I have profiled bullying extensively over the past month with a focus on gay teens who committed suicide due to bullying. Now I would like to share a survivor story. Tyler is not gay – he is just a child. He survived bullying and serves as an excellent illustration for why “telling someone” is so critical.
Nothing (and no one) can squelch the “spirit” of 11-year old Tyler Wilson. Since becoming the only male cheerleader for a youth football league, Tyler has endured ruthless teasing. He realized that others would tease him, but he felt committed to cheerleading as a way to further develop his tumbling skills. Sadly, the verbal harassment eventually turned violent.
Walking home from school one day in September, two bullies started verbally assaulting and punching Tyler. He eventually pushed back just to continue walking. Soon, Tyler was being punched and kicked ruthlessly. This encounter ended when one of the bullies picked Tyler up and slammed him to the ground, breaking his arm.
Tyler’s mother filed a police statement and reported the incident to the school. It was only then that she learned that Tyler had been physically attacked by bullies at school on two prior occasions. Police records indicate the two boys who attacked Tyler have been charged in youth court.
Tyler told ABC News affiliate WTVG, “I’m going to keep going.” He hopes to make it to the collegiate level. Despite immense fear, Tyler re-joined his cheerleading squad for the final game of the season with a cast on his arm. His bravery has made him a national inspiration. Male cheerleaders across the country have reached out to Tyler encouraging him to never give up.
Despite all this attention – and the attention that will no doubt follow Tyler for years to come – the impact of bullying is devastating. While I believe that Tyler has an inner strength that will get him through this tough season, it cannot be stressed enough that young kids like him must be watched carefully. We may be impressed with his courage, but we should never think everything is alright. Tyler will need much support to emotionally heal from this act of violence. Let us remember Tyler and other vulnerable youth in our prayers.
If you are being bullied (regardless of your sexual orientation), I hope you are encouraged by Tyler’s story. The most important lesson in his story is the urgency to share this secret with a person in authority and your parents. You need to do that today. Please feel free to contact me if you need further guidance. Do not remain silent for one more day: get help now.
For the record, many of you will recall that former President George W. Bush was a cheerleader at Yale University. Male cheerleaders are some of the most athletic competitors in high school and collegiate sports.
(1) Watch Tyler’s Good Morning America interview.
(2) Read Tyler’s story in this ABC News article.
(3) Watch a powerful bullying prevention video on YouTube.
(4) Watch one of YouTube’s most watched tributes to bullycide victims.
(5) Watch a cute anti-bullying ad on YouTube.
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