“I was bullied,” Isabella said.
Isabella DiGiacomo, a sophomore at Harriton High School, suffered from the beginning of her kindergarten term till the end of her eighth grade year. Bullying was her enemy. “It was difficult waking up in the morning,” Isabella said. “I was fearful of going to school, and worrying about being bullied.”
She was primarily bullied because of her weight. Dr. Julie Lumeng, professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan, conducted a study that showed “obese children were 65 percent more likely to be bullied than children of normal weight.”
“A bully’s goal is to demonstrate that they are powerful,” Dr. Eliza Byard, executive director of the gay, lesbian and straight education network, said. “They make others feel miserable and isolated, but it only works if others play along.”
In Kindergarten Isabella was subject to verbal abuse. “I was called a big, fat lesbian,” Isabella said. “Being so young, I had no idea of how to handle it.” Trusted adults can be the helping hand. That could mean a parent, a sibling, or a teacher. Julie Hertzog, director of the PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, said, “Anyone that they gravitate towards.”
Isabella’s parents, Robert and Paula DiGiacomo, decided to take action right away. “We went in to see Isabella’s kindergarten teacher,” Mrs. DiGiacomo said. “Her teacher and guidance counselor decided on observing Isabella, just to make sure all was okay.”
As the years progressed so did the bullying. As the years progressed her weight began to increase. “Food became my escape,” Isabella said. “It comforted me.”
As she entered her middle school years, Isabella faced extreme bullying. It went from verbal abuse to both verbal and physical abuse. “I would get on the bus and students would call me fatty patty,” Isabella said. “They told me I should be put on weight watchers.”
From September till the end of October of her sixth grade year Isabella kept her bullying from her parents. “I would scream, and cry, begging not to go to school,” Isabella said.
“We would have never found out if it weren’t for Isabella’s friends who witnessed the bullying on the school bus,” Mr. DiGiacomo said. “I was very depressed. It was as if I had failed her.”
Isabella’s bullying didn’t become physical until her seventh grade year when another student slapped her in the face. Due to this situation, Isabella’s IEP teacher (Individualized Education Program) created a line of sight for her. A line of sight is where a group of teachers stand outside their classrooms and outside during recess to make sure Isabella was safe going to and from classes.
“She missed 52 days of school in seventh grade,” Mrs. DiGiacomo said. “It was extremely heartbreaking. It caused a huge impact on our family.”
On the day of Isabella’s 14th birthday she was subject to ethnic slurs. “I was told to go back to hoagie town,” Isabella said. “I thought it was rude to my ethnicity and I was hurt.” Mrs. DiGiacomo waited at the bus stop for Isabella like she would everyday. “The look I saw on her face, was a face I could die from,” Mrs. DiGiacomo said.
Bystanders, who stand there and do nothing, encourage the bully. “One person has to be the show,” Akil Patterson, CEO and Founder of the Patterson Project, said. “They make derogatory remarks toward a person’s religious and personal background.” Bullies feed off of the energy of those around them.
The bullying has stopped for Isabella. “Bullying is not tolerated what so ever in high school,” Mrs. DiGiacomo said.
“I realized that it’s not me who there is something wrong with,” Isabella said. “It’s those who try and put me down.”
Anyone at any age can be the subject of bullying. For one individual it started when he was older.
“I was subject to bullying too,” Matt said.
Matthew Brennan, a sophomore exercise science major at Cabrini College, suffered from bullying during his middle school years. “It all started when I was in sixth grade,” Matt said. “I had already been going through some rough times at home.” Matt had trouble making friends.
Matt was a very hyperactive child; he was also diagnosed with ADHD along with a few other disabilities. “Kids would call me retarded as I walked down the hall,” Matt said. “They would call me pizza face since I had many pimples.”
In seventh grade, Matt had a tutor who stayed with him throughout the day. “Kids would pick on me for that,” Matt said. “I was so fed up with people that I started swinging at kids.” At home Matt was constantly angry at the world.
“I started growing cold and angry with the people who went to school with me,” Matt said. “Fights would break out between my family members and me.”
In eighth grade Matt’s mother sent him to Hilltop preparatory school. “It was at this school that I finally made close friendships,” Matt said. “The bullying had stopped.”
A small act of courage can change a whole life.
“Any form of bullying is unethical,” Matt said. “If anyone witnesses bullying, don’t just stand there. Do something about it.”