Xander Rose’s life was heading down a path that so many kids, unfortunately, have to face. Persistent bullying made the 10-year-old boy from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia dread school, and other children made him believe that no one was on his side. His mother Katie Laybolt says her son has been bullied for awhile but this year has been the worst yet.
“It’s been crazy. He’s gotten jumped on the bus. He’s had clothing ripped off his back. He’s been told to go die in a hole,” Laybolt told CTV News Atlantic.
He’s not the only one feeling the impact of bullying in the town. Cape Breton has seen a huge increase in youth suicides in the past year. The most recent death was of 13-year-old Madison Wilson, who was a victim of cyberbullying and verbal abuse at school. Her mom Amylynn Wilson wants kids to know that “It’s OK to ask for the help and tell [them] what’s going on, to let it out so they are not keeping it in,” she told CTV.
With multiple tragedies like this in Cape Breton, Xander’s mother knew she had to put an end to her son’s problem before it got worse. Refusing to sit back and watch things unfold, she contacted other parents, the school, the board, the police, two news outlets, and various organizations for help — but nothing changed.
Finally, Laybolt contacted the organization Defenders of the Children, a group of bikers who fight against child abuse and bullying. Laybolt was put in touch with Darryl Angus, who said he would make some calls and see what he could do to help.
Defenders of the Children took charge, organizing a rally to support Xander — and the advocacy he received was monumental. On the morning of the event, hundreds of bikers showed up and escorted him to school. The purpose was to show that Xander is not alone and to demonstrate, loud and clear, that bullying is not OK. Friends held up signs to show their support that read, “Be a buddy, not a bully.”
When asked what he thought of the rally, Xander proclaimed to CTV, “It’s good, because I think from me getting all this help and support, I can also spread it to help others.”
While the rally’s local organizer Mike Basso described the event as “exhilarating.” He hopes that the rally will improve Xander’s self-esteem and help him feel safe. Basso told CBC News, “He’s one of us. If they have a problem with him, they have a problem with us.”