In a recently released report issued by the Government Accountability Office, it is noted that about 1.3 million students, ages 12 to 18, were bullied for their race, religion, national origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation in the 2018-2019 school year. In the same school year, the report says, there were 1.6 million students who were subjected to hate speech due to their identity.
Black students in particular are most often victims of this type of harassment, especially in some midwestern cities where the Black student populations are smallest.
“It’s everywhere, it’s not a new thing. This isn’t something that is just now happening. It’s just now getting attention, more than it has (gotten) before,” shares Sean Sorkoram, a high school student in Tigard, Oregon. According to CNN, Sorkoram was part of a walk out staged by Tigard High School students this past Wednesday in protest of a widely circulated video of students using racial slurs posted to Instagram. This posting of this video comes after an October report released by the Tigard-Tualatin School District which stated that hate speech incidents were on the rise.
“Students are reporting that they have been the victim of hate speech or observed firsthand hate incidents happening in our buildings,” Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith wrote in a letter issued to parents.
While the debate over critical race theory teachings rage on in school board meetings across the country, some students are taking matters of racial discrimination and harassment into their own hands.
In Savage, Minnesota, 14 year old Prior Lake High School student, Nya Sigin was the target of a recent video also shared to social media, where another young girl can be seen spewing hate towards Sigin, and encouraging her to take her own life.
“I really couldn’t comprehend what I was listening to, it was really just a wave of different emotions,” Sigin shared with CNN reporters. “I was angry, I was disgusted, I was sad, I was confused,” she continued, adding that she’s known the girl in the video since elementary school — “basically, my entire life.”
The 14 year old is now turning her newfound passion in fighting racial attacks like the one she experienced, into protest. She recently spoke at a rally at her school addressing the incident.
Chioma Osuoha, a student activist in the region who led a solidarity event with Sigin and other students who have been victims of racial incidents, told CNN that her “heart dropped” and she was “so angry” upon watching the video.
“The power is in the people, we must do things in numbers and (I) believe that’s exactly what happened,” Osuoha, 18, said.
What must be noted is the effects of bullying on the mental health of adults and children alike. In November, the suicide of a ten year old Utah girl, Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor caused an uproar, as the child’s parents cited severe bullying as the reason she took her own life.
Another recent report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics reveals that young adults who experience discrimination about their bodies, race, age or sex have a greater risk of dealing with mental health problems than those who do not.
Psychologist Charity Brown Griffin stated to CNN, “If you have to frequent a place every day where you feel like you don’t belong, that you’re left out and where you don’t don’t feel safe, that is certainly going to take a toll on your mental health.”
“Black students and other students of color are still able to thrive, they’re still able to perform well because they have these buffers — but that doesn’t mean that the systemic issues do not exist,” she said. “The cultural assets have created opportunity for them to rise above and be resilient in spite of.”