Almost 19 years after I attended IS 109 in Queens, NY, a beautiful 12 year old named Gabrielle Molina committed suicide by hanging because of the bullying at the same school. I did not know Gabrielle Molina. I only know her name because I read it online last year. Yet I know of her pain. I am an alum of I.S. 109, class of 1994. I wish I could say that with pride, but the only emotion I can muster is relief—relief that I grew up to be a fully functioning adult.
I grew up on 222 Street in Queens Village, NY. I was so excited the day I started junior high because I remembered what cool things my older brother did as he got older. I looked forward to growing up. 109 seemed so full of possibilities. How foolish that seems now.
I was and am very different from the typical student at 109 because of my race, hobbies, musical tastes, vocabulary and many other things. I was one of the youngest in my class. I learned to knit when I was 10 and would occasionally bring a project to school. I love(d) to read and country music. In NYC, it is very unusual. My sense of humor has always been literal, sarcastic, and off beat. I just plain didn’t fit in as a child.
I was a bully victim at I.S. 109. I was the kid that even the smart students picked on. I was called all kinds of names from cracker to daddy long legs and lemon tree. I was pushed around and threatened on numerous occasions. I remember one instance I was at Braddock park and a gang of 10 girls from my class surrounded me, threatening to jump me. I cannot imagine how I would have felt or what I would have done if that had been recorded and posted online, as in Gabby's case. Some girls would pretend to be my friend just to talk smack to/about me with their actual friends. A few wanted to be my friend but refuse because of the fear of being associated with me.
More that the ridicule and verbal abuse, I did not feel physically safe going to IS 109. I was afraid every single day that I went to school. No child should ever feel that way.
I went on to Martin Van Buren, transferred to Cardozo and things got a lot better for me. I went to college, became a City Planner, then a Biologist and have a full life. But in my mind, on some days I still wonder if anyone could possibly like me or why anyone wants to be my friend.
I remember the fear, anger, self-loathing, depression and finally disassociation that I felt, and I don’t want anyone to go through that. It has been almost a year since Gabrielle tragically took her life. What happened to the police investigation into Gabrielle Molina’s cyber bullying case? What is the school administration and the Board of Ed doing to combat this problem?
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