Sheryl Martinez of Hamburg is publishing a book she wrote, “The Bullied Child,” about the school experiences of her teenaged daughter Rachel, who is now grown and lives in Nebraska.
The book features watercolor paintings by Karen Wells of Hamburg that accompany each page of text.
Martinez and Wells gathered Rachel's experiences into an illustrated poem that traces a day in the life of a victim of bullying: waking up in the morning filled with dread, constant abuse by her peers, hurrying home at the end of the day crying in anguish.
Rachel is one of many children in this country who have experienced repeated unwanted aggression by their peers—bullying—in school.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Education, between one quarter and one third of students in the U.S. say they have been bullied. Only 20 to 30 percent of these notify adults about the problem.
Most bullying happens in middle school. The most common types are verbal and social bullying.
“Cyberbullying” on cellphones and online social media receives increasing attention in the media, though it accounts for only a small portion (4 percent) of all bullying.
About 30 percent of young people admit to bullying others. Jennifer Castle, author and creator of a PBS website that covers “life skills issues” for young people, says that making another person feel bad by bullying is a way of gaining power over him or her.
This makes the bully feel important or popular, and gains the attention of others, satisfying a need that ultimately stems from one's own insecurities.
But statistics and analysis don't mean much to those who are being bullied, or their families. Nor do platitudes about how victims should “grin and bear it,” or learn how to fight back. Says Martinez, “I hear a lot of people say,'Teach your kids how to stand up and fight.' But not everybody's a fighter. Some people just aren't like that in their genetics.
“My favorite phrase is, 'Oh, it's just a little school teasing.' That's not true. That's something bullies and their parents made up to justify what they do.”
Martinez cites another of her 'favorite' phrases: “'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.' Probably the most untrue statement ever made, because words hurt, no matter who you are.”
Of several types of bullying the CDC/DOE identifies—physical, verbal, social (harming the victim's reputation or relationships with others), and property damage—“The Bullied Child” depicts the effect on the book's main character of the kind of verbal and relational abuse that Rachel faced daily in school.
Students hissed at her as they passed in the hallways, padlocked her locker so she couldn't get to her books, and voted her the class “psycho” while the teacher looked on.
Martinez feels that the school could have done more to address bullying. “People need to take bullying more seriously…they try to sweep it under the rug. We should put the word out more, instead of trying to hide it.”  
Research into bullying prevention is a growing field that has made great progress in tackling important questions, though many remain unanswered. Numerous prevention programs have been tested in schools, with modest results. Others have failed to make a difference.
The Hamburg Community School's most recent Parent/Student Handbook has a four-page Anti-Bullying and Harassment Policy, clearly defining behavior that is considered bullying and putting forth detailed procedures for complaints, investigations, and resolutions.
The school continues working diligently in implementing their bullying prevention program, “The Leader in Me.”
 It is based on the research of Steven Covey, author of the bestselling book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” His program was modified specifically for schools to teach children the importance of independent thinking, teamwork, and constant striving for improvement.
Hamburg Schools have very little bullying because of the program's emphasis on character development and mutual understanding.
Recently, one of the girls who had bullied Sheryl Martinez's daughter years ago contacted Rachel and apologized to her. “Now that I have my own kids, I'm sorry I did that,” she told Rachel. “Because I wouldn't want anybody doing that to my kids.”
The words meant so much to Rachel that they brought her to tears.
Martinez said, “I want to touch people's heart with this because it's really important to this day. I've gotten over it, but in me and my daughter's head it's still there.”
“The Bullied Child” will be on sale at September’s Flea Market, and is available at blurb.com.