Local students hear from anti-bullying speaker
SCHUYLER COUNTY—High school students at both Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour heard an anti-bullying presentation, Thursday, Feb. 7.
Jamie Nabozny, anti-bully advocate, spoke at each school. Nabozny shared his own story about being bullied in middle and high school, while in Ashland, Wis. Nabozny explained he was bullied because he was gay. Students first watched a documentary called “Bullied,” which chronicles Nabozny’s story. He was recently named a Defender of Human Rights by the Robert F. Kennedy for Justice and Human Rights.
Nabozny was bullied so much that at one point he ran away from home with a friend who was also gay. Nabozny said his friend Jesse was not out at the time. He explained the two did not even talk to each other at school because Nabozny didn’t want Jesse harassed as well.
While he was still at school, Nabozny said he would arrive early, stay late, and run to classes to avoid being confronted by his bullies. However, it got so bad that Nabozny was beaten and had to be hospitalized. He was eventually convinced that he should sue the school. Nabozny won a landmark lawsuit in federal court that establishes that all young people including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered deserve a safe educational experience.
The lawsuit specifically named his middle school principal, assistant high school principal, and high school principal. However, Nabozny said he later received an apology from his high school principal. Nabozny explained the principal really believed the assistant principal, who was in charge of student conduct, was handling the issues.
Nabozny said besides a few teachers who spoke up for him in school, no students ever did. He added he understands they didn’t want to become targets like he was. Nabozny explained students need to lead the cause in preventing bullying at school. He said they have to make the decision to stand up for others. Nabozny added the administration also has to set the tone.
“What happens here affects the rest of your life,” said Nabozny.
He said that after high school bullies don’t stop being bullies. He pointed to a California study that showed 90 percent of “random acts of violence” were committed by people with a history of bullying. The victims are also obviously impacted from bullying.
Nabozny explained he spoke at another school in upstate New York thanks to a student. He said he was surprised to find out the student responsible for his visit was actually a straight, football player. Other students told Nabozny they were scared to be offensive around the football player. Nabozny found out the student’s older brother had been bullied in high school for not acting like a boy. The football player’s brother eventually ran away to New York City and still rarely speaks with his family.
“It’s unfortunate people don’t know the impact of the words they say,” said Nabozny.