "Lend a hand! Take a stand! Stop bullying now!" And kids can learn from the cartoon bullies and victims, with dialogue that is probably all too common at many schools. Cartoon bully: "Watch where you're going, freak!" New girl at school: "Sorry." Bully: "What are you apologizing for? Your clumsiness or your sorry outfit." It's estimated that 160 thousand students stay out of school each day due to fear of bullying.