Jan 20, 2014 6:16 PM by Tara Grimes - MTN News
GREAT FALLS - Inside the walls of North Middle School, Joe Kizer, 29 said he found life to be fairly easy. It was outside the school building walls however, on his walk home, where the torment began.
Kizer said his bully called him "worthless" and told him "you won't amount to anything." For five of his seven blocks home, Kizer endured the anguish. Fearing the abuse may get worse, he said he didn't tell anyone.
Five years later, with the pain building up inside, he said he tried to commit suicide for the first time and twice more before the age of 26.
His counselor now said he likely suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. "I'm scared to be around a lot of kids, panic attacks, and that's all from being bullied," Kizer said.
Kizer suffers from a mental disability and according to PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, studies found that children with disabilities were to two to three times more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled peers.
East Middle School Counselor Elaine Schoyen said it's usually a case of helping the aggressor understand a person with disabilities.
"Sometimes when someone is say autistic, they may have difficulty with social reading and emotional cues," Schoyen said. "They might behave in a way that's different for children, so they might take issue with that, but once you talk to them then they get it. Then there's a kindness that prevails."
Even for children without disabilities, Schoyen said middle school can be the toughest time in a child's life when it comes to being teased, harassed and bullied. The Montana Office of Public Instruction reports 38% of middle school students in Montana report being bullied at school.
As for Kizer, to cope with his haunting memories, he said he's worked to better discern why a person becomes a bully. "A bully is pretty much the beast in ‘Beauty and the Beast,'" Kizer said. "He looks tough on the outside, but he's sad on the inside."
He also hopes more bullies will realize they're more alike than different.
"A bully is like a snow storm on a flower," Kizer said, reading from a poem he wrote about his experiences. "Once the storm hits the flower and flower eventually wilts...Will you be the sun in someone's life? If you see they are down a lot or being bullied, they are flowers starving for someone to shine on them."