Presentation on Bullying by Drew Magnusson

Vice-President Gwenne Farrell's brother, Drew Magnusson, delivered a presentation on bullying and harassment at the 2014 Job Steward Seminar in March.

My name is Drew Magnusson and I am Gwenne’s younger brother. She asked me to come and talk to you today because I have been bullied all of my life.

I’m not just talking about while growing up and going to school but through volunteer organizations as well as at my work. I hope my story will help to change the way you look at bullying and it encourages you to take a stance to stop bullying wherever you see it. This is not just an issue about children; this is about how everyone treats one another.

To give you some background on me, I am the youngest in my family and have two older sisters. When I was a kid they realized that I had challenges learning, but 40 years ago was very different from today.

When I first went to school they sent me to a ‘special’ school with others that had challenges. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew I went to that school so I was branded very young as being a ‘retard’. After a few years they put me into a regular school but again in a ‘special’ class, it was a class where everyone became the target of bullies. It was something that just seemed to be expected, bully and torment those that were different to somehow prove you were better. This was to continue throughout all of my school years.

Even when I was really young, the older kids in the neighbourhood knew I was different and that to them made me a fair target. When I was about five or six, the teenager next door and his friends thought it would be fun to tie me up and drag me around their property behind a mini bike. Yeah, that was great fun.

I could give you dozens of examples of what was done to me at school but Gwenne asked me to pick one that really stuck out in my mind.

When I was about 14, I was walking home from junior high and a group, two guys and a girl jumped me. They decided to beat the crap out of me all the time, telling me how stupid and useless I was. We told the school who they were and all the school did was have each of them write me a letter saying how sorry they were. Of course this meant nothing, as they continued to torment me afterwards.

Surprisingly, bullying happens where you least expect it. My entire family has been involved with a community theatre for 40 years. This is a place where many people who don’t quite fit in tend to go. You would think that would make it a safe place if you are different, but it doesn’t.

I remember when I was about 17, a group of adults tied me up and ‘rigged’ me. That meant they used a pulley to hoist me up into the air. The problem was, the screw they used to tie the rope to became bent, and I went crashing to the ground. They all thought it was really funny; me not so much. Again, this was only one incident and there are many more examples I could give you.

And finally work. Again, I wish I could tell you that this story is the only time something has happened but it simply wouldn’t be true, this is just one that was pretty devastating.

I went to have lunch one day and realized someone had stolen my lunch kit. The problem was that I have some serious life threatening health issues and the lunch kit had all of my medications in it including my insulin.

The guys at work all thought it was funny but luckily my supervisor did not. He brought everyone together and told them they had 10 minutes for that lunch kit to be returned to my locker or he was going to start firing people. Needless to say it was not so funny anymore and the lunch kit was returned. That supervisor is going to be retiring soon and I worry that I won’t have anyone to protect me anymore.

I hate to say it but by now I have almost gotten used to people doing this to me. That’s a really sad statement, but that is what happens to you when this is what you have dealt with all your life. When my cousin heard I was speaking to you today he reminded my family that they were part of this too (him included). Don’t get me wrong, my parents constantly went to the schools trying to get this to stop but it didn’t, sometimes it made it worse. My sisters are now very protective of me and don’t tolerate anyone being bullied but that is because they have learned from what I have been through.

There are some out there that say lots of people get bullied and that we should just suck it up. I’m not sure when I should have done that, when I was being beaten, when I was dropped from the ceiling or when someone stole medicine that keeps me alive. Perhaps you can help me figure that out.

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