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Concepts

On Bullying

One of the most common experiences for Neurodivergent kids.
As I sit writing this essay on Veteran’s Day 2021 I join the larger Autistic community in of ten year old Izzy Tichenor. She died by her own hand after a short, terrible lifetime of bullying for being Autistic and for being Black.
Izzy joins the and it didn’t have to be this way. Intervention by teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, librarians or custodians could have saved her, but it didn’t happen or it didn’t go far enough to stop the torment she was enduring every day. She couldn’t see a way out and couldn’t endure it anymore, so she made her own way out.
We have, collectively, failed her. But more specifically, the environment where Izzy was bullied was one that she should never have been subjected to.
I don’t know Izzy personally, but I can easily imagine how many times she must have been told to “just ignore them”. I know the looks in the eyes of the teachers who made the conscious choice to justify abandoning her to the bullies because intervening would just be too much work. I know the look in the eyes of the principal explaining that technically the school doesn’t distinguish between bully and victim in cases of physical violence and punishes all participants equally. As a straight white guy I certainly can’t do more than imagine the myriad ways race would have played into this, made her teachers look away more quickly and made her an even better target.
But like.
When is this going to stop?
When are autistic kids going to stop being bullied to literal death at school? In a place where they’re supposed to be safe? When are we going to acknowledge that the tired cliches we feed bullying victims do nothing to stem the tide of abuse and trauma they endure?
Recently Autistic self-advocate had this to say, which earned him a lot of ire from teachers:
Autistic kids refusing to go to school is a problem for schools to solve, not the kids and parents. —
Pete’s 100% right. Schools are hostile environments for Autistic children, if only for the unchecked and unending bullying that autistic kids are subjected to.
Something has to change.

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