Teen Pagans and Bullying

It’s no secret that teenagers are often the victims of bullying, and those who are outside the mainstream — those who look different, act different, etc. — can often be targets for malicious behavior. Unfortunately, that can put teen Pagans in a direct path for many bullies, and because school administrators are not typically educated about modern Pagan religions, they may not have a clue about what to do.

If you’re a teen Pagan, or the parent of one, and you’ve been the victim of bullying behavior, here are some tips on what to do.

Know Your Rights

It’s important that you educate yourself about what rights you have as a Pagan or Wiccan student at school. The bottom line is that you have the same rights as anyone else – regardless of religion — and that means that no one is allowed to harass you and disrupt your learning experience. If someone is verbally or physically bullying you because of your religious beliefs, you’re entitled to protection.

Get Your Parents Involved

Despite the fact that you might not always see eye to eye with them, your parents are there to help you and protect you when you need it.

If you’re being bullied, your parents are going to be your strongest advocates and allies. Make sure they are aware of what is happening — and they won’t know unless you tell them. You’ll have far better luck talking to school administrators and teachers if you’ve got parents standing beside you.

Keep in mind that it’s important to understand what constitutes bullying. Someone telling you “I hate you” isn’t bullying.

However, a constant stream of targeted harassment does. Studies show that while boys often enact bullying behavior physically, girls tend to engage in social bullying. Obviously there are exceptions to both of these, but it’s important to recognize the signs of either. As more and more kids have access to social media, bullying can often take on a life of its own, via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Talk to Teachers

If bullying is taking place at school, in a particular classroom, you need to let teachers know what’s happening (here’s where parents come in handy). In overcrowded classrooms, it’s entirely possible that your teacher has no idea what’s being said or done.

Bring the situation to his or her attention, and specifically ask for help. It’s okay to say, “I know you’re busy, but Todd has been really verbally abusive towards me. I need you to keep an eye on things and help me out when it starts up.” If your teacher isn’t receptive, or turns a blind eye, move up the chain of command to administrators.

Talking to Administrators

Most school districts these days claim to have a zero-tolerance policy against bullying. Get a copy of your school’s student code of conduct, and use it when you talk to administrators. It’s okay to say, “You know, Todd verbally and physically harasses me every day, and according to Section 5 of our school handbook, that’s grounds for suspension. What can you do to protect me from being a victim?”

Another thing you may wish to keep in mind is that using “I” and “me” statements may get you further. Instead of saying, “Todd picks on me,” try saying, “I’m afraid for my own safety” or “I feel victimized.” This sends the message that you are a real person with very real concerns, because you, and not the bully, are the subject of the sentence.

If you’re being targeted because of your religious beliefs, it’s important to remind administrators that Pagans are entitled to equal protection under the law, just like students of every other religion. If your principal or other administrator doesn’t really understand what Pagans and Wiccans believe, now’s your chance to help educate them (again, parents can come in handy here, to show that they support you and your religious choices).

If You’re a Parent

If your child is being bullied, it’s important for you to be your kid’s advocate. Don’t assume your child is being victimized because of something he or she may have done (“Well, what did you do to provoke Todd?”). Encourage your child to tell you about what has happened, and stand by her when she meets with principals or teachers.

Education.com recommends that you teach your child safety strategies even if you don’t agree with his or her belief system. If you’re not sure what he or she believes, ask about it. Your child will probably be happy to explain to you what his or her spirituality entails, and educating yourself about these beliefs will help you when you go in to talk to teachers and administrators.

If you don’t feel like you’re making progress by working with school officials — or if a teacher or other staff member is part of the problem — work your way up the ladder. Go up as far as the superintendent of your school district if necessary. You may even wish to contact an attorney if you feel child is in danger and that the school is not doing what they should to protect him.

A Few Other Things to Keep In Mind

Document everything. If you receive threatening or harassing text messages, emails, and so forth, keep copies and give them to your parents and teachers. If you receive abusive phone calls, be sure to document the date and time, as well as what was said. This can be as simple as keeping a journal and writing, “Monday, June 4, 4:52 pm: Todd called and said [whatever].” If threats or other bullying behavior are coming in via social media, screen cap everything. Don’t know how to take screen shots? Ask your kid – they know.

Remember that non-physical bullying is still bullying. While boys are more likely to use physical aggression, girls tend to bully socially. Ostracizing (“we’re having a party, and you’re totally not invited”), the spreading of rumors (“we heard all about you and the football team”), and name-calling (“slut/whore/skank/bitch”) are the weapons of choice for the Mean Girls group. Just because they’re not hitting or punching doesn’t make them any less bullies.

Tamra, a Wiccan high school senior, says, “I got picked on a lot when I was a freshman, because I was fat and had acne and I was really shy. Finally, I figured out that for me, the best defense was to let people know I wasn’t going to take their abuse. I said, “I’m a person with feelings, and you are NOT going to make me feel bad about myself.” Eventually they lost interest and left me alone.”

Many people recommend ignoring people who bully you, but in a real-world scenario that’s not always possible. Some people will continue to harass you, no matter what you do — which is why you need to get adults involved.

Significant amounts of bullying take place because bystanders refuse to get involved. If you’re aware of someone else being bullied, step in. If you’re afraid for your own safety, help by making school officials aware of the situation.

The Silly Sacred School Supply Celebration

This is a ritual that I originally posted on my About.com site, but it has vanished into the aether, after About became ThoughtCo. However, school is starting up again in just a few weeks, so I wanted to share this, because it’s ridiculously fun, and it’s a great way to transition your kids into a new year with a new teacher, and celebrate your spirituality in a goofy and irreverent way.

Image by Latino Life via Canva
The Silly Celebration of the Sacred School Supplies

In many Pagan traditions, it’s customary to consecrate your magical tools before beginning your practice. This creates a magical link between you, the tools, and the divine, and even the universe itself. In some traditions, items which have been consecrated have far more power than those which have not.If you’re getting ready to go back to school, or start new classes, consider consecrating your school supplies.

After all, if a magical tool is powerful when consecrated, then why not consider consecrating the tools of education? Much like the ridiculously goofy Chocolate Rabbit ceremony, this is a simple ritual that is a bit silly, but can be adapted for anyone from kindergartners to middle-school students to college kids.

Have fun with it, and make it a celebration of education and learning. Invite everyone in the family to participate — the more the merrier.

You’ll need:
  • All of your school supplies – pencils, pens, notebooks, calculators, crayons, highlighters, and your backpack
  • An apple
  • A glass of milk
  • Your favorite summer baked goods, such as cookies

Place all the school supplies in a pile in the center of your altar or workspace. If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, do so now.

Raise the apple up to the sky, and say:

O mighty apple! Symbol of the teacher behind the desk,
Symbol of those who would judge me when I show up tardy,
I offer you to the educators who will frown upon me if I forget my homework!
O mighty apple! Bright and red and sweet,
Symbol of my hopes and dreams that the teacher will really really like me,
I offer you to the universe, a grand sacrifice to the gods of education!

Take a bite of the apple, and pass it around to everyone else. After everyone has chomped on the apple, set it aside. You’ll need it later. Hold the milk in one hand, and the plate of cookies in the other. Say:

O mighty milk and cookies! Glorious snack, symbol of education and treats,
I use your power to consecrate these tools of learning and wisdom!

Place the milk and cookies on the altar. Pass each of your school supplies over them, describing the item and what it is for, such as:

I consecrate this pencil, so I can write proper sentences and spell correctly,
In the name of the milk and cookies!

I consecrate this calculator, so I can solve math problems and pass my algebra tests,
In the name of the milk and cookies!

I consecrate this assignment book, so I can get all my work done and avoid detention,
In the name of the milk and cookies!

Continue until all of your school supplies are consecrated by the great power of the milk and cookies. It’s even more fun if everyone participating shouts “In the name of the milk and cookies!” together.

Finally, when all of your school supplies have been consecrated by the power of the milk and cookies, place them all in the backpack. Pass what’s left of the apple, the glass of milk and the plate of cookies over them. Say:

School begins once more this year,
Supplies are packed with lots of cheer!
Pencils and pens are tucked away,
An awesome year will come my way!
Hail mighty apple!
Hail mighty milk!
Hail mighty cookies!

Pass the milk around for everyone to share, and eat all the cookies. Congratulate yourself on being prepared for another year of learning and success.

Religion in Public and Private Schools

Every so often I get messages from students who have questions about what sort of religious expression is permitted in school. For instance, who can speak about religion, and in what context? Can your school prohibit you from wearing a shirt with a pentacle on it, or a piece of Pagan jewelry?

The answer is going to depend on two things – first, which country you live in, and secondly, whether you attend a private or public school.

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on schools in the United States, simply because I don’t have the knowledge needed to speak with any semblance of authority on other countries and their laws.

Image by Latino Life via Canva
Public School Guidelines

If you’re a student at an American public school, that information is standard across the board, because there are federal guidelines on religious expression in public schools.

Why is this a thing? Well, public schools are funded by public money, which means that the federal government can take a stance on the issue. Your tax dollars pay for schools, so this means that public schools fall under the umbrella of federal legislation and guidelines.

In 1995, then-US Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley sent every school superintendent in America a set of guidelines to follow, and those rules still stand today. In general, they are as follows:

Student Prayer and Religious Discussion: Prayer and discussion of religion by students is permitted, and they are welcome to engage in these activities as long as they do so in a way that’s non-disruptive. They can even attempt to persuade other students about their beliefs, but they can’t harass members of another group in the name of religious free speech. So, you can say, “I really love being Pagan and here’s why I think you might like being Pagan too.” What you CAN’T say is, “Well, Becky, I’m Pagan and your Christian belief is STUPID and you should be Pagan like me because I’m right and you’re wrong.”

Teaching About Religion: Public schools aren’t allowed to teach religious courses, but they are allowed to teach about religion. For example, the Bible and the Koran can be included as part of a literature class, or as part of a comparative religions class.

Student Clothing: When it comes to clothing, local school districts get a some leeway from the government as far as setting dress code. Ideally, no articles of student clothing should be disruptive. You can wear a shirt that says “I <3 the Goddess,” but not one that says “Jesus sucks.”

Administrative Neutrality: Teachers and other school officials are considered representatives of the state, so the establishment clause prohibits them from being involved with student religious activity in a public school. They can’t participate in or encourage any sort of religious activity with the students.

However, if you’re a student at a private or parochial school, these guidelines may not apply to you.

Religion in Private Schools

In private schools, all bets are off, and the reason is a simple one: private schools are privately funded, and don’t receive federal or state dollars. This means they can set their own rules for student and staff conduct.

If you attend a private school that is church-affiliated, you could be required to attend religious classes, prayer sessions, or Bible study. This too is legal. If you are a student at Our Holy Father of the Chia Pet High School, and Sister Mary Margaret tells you it’s time for prayer, there’s nothing against the law there.

A private school may have a specific dress code that all students are expected to adhere to. You could be prohibited from wearing shirts, jewelry, or clothing that have Pagan messages or symbols on them.

Despite the fact that they don’t get federal tax dollars, no private school may discriminate against students on the basis of race, but pretty much any other issue (like religion, or sexual orientation) is something that gets really slippery in the courts. For instance, a Christian school might refuse to admit a gay or lesbian student because it goes against the philosophy of their church. They also might say “We only want Christian students here.” As long as they are not receiving federal tax dollars, this has been allowed by the courts in the past.

The bottom line? If you’re attending a public school in the US, you’ve got some legal standing when it comes to religious matters, but if you’re a student at a private institution, you are probably going to be required to follow their rules.

 

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