Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews is a poet and author. Recently, she read a tragic article about a 9-year-old Syrian girl, new to Canada, who was driven to suicide by bullies. Most of us have read similar stories. Josie knows all too well what bullies are capable of, because she was a schoolteacher for several decades. She was also an immigrant child herself, arriving here at age 13. Here is what Josie has to say.


Immigrant Children Have Enough Problems

This is so so sad. All I can say is that, yes, this stuff happens. It happened to my immigrant friends and me in the ’60s when we came from Italy, Portugal, Greece, Yugoslavia, Scotland, England and so many other places. We stood out as newly immigrated through our accents, our clothes, our mannerisms. We were made to feel unwelcome at school. We clung together. We tried to avoid the disparaging comments and the bullying. The boys had it worse. They were often beaten up and challenged to fight.


As a teacher, I always stood against bullying of children on the school premises. I have seen it over and over again and I always called it out. The victimized kids told me I was one of the only adults who did so. Most teachers minimized it and told them to solve it themselves when they were approached. But bullying will not go away by itself. Sociopaths do not change and bullies are often young sociopaths.


As this little girl’s family says, the teachers did nothing. When bullying is reported, it is often blamed on the victim, because the belief is that they somehow brought it upon themselves. Bullies are usually cool kids. They look good, present and pretend well. They’re part of the “in” crowd. I have witnessed administrators sweeping the issue of abuse under the carpet. Sometimes the bullies’ mothers are in the home and school council and run school funding campaigns. Principals and teachers generally don’t want to deal with troublemakers’ families for fear of arguments and threats from parents. As well, administrators don’t want it known that they run a school where bullying happens.


This [girl’s suicide] is a very sad wake up call to everyone in school communities to stand up against bullies and bullying. They do exist and they do their work when no one is looking. They know when to target. It is calculated and well planned. They aim to hurt. They wait to strike when no adults are present. It is well known that they usually grow up to become abusers of their spouses and children. It is documented that they often get into positions of power where they can best bully coworkers, seeing them as competitors. What’s their advantage in bullying? They usually want to obtain something out of their target. They will abuse to use or just simply to avenge their envy or racism or whatever hate drives them. They also get off on other people’s anguish. It makes them feel better about their own power.


Bullies are sadists. Most of them will only target people they deem inferior, all the while sucking up to the ones they perceive as having higher status than themselves. Yes, children do this too. I have watched it in classrooms and during recess. They have an innate sense of rank and belonging to the in crowd; often they are ringleaders and will bully another child so that they appear powerful.


If I could have taught this little girl, I would have told her: “you are beautiful! you are loved and deserving of love! do not listen to mean kids!” and I would have called her family to warn them of this. I would have reported it to the principal and the school psychologist, as well as to all the teachers who came into contact with her during the week.


I’m sure she told some teachers. How can they live with themselves now? I am so sorry this has happened to a beautiful little girl in Canada in 2019. What a sorry state of things. My heart goes out to this child’s family.


Below is the link to the article Josie read and, below it, a poem written by Josie:




I’ve never met you

But I know you.


Mockery your middle name.


I know that look.

I’ve seen it somewhere



Fish eyes.

Cold and flat

Against the current

In my eyes.

Ah yes!

I recognize you.


Remember my heart?

I picked it up off the floor

In a puddle of blood

At your feet

As you laughed

And walked away with the others.



I turned

And held it in my hands



Cake eater!

It didn’t phase you.


That truly cuts

deeper than sugar.


The wound.


After all it’s what you are:

Fair and sweet.

My ethnic cheekbones.

My black hair.



Stark against the grey

In your eyes.

You see me in black

Although I’m wearing white.

Blood spilling

Through my fingers

From the killing.

To you, I am

Who you think I am.


My face an icon.




Josie today