Viral bullying story teaches us how to fight the problem

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The biggest lie adults have ever told children is “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”

Anyone who’s been teased and bullied can attest to the fact that years after they’re heard, words still hurt. That’s why we should keep fighting bullying, the way Grayson Bruce and his mother Noreen, of Ashville, N.C., did.
Grayson is a 9-year-old fan of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” the popular reboot of the 80s cartoon. He bought a backpack of Rainbow Dash, one of the show’s characters, and clasmates belittled him; one even told him to commit suicide. It got so bad that Grayson didn’t want to get out of his car one morning, afraid to face the bullies.

His mother bravely took action and talked to the school counselor, who told her, “If you have something like this, you’re asking for trouble.” The situation worsened when the principal told Noreen that Grayson couldn’t take the backpack to school.

The school’s mandate was ridiculous, as it implied that Grayson was the one to blame and that the bullying was his fault. In addition, it was too arbitrary and nonsensical. Bullies can make fun of anything, from glasses and noses to names and hair color. What if what triggered the bullying was something that Grayson couldn’t just leave at home? Bullying victims should never take the fall for expressing themselves or just being themselves and that was exactly what the school made Grayson do.

Thankfully Noreen did the right thing. Instead of surrendering and making Grayson leave his backpack at home, she pulled him out of school.

Grayson’s story went viral and he received a flurry of support. A Facebook page called “Support for Grayson” got more than 30,000 likes and social media users employed the hashtag #standwithgrayson. Even Lauren Faust, the creator of “Friendship is Magic,” supported Grayson, tweeting, “#standwithgrayson ‘nuff said.”

This attention allowed people to see that no matter how much we talk about bullying, we still have to work on how we approach the problem and school administrators have to be held accountable for their actions.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. Noreen recently met with school administrators to discuss Grayson coming back to school. The administrators have sought to make amends and have rightfully said that Grayson will be allowed to bring his backpack. The school district will also continue to work against bullying. So, as ridiculous as its first mandate was, I’m glad the school is making the effort to work things out. It shows that, though they made a mistake, the administrators were ultimately willing to stand by Grayson and make the situation right.

Grayson’s story is inspiring because it shows how parents and children should react to bullying: not by accusing the victim and brushing the problem under the rug, but by understanding, engaging in active dialogue and having compassion for the victim. I applaud Noreen and Grayson for standing their ground and confronting the problem head on. Standing up for Grayson was a great way of bringing national attention to bullying victims, andm hopefully, other schools will take this story to heart and keep taking proactive steps to stop bullying.

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