Imagine this nightmare scenario: After repeated bullying by a gang of your peers, you and a friend see them standing outside. There is no escape. Your best hope is that half of them beat up your friend, while the other half beats you up.
Somehow your friend escapes and you realize the entire gang is attacking you.
Now what? You fight back but there are seven of them and only one of you. What next? You cry for help. People walk right past you ignoring your pleas. So you stop crying.
The beating continues for 38 minutes on a public street. You are dragged through the snow. You are hung upside down from a tree. Then you are hung by your coat on a high fence.
Rescue final comes when one of the people who had earlier walked by returns in a car and threatens to run over your attackers. They flee, taking with them the video footage they had shot of much of the attack using one of their cell phones. The footage is later posted to YouTube.
The local police chief sees the video. He walks into the school and handcuffs six of the bullies in front of their classmates. The seventh tries to hide but is found a few days later. He, too, is arrested.
It all sounds like something out of a TV movie, right? Sadly, it isn’t. On Jan. 11 of this year, then 13-year old Nadin Khoury lived out the nightmare in his home town of Upper Darby, Pa. Since the attacks, he has appeared on national television, including CNN, MSNBC, ABC news programs and “The View,” to spread his anti-bullying message.
Last Thursday (Oct. 20), Nadin visited Lawrence Township to speak to students at Lawrence Middle School. It was Nadin’s first time speaking directly to peers and the first of several planned appearances at schools across the country.
After the first of three presentations to the seventh- and eighth-graders at LMS, Nadin said “it is much better coming to a school [than on TV]. If you go directly to the place where bullying is happening, the bullies get the message and those being bullied get the message.”
Nadin said he wants victims of bullying to understand how important it is that they speak up and tell someone what is happening to them. His reasoning is simple: “If I don’t tell, they’ll [continue to] beat me up. If I do tell, they’ll [still] beat me up” but hopefully someone will intervene.
In a typical bullying incident, Nadin said, there are “three people in the situation: the bully, the one being bullied, and the bystander. The one being bullied needs to get someone involved [otherwise] it is going to keep happening. Keep telling people.”
In Nadin’s case, he told his parents, who in turn alerted school district officials and the local police.
During last week’s assembly, LMS students watched a brief yet disturbing excerpt of the video footage of Nadin being attacked. Afterward the students asked Nadin some thoughtful questions.
“How long did the incident feel to you?” one student asked.
Nadin answered, “It felt more like two hours instead of the 38 minutes.”
Another student asked, “Why were you bullied?”
“Because I was small – 5 feet and really scrawny. I think that made me a target,” Nadin responded.
Another question: “Were you scared to tell an adult?”
Nadin admitted, “Yeah – I was really embarrassed … I didn’t want to be a snitch.” But he stressed that the bullying would have continued had he not spoken up.
Nadin now attends a new school, Wyncote Academy. The called the nonprofit private school “the best school I have ever been to.”
After the video footage of the bullies attacking him was made public, Nadin had two choices: “I could keep on going the way it was going, or I could become an advocate.”
He chose to become an anti-bullying advocate. That decision has led to TV appearances, including one where he met his favorite athlete, Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. Nadin described Jackson as “a really cool person. He made an organization for anti-bullying.”
Jackson became an anti-bullying spokesperson after becoming inspired by Nadin’s courage.
Nadin has also teamed up with Albert Harris, president of White Light Productions, a television production company created with the vision to inspire viewers as well as to entertain them. White Light Productions is creating a new program called “BULLIED” designed to get the message out about bullying, its effects and how to identify bullying before it goes too far.
Harris, coincidently, attended school – elementary grades through high school – with Lawrence Middle School health and physical education teacher Kristin Kuziora.
Every year, Kuziora teaches a unit on bullying. She was aware of Harris’s work with White Light Productions.
“I contacted Albert,” Kuziora explained. “We discussed a lot of different strategies, had meetings with the principal and guidance counselors and decided on an assembly. I found out that [the speaker] was Nadin, and was excited for the opportunity to have him at the school – especially since he is the same age as these kids.”
“It sounds strange for two childhood friends that were popular and not bullied to take a stand, but we know that's what is needed to combat bullying with this generation,” Kuziora said.
Kuziora said the response from students and their parents about Nadin’s appearance has been very positive. She said “it makes a difference if it reaches one student that wasn’t reached before.”
Students at LMS have recommitted themselves to the school’s “Cardinal Code,” which includes a pledge to say NO to bullying.
Nadin is scheduled to share his message directly with President Barack Obama when he meets the president at the White House in a couple months.
Meanwhile, Nadin’s attackers spent two months in a juvenile jail, followed by a period of house arrest and probation for the next five years.