Bullying in Arizona: 11 Who Took a Stand

Caleb Laieski of Phoenix is working in the mayor’s office for the City of Phoenix and making plans for college. But just a few years ago, Laieski dropped out of school during his sophomore year at Willow Canyon High School in Surprise after enduring daily episodes of bullying.

Laieski recalls being excluded from groups for being different and being gay. He was “depantsed” during P.E., called a “faggot” and nearly run over by students deliberately driving on a sidewalk where he was walking.

While riding the school bus home one day, another student hurled a stream of slurs and swear words at Laieski. “I’m gonna come and stab you,” he said. Laieski believed him.

He remembers talking to a school administrator about the threat. “He told me he knew the kid and was sure something like that would never happen,” recalls Laieski. “My mom just watched everything happen. She didn’t want the drama of getting involved.”

But Caleb Laieski’s own experiences, plus the suicide of a close female friend who’d been bullied for things as trivial as wearing mismatched knee-high socks, spurred him to action.

It’s easy to say you’re for bullying prevention. But doing something is another matter. Some sit on the sidelines, convinced they can’t make a difference. Others want to get involved but aren’t sure where to start.

We’ve profiled 11 people in Arizona, including Laieski, who are working to prevent bullying in schools and communities. Perhaps their stories will strike a chord, helping more of us feel more empowered and better equipped to tackle a shared problem that demands shared solutions.