A valuable concept Handicap This Productions looks to promote with the forthcoming Making Minds Handicap Accessible: The Classroom Experience product involves respect and civility. When respect and civility exist in an environment, bullying ends. Today’s guest blogger, acclaimed anti-bullying speaker Tony Bartoli, demonstrates this with his real life story!
Cerebral palsy made Tony a favorite target for bullies. From fourth grade through ninth grade he endured constant bullying. We at Handicap This Productions happily give Tony the platform to share the day the momentum changed. The day respect and civility echoed the hallways at Tony Bartoli’s high school. Join us as we journey back to March 1984, with what started as just another morning.
7:48 a.m., I sit in my chair in homeroom. Every schoolkid knows the setting. This is the place where of course attendance is taken, but also where a kid gets to springboard for the day. Interact with a few fellow students, chat with some others or even ask the homeroom teacher what are the plans for his or her classroom for the day. Some talked about the new trails they were going to blaze on their bikes after school let out. Some did just sit in their chairs/desks seemingly bored. Not me. I was focused, but focused for all the wrong reasons.
The morning already started roughly, although not unordinary. You see, roughly 30 minutes prior one of the ringleaders of the bullying approached me as I sat on the school bus. Yes, several of my seven bullies rode on the same bus. Andy came up to me from a number of seats behind me and cradled my head and nose in his forearm and pulled up and back. A few minutes later there was some slight bruising and my nose was a nice shade of red. So I sat in homeroom waiting for those last seven minutes to go by and “start” the school day.
Carefully observing the minutes as they ticked to 7:55 a.m., I nervously wondered “How will the day continue?” “How else will they bully me today?” “Will it be the verbal tease of no good weak one?” Or, the often classic of “Hey there slow as a turtle!” with my notebooks being stripped from my hands and slid 16 to 20 feet down the hall? Or would I get tripped to the point that my nose would end up just five inches from that shiny, smooth but cold tile floor?
And, of course the all-encompassing questions, “Why me?” “Why the bullying?” Sure I had and have CP, cerebral palsy. But why did this group of kids close in on me like this? So often too, three or four times a week!
I had been through four surgeries to get me straightened out as good as could be. What started 14 years earlier as “likely never be able to walk” had turned into a life of “I made it this far. Now go farther!” But the bullies had other plans. Beginning at age nine, towards the end of third grade, they honed in on me. They made my life a living expletive. Why?
Now in high school the waves of bullying seemed increasingly greater. Why couldn’t I be just one, yes just one of the guys?
Little did I know, that morning, true joy was to come! I was about to find out a lesson. A good one! What happens when a fellow student, “just one,” steps in and does the right thing? Change was on the horizon!
Before I knew it the door to my homeroom flung open. Junior and football player Kevin Gattone came through the door. It seemed like only four steps and Kevin was at my desk. “Tony, just give me the word! Was it Andy?” Kevin knew I had a hard time talking about it and said just to gesture with a nod.
I gave the nod. Kevin sprinted out of my homeroom blaring, “That’s ENOUGH, That’s ENOUGH!!” “It must stop!” It only took him about eight seconds to get down the hallway. Other doors flew open and students piled into the hallway as they heard commotion. By this time, Kevin had literally dragged Andy by his desk out of Andy’s homeroom and into the hallway.
Andy still seated sat there with a stunned look on his face. Kevin took him by the shoulders, pulled him out of his desk and up against lockers. As a semi-circle of students formed around the main event it was hard for the teachers to break through the commotion.
All Kevin did was “Why Tony? Why Tony or anyone who has a struggle here at school? Why can’t YOU look at the great things he can do?”
Another couple of students joined the rallying cry!
“Yeah! Despite CP how about him doing quite well here at school!”
A student athlete chimed in “He is the slowest in gym class, but never have I seen him back down on an activity.”
Suddenly so many other students that were afraid to speak up did so. Kevin made the stand to not be a bystander. Â Whoa! That is it right there bystander, to not be a bystander when it comes to bullying. When Kevin decided to stop being a bystander the half decade of bullying I endured began to end. Truly evidence all it takes is one.
ABOUT TONY BARTOLI
Tony Bartoli has been working as an anti-bullying speaker since 2005. He has spoken in 27 states, plus Canada, Mexico City, and the United Kingdom. His presentation focuses on his experienced being bullied growing up and the importance not to be bystanders. When not traveling you will Tony Baroli at his home in Orlando, FL. For more about Tony visit tonyb4hope.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.