Bullying video reveals assistant principal's secret

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on August 24, 2012 at 10:26 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 22 at 2:42 PM

RICHARDSON - Days before the start of school, Michael Westfall, an assistant principal at Richardson High School, is still distributing textbooks to teachers.

He might be the biggest anti-bullying advocate on campus.

Before school recessed for the summer, he had his 2,700 students watch a video of a silhouetted figure.

"I remember one time being bullied by a guy that outweighed me easily by 100 pounds," the unidentified man on the screen said in a disguised voice.

This individual goes on to confess a personal secret of how bullying almost drove him to suicide.

"I can remember I had the gun in my hand in my room," the man's voice said. "My mom didn't know; my dad didn't know."

But it's the end of the three-minute video that's most revealing, when the camera pans over to show the bullying victim is actually Mr. Westfall.

"I was tiny; I barely broke 100 pounds at 9th grade," Westfall, now 37, admitted.

That led to a lack of self-confidence that made him a frequent target, he added.

"It was nudges here and there, and just being undersized," Westfall said. "I played basketball in high school, and I was always the shortest on the team, the lightest on the team, the weakest on the team."

As a junior in high school, at age 17, Westfall said he got his dad's .357 and considered suicide.

"I was going to carry through," he told News 8. "I was done. I was going to carry through."

That stark revelation is the message of his simple video.

"The main thing that we wanted to show the kids [in the video] is you're going to be an adult. It's going to get better. It's not always going to be this way," he continued.

Ever since the Columbine massacre a lot more attention is focused on bullying. Unfortunately, that really hasn't reduced the number of cases. Bullying is still quite prevalent on social media, and it's not just boys who bully online, but mainly girls.

"Most of the incidents we see here on our campus is girls," Westfall explained. "It's just trash talk basically, but it can turn a lot more heated than you would think because they're not there face-to-face. Nothing's going to happen face-to-face. There's no repercussions. They're going to one-up each other until it's out of control."

Richardson High started a bully tip line last school year that lets students send anonymous texts to report what they see. By May, at least 14 students participated by sending texts describing three different bullying incidents.

"We had a student here who would fight at the drop of a hat. She came up to me at the end of the year after the video and said, 'I woulda whooped this girl, but I thought about your video and I walked away.' That to me was huge," Westfall said.

He wants high schoolers to remember what he survived; the humiliation of being the weakest kid who finally summoned strength to divulge his own secret that life does get better.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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