MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Switching gears now, bullying has been in the news a lot in recent years. Bullying has always gone on, of course, but in recent years, the issue has gotten more attention, in part because a number of these episodes have ended tragically.
Today, though, we're happy to tell you we have a story with a different ending. Maisie Kate Miller seemed to get more than her share of ribbing from one of her schoolmates, but something about her snarky comments about wearing her hair in pigtails just cut Maisie to the core. But, instead of ignoring it - Mom's advice - she decided to not only keep wearing her pigtails, but she went on Facebook and asked her friends to take a stand with her the next day at Marblehead High School in Massachusetts.
What happened next surprised her. Word got around and students she didn't know, teachers and even a dog showed up to class rocking their pigtails in solidarity.
Now, Maisie says her Pigtails For Peace protest is more than a stand against one nasty comment. It's a stand against bullying everywhere and she's with us now to tell us more about it.
Maisie, thanks so much for joining us. Welcome.
MAISIE KATE MILLER: Thank you so much for having me, Michel.
MARTIN: So I'm sure it's not your favorite thing to talk about, but if you don't mind going back to that day when this girl made this comment, what exactly did she say?
MILLER: She said, who wears pigtails anymore? Are we in kindergarten? And it was right behind me in a busy intersection of the school, which is like the only staircase, and I don't know. It just really affected me.
MARTIN: Is this a person who liked to pick at you or did she pick at everybody or was she - for whatever reason, were you kind of one of her favorite targets?
MILLER: I was definitely one of her favorite targets.
MARTIN: Any idea why?
MILLER: Because I'm different, I guess, and I kind of am loud and I'm just not, you know, the average girl at my school. I'm kind of friends with a lot of people, so I don't know. I don't really know why she chose me, but I think that has something to do with it.
MARTIN: What gave you the idea to go on Facebook and say, wait. You know what? I'm wearing my pigtails.
MILLER: I have always used Facebook as kind of a tool to my advantage. The reason I chose Facebook for that outlet to kind of get the word across about my incident with the bully was because I knew that it would probably get somewhat of a reaction and I kind of just wanted people to stand up for me in a way that was peaceful and to also just - so the bullying would stop because it was becoming something that was constant and I just really just needed it to stop because it was unfair and not kind and it hurt me.
MARTIN: Were you surprised by the reaction the next day?
MILLER: I was overwhelmed. Everyone was wearing pigtails. I was crying, basically, the entire day because it was just so amazing and beautiful.
MARTIN: What is it you think that struck a chord with other people?
MILLER: I think what really hit home for everyone was the fact that everyone's had mean things said to them behind their back, to their face. Whatever it is, it just really hurts and you can't really explain why and even some people have told me, you know, you were overreacting by starting this whole thing and I think something people need to keep in mind is that words hurt.
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. I'm speaking with Maisie Kate Miller. She's calling her unique anti-bullying campaign Pigtails For Peace. She's telling us all about it.
I understand that you posted a second message at some point in the course of the day, reminding people not to bully the bully.
MILLER: Well, my mom was really concerned after I told her what happened, that because of posting this status, people would start to be rude, mean, even some of them were, like, asking me if they wanted me to beat her up. And I got scared and my mom was very worried. She was like, oh, no. That can not be what this is about. This is not about getting back at the bully. This is about telling her that this is wrong in a peaceful way.
I immediately felt some kind of remorse because I knew that tomorrow - sorry - the next day was going to be a hard day for her because everyone was going to be wearing pigtails and she was going to know why.
MARTIN: What about the girl who did make those original comments to you? Did she ever apologize?
MILLER: Well, through friends in the same grade as me, she has sent messages, just trying to let me know that she's been going through a really rough time lately and that I guess kind of just making an excuse for her behavior, which - you know, everyone has excuses and I think excuses are fair and I definitely - if I had known what she had been going through, I don't know what I would have done differently, but I'm just glad that the bullying has stopped.
MARTIN: The upside of it is that the bullying has stopped, but I do wonder whether there is some bigger story here in that maybe people aren't as isolated as they think they are.
MILLER: Right. And there's this kind of strength and unity in my school now. It definitely feels safer and I definitely feel like, now, people can, you know, have something - to kind of have the courage to say, no. This is not OK.
MARTIN: Maisie Kate Miller is a sophomore at Marblehead High School. She was kind enough to join us from member station WBUR in Boston.
Maisie, thank you so much for joining us. Thank your mom, too.
MILLER: Thank you so much for having me, Michel.
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