Upperclassmen Support Bullied Underclassmen

Source: Chicago Tribune

Cassandra Ridder was devastated when her 12-year-old son, Brody, came home from school last week upset that he could not get his fellow classmates to sign his yearbook — a common practice at many American schools.

Writing in his own yearbook, Brody said, “Hope you make some more friends. — Brody Ridder.”

“It broke my heart,” Cassandra Ridder said.

Brody, a rising seventh grader at the Academy of Charter Schools in Westminster, Colorado, has attended the school since fifth grade. Despite having a healthy friend group at his previous school, since starting at the charter school in 6th grade, Brody has struggled socially and been repeatedly bullied.

After making school officials aware of incidents of bullying, Brody’s situation temporarily improved. However, when school yearbooks were distributed in late May, the bullying reemerged.

When Brody asked his classmates to sign his yearbook, “they told me no,” he told his mother.

“We try to teach kindness in our family, and not seeing any kindness from students in his class was appalling to me,” Cassandra Ridder said.

Feeling angry and helpless, she shared a photo of her son’s yearbook note in a private Facebook group for parents of the school.

Recalling the objective of her post during an interview, Riddler said her goal was to encourage parents to talk to their children about bullying. Looking for support from fellow parents, she never anticipated the subsequent events.

Dozens of supportive comments poured in and when older students learned from their parents about the incident, they decided to act.

After receiving a text message from her mother about the incident, Joanna Cooper, 17, the 11th-grader decided, “I’m going to get people and we’re going to sign his yearbook. No kid deserves to feel like that.”

Cooper remembers being Brody’s age, and the pressure she felt to fit in. Signatures in your yearbook are about more than just popularity, she recalled, it’s “knowing that you have friends.”

“Signing someone’s yearbook was all the rage,” she said. “That people would tell him no and deny him a signature, it just hurt my heart.”

Contacting several of her friends, they visited Brody’s homeroom class together the following day. To both her surprise and Brody’s, other students were planning the same thing.

As upperclassmen began signing Brody’s yearbook, several of his classmates who had previously refused to sign, signed his book also.

“It really showed us that coming in to make his day was already having an impact on the people in his class,” Cooper said.

She and her friends didn’t just sign Brody’s yearbook; they also made an effort to get to know him.

“It made me feel like I was not alone,” Brody said.

Maya, for her part, promised Brody that beyond signing his yearbook, she would continue to be there for him. She gave him her phone number, and they have already met for ice cream with a few of her friends. Touched by the students’ actions, Brent Reckman, chief executive at the Academy of Charter Schools said, “A lot of students are struggling with peer relationships and social skills. It’s up to us to figure out how to help kids and families with it, but it’s a challenge faced by all schools right now.”

“It can be really tough to be a teenager,” he continued. “I was really impressed with how our students stepped up when they saw a peer in need.”

Ridder echoed his sentiment. “It made me feel like there’s still hope,” she said. “Not just for Brody, but for humanity.”

Source: Chicago Tribune