Suffering in silence – one South Florida teen is sharing her story where bullying at her school brought the victim to the brink.
“Katie”, a 15-year-old whose name we have changed to protect her identity, wants her story to be know. The Texas native moved with her family to South Florida two years ago and started attending Westminster Christian School.
“I (thought I) wasn’t good enough and that I’ll never be good enough and it’s not possible to be good enough,” she said.
Katie says she resisted peer pressure to smoke or drink during her freshman year, and that turned her into a “walking target”.
“It was kind of just ‘oh, let’s mess with her today,’ and that was just every day,” said the teen.
That kind of messing took multiple forms – in person, and on social media like an Instagram account entitled “FU Katie.”
“There were just posts about me, there’s videos posted about me – making fun of me being from Texas or me not being able to speak Spanish or me looking like cartoon characters,” Katie said.
But Katie didn’t want to tell anyone about it. So she kept silent and kept the pain secret – even from her mother and father.
“If I told someone, somebody would find out that I told and everything would just get worse,” she said. “It just hurts so bad and I felt really lonely because I couldn’t tell my parents anything.”
Things got so bad, Katie ended up spending the night at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, where doctors treated Katie for severe migraines and anxiety.
Dr. Sara Rivero-Conil, a pediatric psychologist, treats patients like Katie and says if you see changes in anxiety, appetite or sleep paterns there may be a problem.
“Stress can cause so many physical symptoms, you’ll see children who have had headaches, stomach aches and even seizures,” she said.
NBC 6 reached out to the interim head of Westminster Christian School, but he declined an interview. In an email, a school spokeswoman told us “the school has clear policies and procedures in place to deal with bullying and responds immediately when issues are brought to our attention.”
The school released an email to parents and students after NBC 6’s story.
Katie’s mom says the school’s response to her daughter left her disappointed. The school ultimately did return emails, but not before Katie’s parents decided to pull her from class permanently and file a lawsuit against the school. They have since moved back to Texas with her mother saying Katie hasn’t had one migrane since the move.
“I just wanted to fit in and be normal and not stand out at all,” Katie said. “I wanted to just look like everyone else, I wanted to be like everyone else just so they would leave me alone.”
Rivero-Conil said you should also look for signs your child may be bullying others – including coming home with extra money or items that don’t belong to them as well as bullying you as a parent – and teach them how their beahavior is hurtful.