By DEVASTASHA BEAVER
Unexplained bruises, scratches, and a change in her young daughter’s personality urged a local mom to take action.
When her daughter’s smile began to fade, Shannon B. (last name withheld at family’s request) learned that her daughter who was in kindergarten, Rachel, was being bullied at school and on the school bus.
After doing everything in her power to stop the bullying with no success, Shannon decided to enroll Rachel in the K12 Ohio Virtual Academy online school.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and K12 released the results of a survey of nearly 2,000 parents of children enrolled in K12 online schools. The survey revealed that 23 percent of parents cited that bullying was a reason for enrollment. 94 percent of those parents said that the switch to online school helped address the bullying issue.
A different K12-commissioned survey revealed that one-third (33 percent) of parents of school-aged children know or suspect that at least one of their children has been bullied in school.
Rachel, who is now 10, is attending Ohio Virtual Academy for the third year now, but before that was bullied for two years at North Kingsville Elementary.
Shannon said, “When she was in kindergarten, my daughter started coming home with injuries. I didn’t think much of the bruises because of her playing on the playground. But one day she came home with a pretty bad scratch underneath her eye. I asked her about it and she said a girl threw a snowball at her with a rock in it.
“I asked her if the girl knew there was a rock in it and if it was an accident. She told me, ‘We’re not even supposed to throw snowballs,’ and that she knew it had a rock,” Shannon said.
She said, “A girl spit in her face for wanting to be her friend. My daughter is the type of person who thinks everyone can and should be friends. It was disheartening... There were incidents on the bus where she was verbally abused by older kids. The physical stuff started on the bus.”
Rachel said, “They would steal my lunch box and throw it at me. I didn’t understand.” Her mother said, “These kids got no consequences. Part of me wondered if the parents even knew. She got punched in the chest, and these kids were in kindergarten, first, and second grade.”
“The school never did anything about it,” Shannon said. “They just said things to make me feel better, but never did anything. There were several times the gym teacher told her she was tired of her tattling and made her sit out.
“My daughter has Asperger’s and rules are very important to her. I tried talking to the gym teacher on the phone and that went really bad. She was very insulting. When the teachers become bullies too, you know there is something wrong. I felt like she was losing who she was to this.”
“I was bullied a lot and I just wanted to be friends with everyone,” Rachel said. “I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t be friends with everyone. The teachers and (playground) monitors didn’t even care about when I got hurt. One of the monitors told me I didn’t need to rest and to go play even though my leg was hurt.
“Kids wouldn’t listen to the rules and they’d call me a tattle-tail. No one needs to go through what I went through. It’s just bad.”
Her advice to other kids who are bullied is, “Stick up for yourself. Tell your parents, just walk away and ignore them. I know it’s really hard. I couldn’t do it most of the time. It’s really hard for me to just ignore it.
“I say if someone is going to be a bully to you, just find someone else to be your friend. I think I would have made some more friends if I just moved on to other people. I was basically bullied everywhere I went (in school).”
Despite the years of bullying she endured, Rachel is now thriving doing online school. Shannon said, “It is so wonderful. It’s great because she can work at her own pace, which is ahead of the curb. She’s a full grade ahead this early in the school year. My son has Autism, and is seven years old and is doing fourth grade math.
“There are clubs. Rachel is in a Caring for Animals club, so there’s a lot of social opportunity. There are field trips, and you aren’t stuck in a classroom. It’s nice to still have all the same social opportunities the other students in public schools have,” she said.
“I think the thing we really love best about it is that with public school you don’t know what your kids’ interactions are like,” Shannon said. “(With K12) you know who the kids are and it’s not like you’re sending your kids off for seven hours to be bullied.
“There are social opportunities without the bullying, plus there’s more family time since we aren’t cramming in homework, dinner, and showers before bed.”
Rachel said, “I think it’s the awesomest thing ever. It’s really fun and we can go fun places if we’ve done enough school work. It’s just great.”
And while she’s having a blast, Rachel is excelling academically. She said, “I am in all fourth grade stuff. I’ll be in fifth grade science and art soon, and I just have a little more work until I’m in fifth grade language arts and math. I just need to make it one of my goals.”