Being the bully
His fifth grade classmates taunted Daniel. "You're Gay," they'd say. Nobody likes you."
Daniel says he'd get so upset he'd cry.
By seventh grade, he was doing the bullying. His friend and neighbor Courtney was his target.
"She was really short," Daniel says. "I'd walk up to her and put my elbow on her head and say, 'Hi, Shorty.' "
Classmates laughed. Daniel liked the attention. At least he wasn't being bullied anymore. But Courtney wasn't laughing. She felt hurt.
At home, Courtney begged her mom Kim to step in. She wanted her to do something about Daniel's behavior.
"At first I thought Courtney was being over-dramatic," Kim says. "I just told her she needed to have tougher skin," Kim says.
Daniel tormented Courtney for two years.
One day, on the school bus, he grabbed Courtney's hat. Another student spit in it and gave it back to Courtney. That was Courtney's breaking point. She rushed in the house, sobbing. This time, her mom took Courtney seriously and called the school counselor.
The school counselor called Daniel's parents, Yvette and Stan. They could hardly believe their ears. "We always saw him as a really good kid," Yvette says.
Daniel was grounded. Yvette told Daniel she had been bullied as a child. "Bullying isn't a way to be popular," she said.
Daniel received in-school suspension. He was allowed one book. He chose a Touching Spirit Bear, by Ben Mikaelson. It tells the story of a boy named Cole who is punished after beating up another kid. Cole realizes he has to change.
As he read the book, Daniel identified with Cole and felt ashamed.
That night, Daniel went to Courtney's house. He offered sincere apologies to Courtney and Kim.
"I felt like he really meant it," Courtney says. "But I'll never forget what happened."
Daniel had changed. He started to treat everyone - especially Courtney - with respect.
Courtney and Daniel are friendly again, but they'll never be friends like they used to be. Being bullied deeply affected Courtney. "I keep to myself more," she says.
Daniel regrets hurting Courtney. "I feel really guilty," he says, "I can't believe that I permanently changed someone. I hurt an entire family. I feel very, very horrible knowing that I did that."
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