Last year, when Jamie Isaacs sat down with the Press in the kitchen of her parents’ home in Lake Grove she vowed to be a vocal and outspoken voice against bullying and cyberbullying.
Unlike most teenager’s her age, Isaacs already felt like she had a mission in life: She was pushing for anti-bullying laws in Suffolk County and New York State, and already started drafting a book that would tell the story of a young girl persevering, despite her bullies attempts to knock her down. A foundation to support bully victims was also in the works.
One year later, Isaacs, 15, authored her first book titled “In Jamie’s Words,” which went on sale Thursday and is available on Amazon and at Barns And Noble. The state Senate passed The Dignity for all Students Act in June 2010, the Suffolk County legislature passed a local law that prohibits cyberbullying last year, and with the help of her parents Ron and Anne, Isaacs started the Jamie Isaacs Foundation for Anti-Bullying.
“We act occasionally as the voice for the bully victim who doesn’t know what to do in a bullying situation,” Isaacs said after an anti-bullying rally held at Farmingdale State College on Friday morning, where she was featured as the key note speaker.
Standing at a podium inside the gymnasium with hundreds of middle school kids looking on, Isaacs once again told the story of how her torment began in second grade when a group of girls would yank her hair and stab her with sharp pencils.
The bullying persisted. In fourth grade she would receive harassing phone calls and instant messages from bullies who declared they would go to her house and kill her.
Her fifth grade teacher even called her names, Isaacs told the students at the rally. In the sixth grade, a group of students started the “I hate Jamie club.” Her locker was broken into 14 days in a row.
Despite the relentless bullying and death threats, Isaacs told the students on Friday that the best way to respond to bullies is with their voice, adding that “violence is not the answer.”
“If you see something you have to say something,” she said. “And it’s always important for you to tell someone, whether it’s a family member, or a teacher, principal, superintendant. You have to tell someone.”
When the Suffolk County legislature passed the cyberbullying law on June 22, 2010, it called cyberbullying “rampant,” stating that “42 percent of children in fourth through eight grade surveyed in a recent poll reported being bullied online.”
The Isaacs pulled Jamie out of her middle school in the Sachem School District and placed her into The Knox School, a private school in Nissequogue, which has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to bullying. Isaacs said she’s comfortable at the school and is now in the 10th grade.
While Isaacs has been outfront about the issue that has consumed her life since she was in the second grade, many other victims reamin silent out of fear of further intimidation. But with schools facing constant pressure to address the issue before it escalates, many teachers have been educating students on the negative effects of bullying.
“The word bullying has been beaten into our minds so many times that it’s so immune to us now,” said Rose, 14, a ninth grade student at P.J. Gelinas Jr. High School in Setauket. “But Jamie’s story, I feel like made a different impact on it.”
Rose was one of a group of students who recently put on a show titled “Pickin’ A Bullying Story,” which was performed for ninth graders and members of the community, a series of shows that the school puts on that addresses a specific issue.
“The most important message from [the rally] that we want to educate our students about is if we help one person, that’s the whole game,” said Robert DePersio, a chorus and theater arts teacher from Gelinas Jr. High.
“The biggest thing we need to teach kids is to speak,” said Debra Johnston, a social worker at Gelinas. “Tell someone, speak up.” She added, “I always tell students ‘I can’t hear what you don’t say, but if you tell me we can work from there.’”
But for the Isaacs, the bullying continues. Their son was recently cyberbullied when a 13-year-old posted a derogatory message on his Xbox. But, unlike most of the kids who bullied Jamie, he didn’t get away with it, a tiny victory for their family after dealing with bullying for the most of their children’s lives.
“Thanks to the Suffolk County cyberbullying law that I helped write,” Isaacs said, “the kid got arrested.”