By Diya Mittal, age 12

Bullying. It’s a word that we all know. It’s something that we have all probably experienced or participated in. Have you ever been a bystander? Or an ally? I have been both.

The victim in this story will be called Steve for his privacy.  

At the beginning of sixth grade I noticed that people in our group made more jokes about Steve than any other person in our group. At first, I ignored it chalking it up to the fact that he wasn’t very friendly and sometimes insulted people.

As the year went on, I realized that people were targeting him. I really wasn’t sure what to do so I pretended I didn’t notice, after all, he was being mean back, right? Plus, the people bullying him were my friends and so I felt like I couldn’t tell on them or contradict them.

Then, one of my best friends said that Steve had insulted her because she was black and he had said something racist. Everyone was horrified that he would do that and the complaints were finally made to teachers.  It blew up into a big thing, nobody would talk to him or sit with him. Then we found out that Jenny had been lying, Steve had never said that stuff and the few witnesses had just played along with Jenny’s lie.

I was furious. She had basically ruined his social life for no reason, he had never been mean to her! All my friends forgave Steve but pretended that Jenny had done nothing wrong. Still, when we went on our class trip, everyone bullied him as usual.

Finally I decided to do something, I talked to a trusted teacher, and started hanging out with Steve. In doing so, I realized Steve was really nice and funny. This made me feel much better about the situation and i’m sure it made him feel better too.

My biggest worry was that my friends would be mad at me but they got over it – though they didn’t really change their behavior. By becoming an ally I felt much better about myself and was able to improve Steve’s situation.