When bullying stops, everyone wins
A Blenheim teenager who used to torment his classmates and teachers is now friends with some of his victims after turning his back on bullying.
Tawhirirangi Mason, 16, said he used to intimidate his fellow students at Marlborough Community College because he thought it was "cool".
"I would make them feel scared and uncomfortable so they didn't want to come to school," he said.
"Even the teachers, the way they treated me changed. They didn't want me in their class."
Some of the victims of his bullying even left the school because of him, he said.
But a few months ago, an anti-bullying programme was introduced at school.
Liz Collyns, co-ordinator of the Ministry of Social Development anti-bullying programme, Te Punanga Haumaru (safe haven), visited the college in February with a message about anti-bullying.
Something about the message hit home for the year 12 student.
"Not many people took it in at first, but I wanted to try something different," he said.
He decided to take a stand for people who were being bullied and joined the campaign. "I've been bullied, and I've done bullying, and it's not okay," he said.
"I think people do it to look cool, and that's not cool."
Since he renounced bullying, Mason has noticed a change.
People are no longer scared of him, and he has become friends with a wider circle of people, some of them his former victims.
Owning up to what he did wasn't easy, he said.
"It was hard to admit I did bully them," he said. "But I said sorry, and now we're friends."
People who bullied others did it to make themselves feel better, he said.
Trying to fit in with friends who encouraged each other to bully others wasn't worth it, he said.
"If you don't think it's okay, it's not okay. You're just doing what you believe in, being who you are," he said.
"This is more me than what I was before."
In the months since he stopped intimidating others, he felt as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
Anyone who bullied others because of pressure from friends needed to look at why they did it, he said.
"You need to do what's right for you. Find the right people that like doing what you do."
The Marlborough Express