The cacophony was deafening as junior high students filed into the gym for Honor Assembly. Nervously perspiring, Mr. Oliver spoke into the microphone, “Everyone please find a seat so we can get started.” He made the announcement three more times before the bantering, giggling and jostling subsided enough to commence with the ceremony.
The first award went to Jessica Malone for perfect attendance. Cheers and applause reverberated throughout the gymnasium. She was one of the pretty, popular girls belonging to a group that tormented some of the other students. Molly didn’t like her, although part of her longed to be accepted by Jessica and her friends….or they’d at least like her.
After several awards were presented, Molly’s name was called. “For outstanding achievement in academics, sports, and extra-curricular activities, our last award goes to Molly Larsen.” Mr. Oliver smiled brightly into the student population.
Molly squeezed by the kids in her row so she could make her way to the platform. Someone stuck a leg out as she walked by causing her to stumble and almost fall. She felt her face flame as she heard snickers. Tears pricked her eyes as someone whispered “Molly Mutt.” Someone else reached out and yanked the back of her hair as she walked by, adding to her embarrassment.
She had been picked on almost constantly since starting this school. Her family had moved here from a small farming community where she had lots of friends. She just didn’t fit in here. She had made some friends, and one good friend, Lindsey, but Lindsey got picked on also.
She accepted the plaque from Mr. Oliver, keeping her head lowered. Walking slowly back to her seat, she would’ve tripped again if she hadn’t seen the foot thrust out as she walked by. She stepped around it, but heard the snickers and whispers “Farmer Molly Moo-moo.”
She sank into her seat next to Lindsey who reached over, pulling off a paper stuck on Molly’s back that said “I am stupid.” She had no idea who put it there.
Tears slipped from her eyes. “Why do they hate me? I wished we’d never moved here.”
Lindsey leaned over, whispering, “They pick on us for fun and because they’re just mean. Maybe we should go talk to the principal.”
When Molly got home, she threw her award on the sofa. Locking herself in the bathroom, she stared at her face in the mirror, grabbing both sides of her hair and pulling until her head hurt and strands of hair came lose. Tears of anger, frustration, and pain coursed down her cheeks. She plugged in her curling iron and held it against her wrist until the skin blistered, the pain a welcome relief from the anguish inside of her.
“You’re so ugly, that’s why they don’t like you,” she said through gritted teeth to her reflection in the mirror.
But Molly wasn’t ugly at all. She didn’t have the style and finesse that the city girls had, but she wasn’t ugly. Even had she been what some considered unattractive, it was certainly no justification for how she was being treated.
The move had been a difficult enough adjustment for the sweet, shy girl. She had no skills or defense mechanisms to deal with bullying. Her fragile psyche was severely wounded. She wanted to scream at everyone that her dad sold farm and construction equipment, and had never been a farmer - not that that would make a difference.
Filled with despair, she stared at the blisters on her wrist. She recalled reading on the internet about a boy who had committed suicide because he was bullied. She closed her eyes, feeling desperate hopelessness, asking herself if that was her only way out. She had tried to talk to her parents, but they just kept telling her that she needed to give it more time. If they didn’t care, who would?
Her parents fussed at dinner about the award, but Molly didn’t respond, continually pulling her sleeve to cover the blisters. She had a plan churning in her mind. She would show everyone! They’d be sorry!
Fortunately, a kind, intuitive teacher spent time with Molly over the next few days. Eventually the school began an Anti-Bullying Campaign, and Molly and Lindsey were asked to sit on the student committee.
*Per the American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry, nearly half of all children will experience school bullying at some point. In some cases, serious depression and attempted suicide can result.
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