Disney star Jasmine Richards was bullied her entire life and high school was the worst four years of her life, she told a crowd of about 100 Toronto junior high and high school students.
The 22-year-old actress, known for her role in the Camp Rock films, was busy working throughout high school and it was hard for her to make friends. Because she was an actress, the other students assumed she thought she was better than them, she says.
“There’s a certain hallway we called it the grade 12 hallway. All the popular girls used to hang out in that hallway,” she said. “Every single day, I would walk down that hallway to get to my classes and they would make barfing sounds at me. It was brutal going through that every single day.”
Richards was one of the speakers, along with Toronto Raptors centre Jamaal Magloire and Ontario’s Minister of Education, Laurel Broten, at the launch of Facebook Canada’s Be Bold: Stop Bullying campaign on November 14.
The campaign asks teens, parents and teachers to sign a social media pledge on Facebook committing them to stop bullying if they see it happen. It’s aimed toward bystanders to speak up and help put a stop to bullying.
“Bullying is not just kids being kids, it has a damaging impact on young people on families and on communities,” says Jordan Banks, Managing Director at Facebook Canada. “Each and every person … has the power and ability to help stop bullying.
“We can help each other take a stand and make it known that bullying is not cool, it’s not acceptable and going forward it will no longer be tolerated.” Magloire, who was born and raised in Toronto, added “You don’t have to feel like a rat if you speak out. You’re doing the right thing.”
Bullying is just as hurtful, whether it occurs in cyberspace or in person, says Debra Pepler, co-scientific director of PREVnet, a national organization that researches bullying prevention.
When researchers observed bullying on a school playground, they found that 75 percent of the bystanders gave positive attention to the bully, which made the bullying last longer, she says.
Meanwhile, when a bystander steps in, it makes a huge difference. It stops bullying within 10 seconds more than 50 percent of the time, she adds, so a bystanders’ role is important.
Help put a stop to bullying and sign and share the social media pledge here!
For anyone experiencing bullying, Richards’ advice is to stay true to yourself.
“Tell an adult, tell a parent, tell a teacher, anything. Talk about your issues and you know what, it does get better,” she says.
The campaign is partnered with Family Channel, PREVNet, Concerned Children’s Advertisers, Kids Help Phone, MediaSmarts, Free The Children and STOPcyberbullying.org. A similar campaign was launched in the United States in September 2011, which saw more than a million people like the page.