Editor’s Note: #ChalkfullBullying is a campaign that resolves to tell stories about gender-based bullying that happens in school, where students, especially non-binary and girl students, are subject to harassment, moral policing, severe disciplining and punishment, and routine bullying. Their fault being: for not conforming to outdated gender stereotypes, the repercussions for which can scar us for a lifetime.
Beyond the superficial fabric of what makes a ‘prestigious’ educational institution lies many instances of abuse and bullying directed at students who do not conform to the institution’s regressive idea of ‘the good girl’ and ‘the obedient student’. The stories laid out below are a compilation of 5 anonymous girl students’ experiences at St Anthony’s School and the varied forms of bigotry that they (in one case, even their family members) were subject to:
1) Slapped for owning a wallet
It was my last exam in class 11. The council members were asked to stay back after the assembly and check others’ bags in their absence (which is so wrong). One staff member got a hold of my bag and found my wallet and tried to confiscate it. I tried to reason with her, asking whether we were allowed to carry money to school or not.
She slapped me, saying that I would buy drugs and cigarettes out of this money. She was shouting so loudly that she could be heard from the first floor. I was told by my class teacher not to tell my mother about what happened. Not a single teacher stood up for me and everybody thought I was at fault.
When my mother called the school, we were told that said staff member was not in the school and won’t come back for about 5 days. On the result day, my mother went to talk to her where she denied having ever slapped me. Instead, she told my mother that I was ill-mannered and she was the one who gave an undeserving student like me an opportunity to flourish.
2) Shamed for wearing shorts
I had gone to take my provisional exams in shorts. Rev. Sister Matilda looked at me with so much disgust and asked me what example I was setting for my juniors. My class teacher Rajni Ma’am would also fabricate tales about me to my mother. She even told me that I wouldn’t receive admission in any college nor would I be able to do anything in life.
3) Called names for having ear piercings
I was called a future drug addict, alcoholic and hippie. I was denounced as someone who does not have a future in front of a lot of students and teachers. Why? All because I had two piercings in each ear.
4) Expelled because I forgot a pen drive
In Class 10, I was prevented from entering school in order to ‘save’ a teacher who abused and humiliated me in class. This happened despite the school knowing that the teacher openly insulted my family background, cross-questioned my friends about it and abused my mother for instilling such ‘values’ in me.
You ask why? I forgot to carry a pen drive to her class that day. Yes, I thank my mother for teaching me the right values in life. Trying to match your level of abuse doesn’t match up to where I come from.
This teacher twisted the story in front of the principal when she was asked by my father to prove my family background and character. She blamed everything on me and the principal believed her. Little did I know teachers had already ‘ganged up’ against me and forced my entire class to write a false letter about the incident.
My mother was surrounded by 5-6 teachers and my vice principal. My mom covered her hair with a hijab. She was being repeatedly harassed by being pushed and pulled and they kept pulling her scarf down in order to humiliate her.
That moment I decided: it’s now or never. I went through this crowd and pulled my mother’s hand and forced her to leave the school with me. I was kicked out of the school the same day by my principal, who decided to call the police stating that I am trying to disturb the school premises by my “nonsense”. I was forced to write an FIR depicting everything that happened.
This fight was no longer limited to me, it was intensified because of the humiliation my mother faced. I approached the Education Ministry daily, in the midst of suffering from depression and anxiety. My friends and classmates were strictly told that if they tried to side with me, speak up or even contact me they won’t be given the streams of their choice.
Post-exams, I left that school and I promised myself that I would never turn back. A teacher didn’t miss the opportunity to make fun of me and she promised me that I won’t get into any good school or university. She said that I would be a shame and a burden to my family.
Well, Ma’am, here I am. I went to one of the best schools in Delhi. Got into the second best college of Delhi University. Passed the 12th standard with grades that were good enough to get into DU. Your bad wishes and cursing pushed me to where I am today.
5) Slut-shamed for having male friends
Rev. Sister Matilda should have known that the boy commenting on my picture wasn’t my boyfriend and that being friends with boys was not a character hazard. That dress she called short and cheap was the dress my parents bought me on my birthday. I’ve worn it almost everywhere. I wore it because I liked it – not because I liked “flaunting my flesh”, as she put it.
My parents know that I’m on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. My mom checks on me regularly but doesn’t invade my privacy. Sister Matilda had no right to interfere in my life and violate my privacy. She does not get to do whatever she wants in the name of safety.
Why couldn’t she instead have helped students find safer and trusted ways of communication? After all, not having a brain is not a way to prevent brain cancer, right? Had she believed in education and instruction instead of prohibition, St Anthony’s would’ve been a better place. The number of hair clips on my head doesn’t evaluate my level of discipline.
I had even made a Teachers’ Day card for her. I liked her. I cried for days after she called my parents and told them that I was not a “dignified daughter of the family and an obedient student of the school”. I ran away instead of facing her because I knew she wouldn’t understand. I’m saying all this now because I wasn’t strong enough to have these answers at that particular moment. I’m ashamed that I ran away, but I was left with no choice.
Featured Image Source: Justdial