Thursday, October 21, 2010

Standing Up to a Bully: A True Story

[Part 2 in a series]

Nine-year-old “Mark” couldn’t just stand there as a bully pulled a classmate’s pants down in the boys’ restroom. Mark intervened, telling the bully to stop. The bully immediately backed down and left the restroom.

Let’s be clear: Mark is not a big boy. He’s not aggressive. What makes this an extraordinary act is that he is a sweet, kind, and gentle young man who still has his own struggles with occasionally being the target of bullies. However, for some reason that day it was easier for him to stand up for his classmate than it has been to stand up for himself.

Standing up to a bully is hard enough for youths. Risking social backlash by defending a peer is harder. Even more difficult is telling an authority figure about the incident without feeling like a tattletale. Mark knew he should tell his teacher what happened because he had heard in Taekwondo class the week before that school officials need and want to know when students are being harassed.

Mark’s classmate was embarrassed about the incident and begged him not to tell their teacher. His friend didn’t want his teacher and peers knowing what happened, and also didn’t want the bully to retaliate for getting him in trouble. But Mark knew what he had to do.

“I didn’t want to hurt my friend, or make the bully mad,” Mark said later, “but I had to tell the teacher what happened.”

School officials later discovered that Mark’s classmate was not the only boy the bully had targeted. At least a dozen students later admitted that the bully had pulled or tried to pull their pants down, too. The bully was disciplined, and Mark and his friend haven’t had a problem with him since.

As a result of his courageous actions, Mark was named Tao of Texas Martial Arts Institute’s 2009 Student of the Year. His courage and commitment to using Taekwondo in a positive way – embodying the tenets of courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit – set a mighty high bar for those who follow.

It’s not easy to confront a bully, especially when someone else is the target. Could you do it? Would you?

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