Samantha Frazier just graduated from Fayette County High School. No stranger to speaking publicly to the Fayette County Board of Education, and no stranger to writing opinion columns in The Citizen, Frazier took to the microphone at the May 30 school board meeting to address bullying. For Frazier, bullying can take many forms, with some masked as societal “perspectives.”
Above, Samantha Frazier, 17, addresses the Fayette County Board of Education about her experiences with self-image problems. Photo/Ben Nelms.
Bullying is widely known to be one of the precursor experiences that can lead to self-cutting, self-harm and suicide. Frazier’s comments at the May 30 meeting preceded those of her mother, Angela Menko, who moments later called for the school board and the school system to take action on the self-cutting she maintained is being inflicted by a number of students in the school system.
Portions of Samantha’s comments to the school board were:
“When I was 6 years old, I was told that I was too skinny. Society told me that there were children in Africa who didn’t have enough food. I should be happy with what I have. When I was 8 years old, I was told that I was too fat. Society told me once again of the starving children in Africa who would love to have a slice of pizza or a bowl of ice cream. At 9 years old, kids in my class told me my legs were too hairy. They told me that I needed to shave my legs, because society told them that in order to be pretty, your legs must be treated by a blade weekly if not more.
“At 12 years old, I was called annoying and loud. I was told I talk too much and that my laugh was stupid. I was told that I was too clingy for my own good, and society told me to focus on my grades. At 13, I stood in front of the school board and voiced an opinion (on the closing of four schools) that contradicted the opinions that most people of this very county (held). And I realized then that it takes one voice with a positive view to make everyone else focus in on the good.”
Frazier said an emotionally-draining relationship with her stepfather at age 14 resulted in increased anxiety.
“At 17, I sit here and look around America. I think of all the times that society told me to think of the starving children in Africa, but not a single one of them stops to think of the children and teens all across America who are starving themselves because someone in their life is telling them that they must eat less to maintain a perfect silhouette. Children and teens shoving two and three fingers into their throats to rid themselves of the food that they shouldn’t have eaten, because it interferes with their weight loss program,” said Frazier.
Continuing her comments, Frazier said, “At 17, I see children being shot in their own schools by their own classmates. I see children sitting on the floors in their bedrooms with pocket knives, on the counter of the bathroom with razor blades, in the classroom with a sharpened pencil. All of those thoughts that bullies conditioned by society placed into their minds. All of those thoughts of ‘Will I ever be good enough?’ ‘Will anyone care?’”
Frazier suggested that it is the job of educators and mentions to step-in to teach children that they matter, and that those children should not have to contend with those who tell them they do not matter.
“We may not be able to protect them from what goes on at home, but we can protect them from experiencing the pain in our schools,” Frazier said. “My ceramics teacher told me time and time again that clay is forgiving. You just have to treat it nicely and make sure it gets enough water — you nurture it enough. You can make anything you can dream of out of clay. Children are the same. If we treat them with love and care and give them what they need to grow, we can shape them into the amazing people they can be. Don’t tell them that they aren’t hurt, because their pain is different than yours. Don’t tell them they have someone no matter what, because sometimes they don’t. And they need you to be that person.”
Frazier spoke publicly in 2013 during the very incendiary occasion when four county schools were closed due to falling enrollment and rising costs. She supported the closures, even though the former Fayette Middle School she was attending was one of the four that was closed.
Frazier also wrote a number of opinions columns, from a student’s perspective, that were published in The Citizen.
And now, she is speaking again.