Michael Miller clearly remembers the day he was called a “fat faggot.” It was in 2006, the year he was in seventh grade, and Miller had already gotten a strong taste of bullying from day one of middle school.
When enough slurs, exclusions and taunts added up, Miller found himself at the brink of suicide — close enough to consider details that would save his family as much pain as possible, he said.
“Sixth and seventh grade were the worst. When I got to Central, I remember everyone was on edge a lot. Half the kids we didn’t know came from Ferndale (Elementary School), new groups were starting up, everyone was going through puberty.”
Those foul words didn’t come from a troubled peer, however. They came from a teacher’s lips, Miller said.
“People thought it was funny,” he said. “And that’s when we realized it was OK to do that to each other. As negative as he was, he was a role model. He made it seem OK to harass kids in front of each other. And talk about them when they were out of the room.”
That educator had plenty of company. Starting in fifth grade at Freewater Elementary School, Miller’s classmates started marching to peer pressure about how to dress, whom to talk to and what attitude to adopt, he recalled.