I recently read in an article where a person apologized for "hijinks and pranks" that may have gone too far. The high school "hijinks and pranks" this person were talking involved pinning a student to the ground with the help of friends and cutting this person's hair. After reading the article, I was furious. This wasn't a silly prank on a friend, this was bullying. This was assault. I was itching to write a post about what a terrible human being this person is and how everyone should shout this person down. Then my shame came back to me.
I was a teenage bully.
When I was a freshman in high school, I picked on a kid pretty hard. Why? I'm not entirely sure. As I look back, it was probably because I couldn't stand up to my bully, so I decided it was easier to just pick on someone else. I had told a teacher I was being tormented by another student and I was told to stick up for myself. That is how things were handled at the all boys Catholic school I attended. That's how it's supposed to be, or at least, that is what the 14 year old Nick thought.
I wasn't a bully very long though. My bully ended up leaving school at the end of the year and the student I bullied left as well. I went about the rest of my high school career without much of a blip on the radar.
I'm embarrassed about this small time in m life. I have only told a few people about it and it recently came up in my #NerdyCast with Lyn Hilt. It's a part of my life I want to forget, but really embrace. It's a part of me that will never go away and will never be trivialized. I did it and I will never be able to take it back. I can at least own up to it and try to speak out for those who can't speak for themselves.
The thing that angers me the most about the article is the suggestion that the act of holding a kid down and cutting his hair is thought of as a prank. It is not a prank. It was an act of bullying. We all have done things we are ashamed of as kids growing up. It's part of growing up. The real act of a man is admitting the mistake, showing remorse and being a better person. I don't see that in the apology I read. Suggesting that act is horseplay sends the wrong message to everyone that it's ok to pick on kids if it's in jest. It's not.
As a high school teacher, I'm continuously haunted by my actions. Whenever I see anything remotely like what I did for that short time Freshmen year, it brings back painful memories. I use those memories to be a better person and help those become better people. I wish the person in this article did the same thing.