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Auntie SparkNotes: My School Sided with My Bully

Auntie SparkNotes: My School Sided with My Bully

Kat Rosenfield

Dear Auntie,

I'm fifteen, and for the longest time, I've been bullied by this guy I'll call "Tom." From the beginning of middle school, Tom has kicked me, hit me, spat on me, stolen my things, called me names, and has separated my friends from me before. He once found out that I liked this girl, and he told her that I liked to grope girls so she'd hate me. Every time my parents and I have brought things like this to my middle school or high school's attention, Tom would just get a stern talking-to or, at worst, a lunch detention. It hasn't helped at all.

Here's the mistake I made: when I was on Facebook with a friend who asked why Tom liked doing stuff like this to me, I replied, "Because Tom's a retard who lacks basic f--king empathy."

When Tom found out about this, he went straight to the school faculty and showed them my comment. Then I got sent to the office and got lectured by three angry assistant principals because it turns out that Tom has ADHD and dyslexia. I told them that I didn't know about that, but they told me that they were going to suspend me for the rest of the semester, and that they'd expel me if I didn't give a face-to-face apology for using "hate speech" against Tom.

My parents are both absolutely furious with the school for this, and I'm too scared to think. Look, I was wrong to use the r-word, and I know that people can be hateful towards others with disabilities. But why is it that I'm being threatened with expulsion over one word while Tom only gets lunch detention for giving me a black eye? And now there's word going around the school that I hate disabled people, which isn't true either! WHAT DO I DO?

I'll be honest, Sparkler: If it makes you feel better and won't get you arrested, you should do whatever the [expletive] you need to.

Because assuming you haven't left out any relevant information here, the fact that you're being threatened with expulsion over one unrestrained moment in which you used one poorly-chosen word to describe a kid who literally spits on you for funzies is an injustice on an absolutely epic scale. And when life hands you this kind of giant crap sandwich—the kind that suggests some massive cosmic malfunction in the part of the universe that governs all things karmic—then far be it from Auntie SparkNotes to begrudge you whatever metaphorical condiments would make the sandwich easier to choke down.

That's why when you ask me what you should do, my answer is that you should do whatever gets you through it. (With the aforementioned caveat that it shouldn't be anything illegal, which is why, much as it pains me to say it, I cannot recommend that you surreptitiously lace Tom's lunch with powerful and fast-acting laxatives and then pull the fire alarm before he can run to the toilet). Stockpile a few good comebacks, keep a log of his hideous behavior on file for future reference (or as material for a future bestselling roman a clef), and challenge yourself to come up with new, inventive, and accurate ways of describing him that don't count as "hate speech." (I'll even start you off with a sampler pack: "troglodyte," "turd," and "malicious asshat." You can have 'em for free.)

Oh, and if you're feeling up to it, do take a moment to be thankful that your parents, at least, have the sense and decency to be angry on your behalf. With their help and a little luck, maybe you can even change your schedule so that Tom has less opportunity to torment you from here on out

And of course, if anyone approaches you about the idiotic rumor that you hate disabled people (also known as the part of your letter where Auntie rolled her eyes so hard that they were last seen tumbling down the street in the direction of New Jersey), you should set the record straight. But don't waste your time actively trying to quash it—not just because you have better things to do, but because rumors have a tendency to grow legs and keep running when you try to chase them down.

Trust that the truth will win out, because that's what the truth does, even if it sometimes takes longer than we'd like. Trust that most people—and certainly any person worthy of your respect—will know better than to swallow every last bit of baloney that the high school rumor mill churns out. And though I know it's incredibly hard to imagine right now, trust that Tom will reap exactly what he sows for the rest of his miserable life, because miserable is the only kind of life you get when you're so deeply rotten inside. It's just your bad luck that you ended up in close enough proximity for some of that rot to rub off on you—but you also don't have to carry it with you, which is the big difference between you and this guy. You get to leave him in your rearview, whereas he's going to have to wake up and see himself in the mirror every day, forever — and you, my friend, are getting the better end of that deal. Tom might have managed to game the system enough to make your life difficult for a couple years, but your life is still the better one, and it will continue to be. You would not want to trade places with him. Remember that, and remind yourself of it as often as you need to… until the day comes, and it will come, when you don't need to, because you don't think about Tom at all.

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Topics: Life
Tags: auntie sparknotes, high school, advice, rumors, bullies, making mistakes, how to cope with bullies, how to handle bullies

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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