MARQUETTE – Sophie Nyquist is a pretty typical sixth-grader.
She likes hanging out with her friends, loves being in gymnastics and playing her violin.
She prefers the Packers when it comes to football and the newest hits when it comes to music.
She also likes to write. So, one day this cold winter, she sat down at her grandmother Cindy Nyquist’s computer and began to type.
“I said to her, ‘Well, why don’t you write about the bird feeder and my wonderful cardinals,” Cindy Nyquist said. “And she said to me, ‘No, that’s not the type of thing I want to write about. I’ll just think of something myself’.”
What Sophie Nyquist thought of was bullying.
“When I see it, I just get mad about it,” she said.
So she wrote a letter questioning the reasons behind the behavior she sometimes sees in the hallways and at recess at Bothwell Middle School.
“Why does every girl have to wear Uggs to be popular? Why does every girl have to wear skinny jeans to be popular? Why does every girl have to have Starbucks to be popular? Why can’t girls just be who they are and wear what they like and drink what they want!” she wrote, in part. “I think bullying is just horrible. What is the point of it? To make others feel bad for nothing they did, just simply because they don’t do and wear what you do.”
That letter ended up in the Letters to the Editor section of The Mining Journal Dec. 3, prompting some pats on the back from her fellow students.
“One kid that I’ve never met before asked me if I was Sophia Nyquist and then he said, ‘I liked your thing in The Mining Journal’,” she said.
The feedback helped her realize that maybe she had ideas that other kids, besides just her own friends, thought were right too.
“(Maybe) they don’t like sharing it because they might get bullied for it,” Nyquist said.
Sitting across the table from Nyquist, she answered questions shyly, unsure why girls and boys were mean to each other, but sure in her conviction that it was wrong to bully.
She could also easily point out the disparity between boys and girls, and what they are teased about.
“Guys might bully about sports and then girls bully about what they wear and how they look,” Nyquist said, showing how young kids that bully understand how easy gender stereotypes are to use as weapons.
The best way to combat bullying, Nyquist said, was to talk about it – tell a teacher, tell a parent, tell someone.
Dan Gannon, Bothwell Middle School principal, said bullying was an issue every school had to deal with, adding that middle school students posed a tricky challenge for anti-bullying measures.
The age group is one that is going through a multitude of changes, both physically and mentally, as their brains continue to mature.
“It’s kind of like a perfect storm sometimes for bullying and harassment,” Gannon said. “They’re trying to figure out how to socialize with each other in an appropriate manner, and on the opposite end, they’re trying to figure out how to stand up for themselves.”
Gannon said the school tries to “hit bullying hard” one month every year, with classroom discussions taking place at least once a week during that time on what bullying is and how to stop it when you see it.
“As a bystander, what can you do?” Gannon said. “How can you help? Because a lot of the kids will see it and they’re not comfortable, you know, how do I help this? We try to give them some tools on how you can help your friends so they’re not bullied anymore.”
Students are also encouraged to report bullying at any time in the year however, not just in that one month.
Nyquist, though she feels strongly about bullying, said she didn’t think it was a big problem at Bothwell.
“Not usually in my school,” she said.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org