The words were crudely scrawled with a black marker on the pink walls of a girls’ washroom at a Prince George, B.C., high school: “Kailey Kukkola is a disgusting, flat, ugly slut.”
Kailey Kukkola, a Grade 9 student at College Heights High, knew everyone who visited that washroom would have seen the words.
“At first I laughed about it because I thought it was kinda funny,” Kailey told Radio West host Sarah Penton. “But then I got kinda sad. I don’t know why girls do that to each other.”
She decided to send a message to the anonymous bully. She made a T-shirt with a photo of the hurtful graffiti emblazoned on it, and proudly wore it to school.
“I just wanted to show the person that I don’t care,” she said. “They’re just words and they shouldn’t matter that much.”
School says incidents taken seriously
Kailey said the T-shirt was an effort to take back power from the bully. She said she got a lot of support from her friends, but one teacher “didn’t get it,” so she had to go to the office and explain herself.
She told the administrators she didn’t think much would be done about the graffiti — just one of many examples of abusive words defacing that washroom, Kailey said — if she just told an adult.
But she said the meeting ended on a positive note, with the school counsellor encouraging her to join the peer leadership team.
“Making a big deal like that really got it fixed, said Kailey. “And all graffiti’s been taken down and now it’s being taken more seriously.”
Marilyn Marquis-Forster, the superintendent of Prince George schools, applauded Kailey for standing up for herself.
“Our schools take any reports of bullying or graffiti that’s detrimental very seriously,” Marquis-Forster said. “We believe that we’re really responsive to incidents when they come forward.”
She said the graffiti about Kailey was removed and the school may keep a closer eye on defacements of the washroom where it was found.
Wants to see change
Kailey’s father, Aaron Kukkola, said he’s proud of his daughter’s actions.
The graffiti was first brought to her family’s attention by another student.
“You don’t want that to happen to anybody and when it hits home like that, you’re upset,” Kailey’s dad said.
When it came to the T-shirt idea, “I was hesitant at first,” he said. “You hear the stories in the news and all over social media of kids getting bullied. Sometimes, something like this can trigger more.”
But after hearing positive feedback from friends, the community and even from across B.C., he’s very proud of her.
Kailey said her hope is there won’t be a next time for this kind of bullying at her school.
“Whoever wrote that has to be hurting, because if you’re saying that about another person, you’ve gotta feel some of it yourself.”
Kailey plans to use the shirt at an anti-bullying workshop, where she has been asked to speak.