PUBLISHED: 2:31 PM on Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Take a stand for those facing bullies

Were you teased as a child?

I was teased relentlessly for wearing an ugly and cumbersome back brace for my scoliosis and sporting a mouth full of metal braces on my teeth.

When the teasing started I'd reply with this childhood mantra: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me."

But names really do hurt.

Mom and Dad did an incredible job of assuring me that my identity involved much more than the names children called me.

They taught that self-pity could take a back seat to an I-can-do-it attitude - an attitude that remains with me today.

They stood in my corner.

Childhood bullying cuts deeply into a child's character. And as much as kids say, "Sticks and stones can break my bones...", I believe bullying creates scar tissue that can cripple dreams and self-esteem.

My friends offered to share their accounts of childhood bullying:

"As a freshman, I was constantly picked on by the seniors because I was smaller than my classmates. Sometimes their cruelty made me cry - they'd hit me on the head with their class rings or push me around.

"Luckily, there was an older boy who looked out for me. He became a good friend of mine. That was probably the worst experience I had in school," he said.

His friend stood in his corner.

Another friend said this:

"In second grade, I got tummy aches and made up reasons to stay home from school - all because I hated the bus stop.

"There were three brothers there who put twigs and pencils in my mouth. They'd say, 'Here's your breakfast, Beaver,' because my permanent teeth came in so twisted and large.

"Although I've had braces twice as an adult, I still have a hard time speaking in front of people without covering my mouth; I feel what I have to say is unimportant.

"Bullying and name-calling definitely impacted me. To this day, I will correct a child if they are bullying another one," she said.

I'm glad she stands in their corner.

Bullying really can hurt a child. But I know that together, we can help reach out to the children in our lives who need someone to speak up for them.

Because if we don't stand in their corner, who will?

Judy Halone is a member of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.