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School Sanctioned Bullying? Or a Day of Harmless Fun?

ID-10072696Thanks to social media, I have recently learned about a school district which “celebrated” Dress Like a Nerd Day. The mum who wrote about this day-long categorization and mocking of the “uncool” wrote of her concern about whether or not to let her child participate. I could well understand her hesitation.

Everywhere you turn, it seems, we see campaign after campaign talking about bullying. We have theIt Gets Better project, the Trevor Project and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way foundation, to star-studded Anti-Bullying PSAs and new anti-bullying laws being enacted throughout the United States. And yet, in my opinion, this school sanctioned day of teasing seems to fly directly in the face of this nearly universal work to STOP bullying.

Think about it. Think back to your own school days. Think about what NERD means. It’s the kid(s) in class who didn’t fit in: clothes weren’t in style – they didn’t match, wore elastic-waited pants, shoes with velcro instead of ties, maybe had gross motor issues, socially inept (gosh, maybe (s)he was hyper-focused on one or two topics)…kind of sounds like this could be describing any one of our kiddos, doesn’t it? Maybe the kid with the out-of-style clothes has sensory issues and the elastic-waisted pants are necessary because he lacks the fine motor skills to snap/button/zip. Same thing with the velcro shoes. The clumsy child may, again, have sensory issues – vestibular, spacial and depth perception. Social challenges really speak for themselves, as does the hyper-focus.

So. Back to the celebratory aspect of encouraging children to single out those who are different, to mock them by dressing purposefully in ways in which they would never, ever be caught dead, and to identify and define the faces of their classmates with a hurtful term…gee, how could this possibly be wrong?

I am not an old fogey. I am not anti-school spirit or dress up days. You want to wear your clothes backwards? Go for it. School colors? Right on! But when you start taking physical and emotional characteristics of other children and use them as the focus of a celebration that is inherently hurtful? I can’t help but wonder at this school’s sincerity in their anti-bullying policy – and their common sense.

Even if these kiddos who were considered “nerds” were completely neurotypical, perhaps their parents had other priorities than buying trendy clothes; maybe dad just lost his job, or mom was sick, and so the kiddo had his or her mind on other things.

Maybe, in the grand scheme of things, none of the above traits or characteristics are important.

Maybe, what was – and still is – really important is instilling respect, acceptance and compassion for those around us. Teaching our children that different is not less, maintaining the lesson that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, and actually practicing what we preach…THESE are the important things. And, in my opinion, this school, and the those decision makers who did not even pause to question this day, have lost the moral authority. This was a complete failure by this school.

I hope that my children never go to a school with a day like this on their calendar. I can promise that it would become my mission to make sure that one day would be the last one like that they ever celebrated.

Photo courtesy of


Kelly is a Navy wife and mother to three children; 16 year old NT, 6 and 5 year old boys on the spectrum; and, since life was getting a touch boring, she’s added a bun in the oven. Kelly has been featured in a collection of essays on special needs children entitled, “Wit and Wisdom From the Parents of Special Needs Children.” She can also be found at, and as a guest blogger throughout the blog-iverse. In her spare time, Kelly is the Blog Master for, and member of, the Military Special Needs Network Executive Board. You can contact her via email at

2 comments on “School Sanctioned Bullying? Or a Day of Harmless Fun?

  1. Niksmom
    March 19, 2013

    I am astounded that this sort of stuff is still considered even remotely acceptable in any community. Seriously. If the substituted any other marginalized group (either currently so or historically so), could they not see that this was a very bad idea? *head>>desk*

  2. Jessica (@jessbwatson)
    March 19, 2013

    I’m shocked that this would be an actual day a school would host. Who thinks this is a good idea?

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