Elkridge Breaks Mean Girl Cycle
Hugs, crying followed forum to stop vicious cycle of girl-to-girl bullying.
Lauren Parsekian was bullied so much in seventh and eighth grades that she said she wanted to kill herself.
"Whether it was throwing things at me during lunch, ripping up my homework before class or having boys ask me out and then break up with me in front of groups of people, these girls did whatever they could to make me feel alone and worthless and not good enough," said Parsekian, speaking to 200 people at Elkridge Landing Middle School Wednesday night.
"It was such a dark time in my life," she added.
Ponytails and braids around the room bobbed as Parsekian shared her story.
In Maryland, incidents involving bullying have more than doubled in the past three years, with more than 4,673 reported in 2010–2011, compared with 1,294 in 2007–2008, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.
The most common ages of students bullied is 11 to 13 years, reported the Maryland State Department of Education.
Parsekian and Molly Thompson, cofounders of the Kind Campaign, a movement to change the "girl-against-girl" attitude, visited Elkridge from California for a screening of a film they made after graduating from college in 2009.
The 60-minute documentary Finding Kind chronicled Parsekian and Thompson's cross-country road trip interviewing people about the “mean girl” culture, which they found existed from Walla Walla, WA, to Washington, D.C.
Tears welled in the eyes of girls sitting next to one another in the Elkridge gym as they watched their peers in the film talk about ways they were mean to other females, like offering to sell a girl's virginity on the auction site, eBay.
"It’s a different world these girls live in than I live in and this breaks my heart," said Cindy Barr, an Elkridge Landing PTSA member who heard about Kind Campaign through a friend in California and arranged for it to come to Elkridge.
Barr has been listening to girls talk about these types of problems for the past couple of years through WyldLife, a youth enrichment program for middle school students.
After the screening, attendees were invited to fill out "kind cards" and "kind apologies," which were blank pieces of pink paper on which people could commit to doing kind acts and apologizing for harms caused.
"Take an action step in the name of kindness: I kindly pledge to stop talking about friends behind their back. I kindly pledge to think before I speak," said Parsekian.
At the end of the program, girls handed one another their "kind apology" notes, brushing away tears and talking through issues.
"We have seen friendships mended all over the country with these kind cards," said Parsekian. Added Thompson: "The power of an apology is transformative."