As the classmates refused to sign his yearbook, high school students step in

‘Just seeing him light up, it felt really good,’ said one teen. ‘It was a small thing, but it made him so happy.’

Cassandra Ridder was devastated when her son Brody returned home from school with only a few signatures in his yearbook—one of which was his own. “Hope you make some more friends. — Brody Ridder,” wrote the 12-year-old. Ridder was devastated when she discovered that, aside from her rising seventh grader, only two other classmates and two teachers had signed the yearbook.

Brody has been a student at the Academy of Charter Schools in Westminster, Colorado, since fifth grade, according to The Washington Post. Despite having several friends at his previous school, his mother revealed that he has struggled socially and has been bullied on multiple occasions over the past two years.

“There [are] kids that have pushed him and called him names,” said Ridder, who explained that she switched her son’s school before fifth grade to give him more academic support. “Brody has been through a lot.” Although the bullying somewhat subsided after she addressed the issue with school administrators in February, the concerned mother says she could tell “the teasing was still there.”  When Brody told her what happened when he asked his classmates to sign his yearbook on May 24, she realized the full extent of what he was going through.

“They said no,” the young boy recalled. “It saddened me.” Ridder was devastated that her child was being bullied by his peers. “In our family, we try to teach kindness, and not seeing any kindness from students in his class was appalling to me,” she said. Ridder, frustrated and helpless, posted a photo of her son’s yearbook note in the school’s private Facebook group for parents. 

Despite the fact that she did not consult Brody before posting, she claims she “knew he would be completely okay with it. Brody has always told me he wants to be part of the solution.”

Ridder explained that she shared the photo to encourage other parents to talk to their children about bullying. While she understands that some people prefer to keep such matters private, Ridder stated that she chose to be open about it because she believed it would help prevent her son and others from being targeted further. While she expected people to sympathize with her son’s situation, she had no idea that the post would spark an outpouring of support, particularly from older students at the school who had heard about Ridder’s post from their parents.

Joanna Cooper, 17, stated that when she received a text message from her mother containing a screenshot of Ridder’s post, she immediately decided that she would “get people and we’re going to sign his yearbook” because “no kid deserves to feel like that.” The 11th grader still remembers the intense pressure she felt to fit in when she was Brody’s age. Having signatures in your yearbook wasn’t only a measure of popularity, she recalled, but also meant simply “knowing that you have friends.” “Signing someone’s yearbook was all the rage,” Cooper said. “That people would tell him no and deny him a signature, it just hurt my heart.”

Cooper contacted several of her friends, and they agreed to go to Brody’s homeroom class the next day. What she didn’t realize at the time was that many other students were hatching the same scheme. Simone Lightfoot, another 11th grader at the school, revealed that she could relate to Brody’s situation.

“When I was younger, I was bullied a lot like him,” she said. “If I could do one little thing to help this kid feel a little better, I’d be more than willing to.” Maya Gregory, an eighth grader at the school, felt the same. “No one helped me when I was in that situation,” the 14-year-old revealed. “So I wanted to be there for him.”

On May 25, the day after the yearbooks were distributed, a swarm of older students filed into Brody’s sixth-grade classroom to sign his yearbook. Brody expressed gratitude to his seniors for their overwhelming support, saying that “it made me feel better.” That day, the youngster collected over 100 signatures and messages of support in his yearbook, as well as phone numbers and a gift bag. “Just seeing him light up, it felt really good,” Cooper said, adding that she plans to organize a schoolwide yearbook signing next year to ensure that this doesn’t happen to another child.  “It was a small thing, but it made him so happy.”

The efforts of the older students also set a good example for students in Brody’s class. As upperclassmen filled the pages of his yearbook, several of his classmates stood up and signed their names. 

“It really demonstrated to us that coming in to make his day was already having an impact on the students in his class,” Cooper said.

The students’ generosity moved school administrators, who explained that the transition from remote learning to in-person classes had resulted in an increase in conflicts and bullying. “A lot of students are struggling with peer relationships and social skills,” said Brent Reckman, chief executive at the Academy of Charter Schools. “It’s up to us to figure out how to help kids and families with it, but it’s a challenge faced by all schools right now. It can be really tough to be a teenager. I was really impressed with how our students stepped up when they saw a peer in need.”