Bullying in Wayzata
Last week I wrote a little blog post that asked questions about suicide in the Wayzata School District, the High School, in particular. Never, in a million years, did I dream that my post would cause such an uproar. I had no idea that asking questions of the District or commenting on Wayzata in less than a positive light was taboo. I also didn’t realize that over the years, the decades, even, people who have attempted to speak out have been silenced. The silenced stories are heartbreaking and dark. And they need to be told, and they will be eventually.
Today, the dust has settled, Â the commotion has lessened, and the ‘fallout’ is fading. After fielding hundreds of comments, now I can reflect. What a learning experience this was! The things I learned are sad, scary,and disturbing.
Bullying is a culture in Wayzata
and it starts with the adults. Anyone who would deny that is living in such a delusional rose-colored la-la land that they are probably beyond help. Bullying is a problem and I will show you.
After I published my blog post last week, the events that followed were quite surprising. My story begins minutes after I published the letter about suicide in Wayzata when I received a phone call from the principal. He is not a bully and I am not calling him a bully. His words speak for themselves. He was gracious and we had a nice conversation. While he did not ask me to take the post down, he did say that the reason for his call was because he had been alerted about my blog post and the negative message with which I portrayed Wayzata.
For more than a week I fielded comments and I learned how vicious people are. For a week, I fielded comments. Many were supportive, many were less than supportive. What caught me off-guard by the degree of vitriol. A post about teen suicide turned into a three-ring circus by bullies who crawled out of the woodwork like cockroaches and attempted to dominate the conversation.
I read, re-read, and read again my article and I do not regret a word that I said in that post. What I do regret is that I allowed comments by cowards with fake names and email addresses. Anonymity allowed people to leave comments that they wouldn’t have said if their kids knew their identity. Anonymity is a dangerous thing. It affords people the freedom to say horrible, nasty, hurtful, threatening things while hiding cowardly in the shadows. Anonymity allows people to say things in the dark that they’d never say in the light. Anonymity allows people to forget manners, courtesy, respect, kindness, compassion. Anonymity allows adults to hide behind their cowardice and forget that they are supposed to be role models to our kids. Anonymity makes it really easy to be a bully.
The internet enables bullying like nothing else.
I did not write my open letter to Wayzata under a cloak of anonymity, I wasn’t hiding, everyone knew who I was, yet people thought it was okay to hide in the shadows, launch attacks at me behind their ‘cute’ and ‘clever’ user names bogus email addresses. They believed that they had “the right” to comment however they wanted, and that if I didn’t post their comments, I was denying their rights, and they called me gutless. Â People hiding in the dark like rats without an identity for all to see came into my blog and demanded rights! I was stymied. When I reminded those anonymous cowards that it was my blog, and my discretion to post or not to post their comments and suggested that if they didn’t like it, they were certainly free to start their own blog, they called me childish and immature.
This quote is from a commenter to the blog post and she sums up the Wayzata bullying culture nicely:
“THIS is depressing as a person who is trying to get through stuff now. It’s like there’s no hope of that mentality ever changing. Timing is everything though, I needed to see it now, and thank you for being brave, its costly! And yes, you’re an adult, so really, like we EVER had a chance as kids. We did not. People are on attack, again, the students are giving their stories, good, bad. It’s the adults that make my heart black and heavy. Here it all is, the way it was, the way it is and dammit( I know, I swear?) the way it will remain until someone wakes the ___ up. Peace to you Penny.”
Until last week, I didn’t think bullying was this bad in Wayzata
While I feel lucky that some of my kids got through Wayzata unscathed, I am left with a bad taste in my mouth and am unsure of the future and safety of my last child in the District. As an adult, I can take this ‘backlash’. I have the life experience to handle it, to process it, and deal with it. I cannot even imagine having to deal with this kind of thing THAT HAPPENS EVERY DAY IN SCHOOL- as a kid. And yet, our kids are being taught that this kind of behavior is okay by the bully adults of Wayzata. Shivers run up and down my spine as I think about it.
But now, I have no doubt that Wayzata has a bullying problem,
yet there are people who are quick to deny it. After all, there are “Respect Retreats”, and they wear orange bullying awareness t-shirts. I’m told by students that they don’t like the respect retreats because they don’t work. Eveyone makes nice for a day, and then they go back to their natural mean behavior. And the t-shirts…..”.lot’s of people wear orange shirts”, I’m told. A t-shirt isn’t going to do anything or change anything”.
This is what Wayzata bullying looks like:
“I’m not saying it is okay [bullying], I’m just saying that you’d be a fool to not expect some type of backlash REGARDLESS of whether this is Wayzata, Tonka, or a small little school in the middle of nowhere. I’m not condoning the 1 or 2 people that can make threats behind a computer screen but I think that you need to realize its not Wayzata’s bullying problem that is leading to this. I also think that you are hypocritical saying that Todays society think its okay to JUST SHUT DOWN anyonethey dont agree with because I feel you are doing the same.”
This was written by an anonymous writer, and my question is how am I being hypocritical when I’m out here, being who I am, asking questions, and demanding people step up?
“You are so hypocritical it baffles me and I can’t believe you haven’t realized your idiotic and ridiculous accusations and your method of conveying them is 100% your fault and you should realize that in todays society (ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD) that if you post something controversial you should be prepared to face the consequences because its inevitable.”
“If you’re going to have the audacity to post something this accusatory then you should be willing to take the backlash that follows. You would think a grown woman would have the maturity to realize this but I guess it takes a college student to attempt to set you straight (which will fail since you fail to recognize any flaws of your argument and only attempt to sadly defend your ridiculous post.”
Is that the same as if you are female and you wear a low-cut dress, you should expect to be raped?
“I can tell you’ve been backed into a corner. Your aggressive, panicked, I-am-right-no-matter-how-disproved-I-am defense is pretty pathetic. Stop protecting your argument and start taking real action as a parent to your children.”
–This was rich…..they even called me “God”—-posted by someone who has so much time on their hands that they took the effort to create the fake screen name “pennyisgod” and bogus email address email@example.com—feel free to email him or her!
“I DARE YOU TO TURN ME IN! I was not threatening you. You just have to know what fall out you are creating for yourself. In no way did I ever threaten you or your child. I ask that you find help and peace with this. SO SO sad. AND in case you didn’t read it the first time. BRING THIS TO THE POLICE . Please! Maybe they can get you help.”
“You are a child. I am not the one looking for press on this as it is obviously your intent. I do have teenagers and 4 well-adjusted children. This is not a threat when I just say STOP. STOP this insane rant and let it go. You are making more and more enemies the longer this goes on. That’s a promise. I feel sorry for your daughter. She’ll be the one who will more than likely get the fall out from your big, insensitive, arrogant mouth next year when school starts.”
“…you are not doing anything but making yourself appear attention-seeking.”
“You are treading on dangerous territory”
“If your intentions were to get your name out there. mission accomplished, but the cost to you dear Penny Sue, I’m afraid for your days ahead
“you’ve mentioned your brother several times. Did you blame his school for his suicide?”
I didn’t get into the bullying that my brother endured his entire life. He killed himself when he was 25 years old.
I simply do not understand how you are sure the school is RIDDLED with bullying, peer pressure, horrifically mean people. This is NOT our reality.”
“shut it down”
“I am embarrassed for you for saying that. I get that you may feel attacked but what were you expecting from this blog post? You sound like a 13 year-old girl, not an adult. When you deliberately attack the school, you’re going to get some backlash. I hope you have the guts to show this comment on your blog but I definitely won’t be surprised if you don’t.”
(I published it)
“No wonder he divorced you! Unwilling to listen to other viewpoints and completely accusatory!”
“You are throwing out guesses as facts and it’s disturbing.”
“So grateful my mother had enough pragmatism to never behave in this childish manner while I was in high school. I would have never learned how to address tough life circumstances if I was being raised by someone who resorted to babbling theatrics.”
And I’ll bet she didn’t teach you that the problem with society is that it is
overrun with sheep and conformists.
Some of us still teach our kids the Golden Rule: Treat people the way you want to be treated. People are fed up. Most of us are just average, ordinary people. We love God, we love our town and we believe in a moral code. We don’t threaten anybody. We don’t go online and cower in the shadows and make threats to people. We have been abused, impugned, lied about. We’re called hypocrits, sensationalists, liars, pompous, ill-informed, poor writers, and childish. We’re the furthest thing in the world from any of that. But some people are called that because they have the guts to speak out, stand up, stand for something, and call for change.
Nobody’s perfect. But I see things in Wayzata careening out of control. I’m just an ordinary person, offering my opinion on my little blog, yet Wayzata is threatened by me? No, I don’t think they are scared of me. They’re angry. They despise that I spoke negatively of Wayzata. They are mad that I asked some questions to which lots of people would like answers. They are mad that some really dark things are coming to light.
What am I going to do about bullying?
Well, I have a lot of ideas, and I’ve already started. First, no more anonymity. I’m not going to stand for bullies. Not on this blog. I learned how immature people really are. When I stopped allowing people to comment unless they included first and last name, and a verifiable email address, the most interesting thing happened: the nasty comments stopped. Suddenly, without the cloak of anonymity they don’t feel so comfortable and free to insult, attack, threaten. It’s so easy to be a cyber-bully, sitting in your glass house throwing stones. Take away your anonymity, and you aren’t so brazen are you? Are you afraid of what your children might think if they found out that you were one of the bullies that posted to this blog?
I’m not afraid, because my kids, and their friends, and my friends, and hundreds upon hundreds of kids are proud because I took a stand and spoke up for the voiceless. I said out loud what a lot of people were thinking. And again, never in a million years, did I think that writing a blog that asked questions about the suicides in Wayzata School District would be considered a brave thing to do.
How to stop bullying in one step:
Treat people the way you want to be treated.
Do you have a story to tell? Please leave a comment. Let’s open up the conversation.
To comment, a first and last name is required along with a verifiable email address. If you have been the victim and wish to remain private, leave your comment and I will contact you privately about editing and protecting you. All comments will remain unpublished until approved by me.
Email: Penny Mueller