updated 4/1/2010 8:21:44 AM ET 2010-04-01T12:21:44

In the wake of a Massachusetts teenager's suicide after being relentlessly harassed by classmates, hundreds of readers shared bullying's long-lasting impact on their lives.

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While some acknowledge they were singled out for being overweight, the "new kid" or a good student, many others still don't understand why they were targeted. Your responses indicate that often adults either couldn't or wouldn't stop the harassment, even when they were aware of it. Bullying occurs in cities, small towns, wealthy communities and rural areas.

As one reader who endured taunts and teasing through his school years writes, “The scars are not always visible, but the pain remains.”

I was bullied from kindergarten through high school. I was constantly taunted as "fatty", "fatso" and "loser" even though, looking at old photographs I was not really heavy until mid-grade school — after I took their teasing to heart. In high school, kids would follow me down the hall and hit me in the head with textbooks. At one point, for several days in a row, I was held down on the school bus and forced to ride it to the end of the route which resulted in a walk home of several miles.  I was threatened often.  I suffered from low self-esteem and depression through my entire childhood and had several bouts of suicidal ideation in my teens.  I did talk to some teachers and my parents about the bullying but I was always told to "ignore them" or "walk away"; two pieces of advice that could not be put into practice. I eventually dropped out.  Now, at almost 40 years of age I look back and think about how my life might have been different if I had not been afraid for so long and if I had learned not to hate myself sooner.

Video: Anger mounts in Mass. bullying case As third generation educator in my family and a teacher for 14 years, I have seen first hand what bullying does to children. However, what has not been brought up in this discussion are the following facts within the public school system today:
1. As the social-economic conditions get worse in our society; so does the bullying.
2. A larger number of school employees are expected to act as parents; not just educators.
3. When the parents of the bullies are confronted, they often enable and downplay the severity of the behaviors and charges.
4. Cutbacks in social services within school districts (we have one counselor for 500 kids).
5. How do schools regulate Twitter, Facebook, e-mail?
Steven Hall, Cadillac, Mich.

My son is 14, and a pre-AP student. There is a bully in his school who continually picks on my son, and others, for religious reasons. He falsely believes my son is an atheist, and has made numerous threats against him and other students in the name of "Christianity." Anyhow, this kid has tormented my son and others for months by throwing food and making obscene and threatening remarks to him in the cafeteria. Recently his behavior escalated and the school punished my son for defending himself. On this occasion, the kid started by throwing food at my son during lunch; and, when my son didn't respond, he ran over and started screaming obscenities at him. Then he took my son's milk, which my son turned and tried to get the kid to leave him alone by taking a swing at him (which barely grazed him) and grabbing for the stolen milk. They wrestled for the milk briefly, and then my son hit the bottom of the milk and sent the contents flying all over the kid. The school didn't take any action until this time, when my son tried to defend himself. The city cop assigned to work in the school wrote both students tickets, which we have to go to court over in two weeks. My wife convinced the school to show her the video; and she feels that my son's actions were purely in self defense. However, the school and local police won't drop the charges. Since that event, this little punk has had his friends/minions make numerous threats of violence; but the school has not taken satisfactory action to prevent it. I wish I could find an attorney that could help us fight this misaligned system, and make the school and the kids parents responsible for the other students actions.

It wasn't me who was bullied but my son. He was in the third grade and he would take the school bus to school. On the bus was a bully who would knock the kids over on the school bus. I wondered why he didn't want to go to school. I never knew until I saw her (yes , it was a girl) do it to him. I jumped on the bus, for the bus driver wasn't doing any thing about it. I told the girl off and she started to swear at me. Finally the police were called and one of the police was one I knew so he drove us to my son's school where we talked to the head master. The head master told us that she would talk to her which she never did. The girl's mother was going to sue us!
Elaine Elias, Jamaica Plain, Mass.

I must have been a bully magnet. I was bullied in kindergarten and first grade by a kid named Jimbo, in fourth grade by Kristine, in fifth grade by a boy named David. After my family moved to Florida my sister and I were both taunted a lot because of our Maine accents. In high school I was bullied by a big redneck girl. One day as she was riding by my house I decided "no more," I would stand up to her and either get the crap kicked out of me or I'd prevail and the abuse would end. I was really scared, I wasn't much of a fighter. To my amazement she backed down! I didn't even have to fight her, she chickened out. That boosted my confidence.
Rayanne Stemmler, Northville, Mich.

I am a 66-year-old male who was bullied in elementary and halfway through high school. I not only told my teachers, but the principals and counselors, and they did NOTHING. The teachers would see the bullying in the hallways and the play ground and would do NOTHING. I finally had enough and I started being quite violent towards the kids committing the bullying and came to school one day with a knife intending to kill as many of the bullies as i could, but i just couldn't do it. I was turned in to the principal and was suspend from school. So ... I guess those teachers sure showed those bullies, didn't they? I fought the bullies and all that happened was I was constantly in trouble at school and the bullies were even more encouraged to continue their actions.

Video: How to help your kids deal with bullies

I believe that i was one of the lucky ones to have gotten through this without having killed someone or myself. Please make someone aware that this can be stopped, if school teachers and administrators will look for the signs and take serious action against those who are bullying. I promise you that it can be done, but for some reason it's not done. I was robbed of what should have been one the most wonderful times of my life, and was totally responsible for my not having gone on to college. Please, please ... stop this horrible bullying and let's not have any more children like the 15 year old who hanged herself because of it. I sincerely hope that my response to this article can help to get the schools to stop this horrible thing NOW.

As a child I was morbidly obese. One individual in particular bullied me constantly. Slaps in the face, taunts, property destruction. I was dragged through the snow for yards once. I've long since left my home town. However on one return visit I was shocked to find out that this person is now a police officer!

I lived in pain and fear for most of my early school years. I was always the new kid in the neighborhood — my family moved a lot — and I was tall and wore glasses and had long pigtails that my mother thought were cute but that other girls made fun of. I was also a good student and the teachers singled me out for praise. And I was bookish and solitary. The teasing, taunts, gibes and hurtful acts are a part of me still.

I'm glad that there are anti-bullying sanctions now. I suppose that surviving made me stronger and I know that being on the receiving end made me vow to be compassionate myself. I became active in high school in dramatic productions and chorus and I made some friends and I also worked in civil rights and antiwar groups. Today I am a college professor and I often wonder which of my students is hiding a history of having been the target of a bully or maybe even a whole crowd of them. The scars are not always visible, but the pain remains.

I was always bullied throughout my school life for being overweight. I'm a guy, and yet because of all the bullying, I always had the personality of being self-conscious, low self-esteem, and a complete dislike of my body. I always, still to this day, think of what others will think of my actions. I've lost weight from my school days but I still remember so well feeling such depression when I was young. I know that if I didn't have Christ in my life, I would have ended it a long time ago.

In 7th grade I was pretty nerdy. I had frizzy hair, glasses, braces, and my body was so awkward. There were three boys in particular who made my life a living hell. Every morning before school I would cry and beg my dad not to make me go to school. Of course he couldn't keep me home forever, so I just endured the bullying until the year was, thankfully, over. I transferred to another school for 8th grade. At the time, it was a nightmare, but I learned so much and I feel that it has made me into the person I am today.

I was made fun of in school from kindergarten to senior year. I was made fun of so bad in sixth grade I cried myself to sleep every night. My mother asked my sister to find out what was going on, so after my sister asked a high school friend of one of the girls making fun of me she told everybody and then they started making fun of me because I cry my self to sleep everynight. These kids were so mean on purpose they enjoyed it, but I don't believe people see themselves an mean they just think is fun and games and they don't have any idea how they devastate people.
Helen Franklin, Bethany, Ill.

When I was in junior high and high school, I was bullied. Some of the bullies were supposedly my friends who passed it off as joking. They will never know the impact it had on my self esteem. There were two other girls, who were never my friends, that bullied me. One of them made daily threats to beat me up and occasionally pushed me as I walked to class. The other girl constantly called me names or made fun of my appearance. Each instance went on for a separate school year on an almost daily basis. The girl who threatened me eventually moved and the bullying from her stopped.  Before she moved, I was scared to go to school. At lunch and breaks I would find places to hide. I was always nervous and upset. The other girl eventually apologized for her behavior, but I never did trust her. My "friend" who bullied me would knock my books out of my arms every time she passed me. It didn't take me long to realize she wasn't a friend. I was lucky that it never became worse than it was. It has affected me throughout the years. I have a hard time trusting people now. I will never forget the helplessness and loneliness I felt.

My lovely daughter-in-law was bullied in high school by, supposedly popular girls, for no reason that she has ever been told.  She had to quit school, was under a doctor's care, and, to this day is haunted by this episode in her life. She did, however, get her GED and graduated college. My youngest son, being of small statue, was given certain nicknames, etc. Even though sometimes he would cry to me his defense was his athletic ability, his winning personality and laughing with them, though, sometimes it hurt. Amazingly, he was the one who had the most popular girls by his side. Both of these instances, I have cited, take on the same results in adult life. Both are haunted by their memories, but handled it or mishandled it in different ways. My son's son, who was 6, had taken on being the "bully" police. When he saw someone being bullied, he will stand in front of that person, look him or her in the eyes with his two fingers pointed to their eyes, and, say "I saw what you did and I have my eyes on you."
We need more peer "bully" police!

Video: How to help your kids deal with bullies My son, 17, has been a victim of extreme bullying and our entire family has been affected. His daily struggles to truly read and understand people and their motives have left him socially handicapped and forever wrestling with this problem. His fears run so deep, I often wonder how he will "make it" through life. Fortunately, we moved him into a private school where they have an anti-bullying rule the kids live by. That's helped a lot. But the damage over the past 11 years of school is so extensive, the work to overcome will be arduous for him as well as for anyone he comes in contact with who (charitably) has the desire to befriend him. I only share this because I feel like kids should be held responsible for tormenting their peers. Where is the conscience? My son is gradually — GRADUALLY — painfully improving ... but how lovely a child he was. How cheerful. Perennially happy. Then school started. My prayers include those who are bullied every day. If I could say one thing to parents out there, it would be: know your child, know what he's doing, who he's with and help him or her have the integrity to treat others the way they want to be treated.
L.J., Salt Lake City, Utah

I was a very timid child and a teacher's pet, the kind that makes an easy target for bullies.  After elementary school, my parents sent me to a very small Baptist school thinking that we could avoid the kind of bullying that occur in public schools. (The school was so small, my graduating class had 12 students.)  For the most part, I got along very well with the other students.  I had friends. Or so I thought. In the 11th grade, one boy called me "slug" and thought it was funny. Some of the other boys went along. It went on for the whole school year.  One day, they even brought salt to school in Ziplock bags and threw the salt at me in class when the teachers' backs were turned.  The school knew all about it but did nothing.  I was the one who got punished when I finally swore at them out of frustration.

I was a the only Native American student in an all white school in a small town. The names and treatment that I received were horrendous. For many, many years as an adult my self esteem was so shot I wouldn't talk to strangers. I hated going into grocery stores or pretty much anywhere in public. It took a lot of self work, tears and determination to get where I'm at today. Unfortunately I still have a lot of ill feelings towards small town America.

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