Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry

What Can I Do About Biased Bullying?

'Kids Can Be Really Mean'

A senior in high school who is overweight says she has been the target of harassment and bigotry for years.

"It started in middle school, when classmates would tell me my life wasn't worth living and I should just end it now. And it's kept on right through high school. Kids can be really mean sometimes. It's not just adults. I don't understand how anyone can be that mean to someone else. I just don't understand."

Respond to the bully. Some people find power in "owning" their identities. For them, a response could be, "I like my body the way it is." Or, "This is who I am, and I'm comfortable with it." When bullying is ongoing, practice non-aggressive ways to respond; brainstorm witty or humorous comebacks.

Create a safety net. Stay close to friends or adults. Let them know what's happening. Students, teachers and others often are willing to stand together against such bigotry. There truly is power in numbers.

Check policy. Does your school have an anti-harassment policy in place that applies to this situation? Or anti-bullying rules that could be used to address the bad behavior? If so, apply them. If not, lobby for such policies.