Cassidy Warner began to get that sinking feeling in her stomach. It was recess and she knew the four kids at school would be waiting for her, as they always did then. But how would the bullying manifest itself today? Could she expect more punches and kicks, or possibly name-calling? Understandably, the ordeal was making her life a nightmare.
But Cassidy decided one day that she wasn’t going to stand for it any longer. The young girl was finally going to tackle the bullying, which at that point had been going on for the best part of four years. As a result, she would reveal to the world the ordeal that she had been going through at elementary school.
Sadly, this struggle was the reality for young Cassidy, from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who attends John Adams Elementary school. What should have been among the happiest and most care-free days of her life had become anything but.
Cassidy lives with her father James and her two older sisters in the town. Her mother, Jenn Slater, who has a total of seven children, lives close by in Duryea. So, as we can see, the young girl is part of a big family.
The bullying began for Cassidy when she was in first grade and had become increasingly more intense as time went on. Her father James explained to ABC News in April 2018 that he and the school’s administrators had tried to change her classroom and even her lunch and recess times. Cassidy, for her part, had agreed to the latter changes but maintained that she’d stay in the same class.
Despite her parents’ efforts to help, Cassidy then decided to take matters into her own hands. So she took inspiration from the movie Love Actually, which sees a man holding up pieces of card with handwritten messages to his love interest. To that end, Cassidy wrote down her experiences and held up the notes in a video which she initially posted on her own account in April 2018.
Cassidy revealed the extent to which she had been suffering at the hands of these elementary school bullies. Set to music, and with the girl staying mute throughout, the handwritten notes that she holds up in front of the camera detail her painful experience.
“My name is Cassidy,” the little girl begins in the notes. “I am ten years old. I go to John Adams Elementary School. I am in fourth grade.” The girl then sets the scene to the dark secret that follows, as she reveals, “I started getting bullied in first grade.”
“One day during recess a group of kids grabbed my purse off of a teacher, and [spat] on it… and me…,” the next message says in candid detail. She continues, “The group of kids always come up to me during recess, trying to fight me. They hit me, kicked me, pulled my hair, pushed me, stepped on me [and spat] on me…”
Sadly for Cassidy, the actions of these children had also affected the way that other children behaved towards her too. In the clip, she reveals, “Kids don’t even want to go near me. Whenever I sit at a lunch table, the kids get up.” Clearly, it is apparent how alone the youngster must have felt due to the actions of her classmates.
However, the nature of the bullying had reached even more sinister levels. Cassidy continues, “They threaten to kill me, and they tell me to kill myself. They also [spilled] milk all over my jacket. They also call me names.”
Cassidy’s next reveal casts further evidence on just how unfair the situation is. Her written message reveals, “There’s four of them and only one of me. The principal doesn’t do anything. I feel so alone, I feel like I have no one. It hurts.”
At the end of Cassidy’s video message, with her words delivered in this rather unusual format of handwritten notes, Warner makes a brave and selfless statement. Her message reads, “This is my story… Stop bullying! Not just for me [but] for other kids too. Please share my story!” And with that, the video, and Cassidy’s story, draws to a close.
Unsurprisingly, such a candid, individual message then began to gain traction online. The video was soon shared at breakneck speed, and it became apparent that another viral sensation was brewing.
People were immediately impacted by the tale – not least Cassidy’s own parents. Her father James spoke to ABC News about his initial thoughts at seeing his daughter’s post. He said, “It just devastated me. I don’t know how to explain how it made me feel… even talking about it I get choked up.”
In an interview with the Scranton Times-Tribune in April 2019, James further tried to articulate his reaction to his daughter’s Facebook video. He admitted, “A million things went through my head. The first thing was, I was failing [in] my job as a parent.”
Undoubtedly, many parents can identify with James’ feelings. No parent wants their child to be subjected to such cruel abuse when they send them off to school every day. James also revealed to the Scranton Times-Tribune some of the aforementioned solutions he had explored with the school to alleviate the bullying.
As a result of those discussions, Cassidy’s timetable was amended to separate her from her assailants. She now lunches and has recess at different times; but upon being offered an opportunity to switch class, the young girl had declined.
Soon after posting the video, Cassidy’s Facebook account was closed down. The pupil’s mother Jenn alleged that her daughter’s account was reported by the Scranton School District. The social media giant operates a minimum age restriction of 13 years old, meaning Cassidy was too young to have her own account.
However, Jenn took up the cause and reposted her daughter’s video on her own Facebook page. According to the mother, that video had received 22,000 views before her daughter’s account was shut down. After Jenn posted it again, that number would reach nearly 350,000 at the time of writing. And among the viewers was a particular Hollywood star who had been moved by the young girl’s call to action.
Actor Hugh Jackman shared a clip of Cassidy’s video on his authorized Facebook page. And with that post, the star wrote a heartfelt message which he addressed directly to the young girl. He began, “Hi Cassidy… I’m Hugh.”
“I want you to know you’re loved, special and smart,” Hugh said. “You’re strong, funny and beautiful both inside and out. Bullying is not okay. Please never stop asking for help. You will find it from people and places you never thought possible. I’m your friend.”
As the story grew, Cassidy was invited on to CNN to be interviewed by Chris Cuomo. In that video appearance, the anchor asks the pupil, “Is it true that Hugh Jackman reached out on Facebook to you? The Hugh Jackman?” Cassidy grins and replies in the affirmative; it’s heart-warming that the young student can enjoy some light relief through this horrible ordeal.
But Cassidy’s story didn’t end there, because one of America’s biggest sports teams was about to throw its considerable weight behind the young girl. The New York Yankees had also seen the pupil’s post, and it resonated with them.
The team felt compelled to record a powerful message of their own, which was shared as a video on the official New York Yankees Twitter account. In it, they replicate Cassidy’s original recording in which she reveals her story in handwritten notes.
Introducing the video, the team threw their support behind the young girl. It begins with the message, “Hey Cassidy, we saw the video you made and from all of us here at the New York Yankees, we want you to know that you are not alone. We have your back!”
For its part, the two-and-a-half-minute video features a host of Yankees superstars, as well as the team’s manager, Aaron Boone. When Cassidy initially reached out, little could she have known the response her video was to provoke.
First up with the handwritten messages is pitcher C.C. Sabathia, a six-time All-Star and 2007 Cy Young Award winner. The incredible video begins, “Dear Cassidy. My name is C.C. Sabathia and I play baseball for the New York Yankees. My teammates and I wanted you to know that we care about you.”
From there, a host of Yankees players appear, all holding individual cards which seem to be penned in the players’ own handwriting. The overriding message is one of solidarity with the courageous girl. The messages continue, “We know sharing your story must have been difficult but you showed courage and strength and inspired us to reach out to you.”
With an ever-changing cast that seems to include the vast majority of the Yankees team, the video continues in the style that Cassidy herself had chosen as her method of communication. The cards read, “We may be older than you, we may be taller than you, but we want you to know that we look up to you. You are not alone!”
Of course, the message contained within the Yankees’ video references the bullying which Cassidy suffered at school. The cards continue, “Count the New York Yankees among your friends. You can sit next to us at lunch anytime! In fact, we are saving a seat for you at our lunch table in the clubhouse.”
But the message that the Yankees want to send out is something far broader than solidarity with one child. One card says, “Bullying is wrong. We won’t stand for it!” Here are the New York Yankees showing support for one little girl who has been the victim of terrible abuse at the hands of fellow pupils; it is a powerful stand against bullying.
“No one should ever be made to feel bad about who they are. We need to care for each other,” continues the Yankees’ message to Cassidy, which is far-reaching in tone. And the video draws to an end with one last powerful show of support to the young student.
“There are 25 of us on this team! And we all got your back!” continues the Yankees’ message. The “got your back” message is then held up separately by over a dozen players, including twice in Spanish. The video concludes with Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone holding up one last card, which reads, “See you soon.”
Cassidy’s mother Jenn summed up the emotion stirred up by the video when reposting it on her Facebook page. She wrote, “Let’s just say I cried! So much respect for the New York Yankees! Thank you so much for this!” And it’s a message that was echoed repeatedly in social media responses to the video.
Facebook users were clearly impressed at the efforts of Cassidy and the New York Yankees’ video response. One wrote under Jenn’s post, “I watched this and all I could think of was how precious Cassidy is! What better lesson to teach our kids than to stand up for what’s right and make their voices heard. Cassidy, you rock!” Another said, “Cassidy, you’re so much stronger than you know. You’ve inspired the world, not to mention the New York Yankees.”
However, despite the support of the Yankees and Hugh Jackman, Cassidy told CNN that the bullying hadn’t ceased entirely. She said, “They changed my recess so now I’m not in recess with the kids but I’m still in class with them. The bullying is still going on, but it’s just now in class.”
Cassidy then went into more detail about what happens in her school classroom. She added, “If the teacher calls on me and I say a wrong answer, they scream that I’m dumb or something like that. The teacher just ignores it. She acts like she doesn’t hear it, but I know she does.”
It’s sad to know that the bullying continued despite the exposure given to Cassidy by her social media video. However, mom Jenn did report that there had been positive changes brought about by the incredible response. She wrote on Facebook in April 2018, “What a crazy eventful few days. I just want to take the time to thank everyone, friends and family and anyone and everyone who reached out to us, on behalf of Cassidy we thank you all for the love and support and all the overwhelming comments and kind words.”
Jenn continued on Facebook, “Everyone has helped put a smile on her face and [has given] her so much confidence. She’s so full of life, thank you all!” And that is not quite the end of the story; for soon after, a Facebook page was created in connection to Cassidy’s plight.
Cassidy’s Courage is a page on the social media platform dedicated to combating bullying. And there, you can see photos of the young pupil with some of her biggest supporters: the New York Yankees. Cassidy even made a trip to the Yankee Stadium to visit the very players who had backed her so publicly, and she has the biggest smile imaginable lighting up her face.