Stand Up & Speak Out

It's that time of year again when students are heading back to school, in order to support students and parents/guardians, we are running an #Advice4School campaign across social media. As part of our campaign we will be sharing some inspirational stories that will hopefully encourage students to seek the support that they truly deserve. 

Our first story comes from Jacki James of Georgetown, Texas. Jacki shares the story of her son Peyton. 

My story began when my son, Peyton, was born 9 weeks early in 2001 but it the bully monster didn't begin to show himself for about 6 years. In elementary school, Peyton's permanent teeth came and we found out that because of the liquid nutrition and oxygen he'd gotten in the NICU, that his permanent enamel was a mottled yellow color. They looked like he had popcorn kernels stuck in his teeth. So kids began to tease him about his teeth being dirty and "gross", Once kids noticed something different about him, they noticed other things too - he was short, he had red hair, he wore glasses, he loved to read and hated sports...he became a target. This went on until me moved from Houston to the Austin area. Then it got worse because one particular boy targeted Peyton specifically. The bullying went from verbal to physical and Peyton was pushed down stairs, had rocks thrown at him and had his ear drum ruptured by this boy. I demanded action and yet, the school did nothing. Middle school was just more of the same. Before 8th grade, we moved to get Peyton away from the other boy. Sadly, things didn't really change at the new school either. Peyton was just "that kid" that gets picked on. Every school has one and Peyton was it. When he realized that this new school was really no different from the last ones, he fell into a depression, which he hid from me. Each time I talked to him about school, he said it was fine. I so desperately wanted it to be true, that I believed him. Until October 8, 2014. On that day, after have an altercation with a boy at school and a meeting with the principal that produced no results, Peyton went into his room and hung himself from the ceiling fan. My world stopped in that moment. Peyton stayed in a coma for 5 days, but on October 13, 2014, he succumbed to his injury. He was only 13 years old.  

After he passed, one of his friends was at school and she was crying. The original bully overheard her and he said, "I'm not surprised, That boy was a freak." When I heard this I was heartbroken even more. How could someone so young be so mean? I realized then that, although we teach our kids about bullies and they know what bullying behavior is, we don't teach them how to be kind to each other. We just expect them to know. So, from there, I started a campaign called Kindness Matters whose mission is to change the dialogue between people. Our goal is to spread kindness instead of pain through changing how kids talk to each other. We have to show them that "sticks and stones" hurt, but words can indeed hurt you. Now, we travel to as many middle and high schools as we can to tell Peyton's story and show kids the value of kindness. We must teach them that kindness is the way we (they) are going to change the world. 

Our goal is to spread kindness instead of pain through changing how kids talk to each other.

Jacki James, Kindness Matters