It's that time of year again. Stores stock every school supply imaginable. Parents and guardians frantically rush around to find the best deals on supplies and clothes, while their kids beg for the trendiest clothes around and gizmos and gadgets that "all the kids have."
Hallways that have been empty for weeks fill up again with students. Friendships are made, rekindled, or broken, depending on what's changed over the summer.
And the kids who have had a reprieve from being bullied are now right back in the thick of it.
Most, if not all, schools have anti-bullying rules. Some places, like Massachusetts, have laws regulating the reporting of bullying and what action should be taken. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. The rules of "don't say anything or you're next" and "if you're friends with that kid, you'll be bullied too" are stronger than any rules adults can put in place.
When I was growing up, I both looked forward to and dreaded the first day of school. I looked forward to it because it gave me a break from my parents, from our house that never got cleaned, and from sitting in my room or the living room because I had no friends to spend time with. I dreaded it because I knew that the kids who had picked on me the year before would still be picking on me.
There are a lot of kids who feel that way. For some, school is an escape from negative home lives; for others, school is the negative place. For still others, like me, there is no safe place; home and school are equally bad.
If you're in a school this year, pay attention. Look for the kid who's struggling, the one who's being bullied or who comes to school and tries to blend into the wall. Talk to them. Maybe even become their friend. And if you have reason to, report what you see to someone who can help.
Trust me, it can make all the difference.