MODESTO, Calif. – Bullying through social media is becoming a bigger problem in some school districts, but victims are speaking out about their experiences to spur school officials into action.
The Modesto Bee cites National Center for Education Statistics that show bullying at school has decreased in general to a new low of 22 percent of students in 2013. Yet the news site claims bullying on social media has become a much bigger problem in recent years, particularly because it allows bullies to harass their victims at all times.
One teen in particular, Dutcher Middle School eighth-grader Breanna Mendoza, was the target of especially brutal bullying because of a facial deformity. Her parents pulled her out of school, and spoke publicly about the online and in school harassment, and the girl’s story prompted an outpouring of support, the Bee reports.
“When I was finally feeling happy for once, I got knocked down,” the teen told News 10 of the bullying.
Mendoza’s parents pulled her from elementary school because of intense bullying before re-enrolling her in middle school.
When the Mendozas approached school officials about their daughter’s treatment by her Dutcher Middle School classmates they weren’t very helpful. The family eventually reported the abuse to the Turlock Police Department, News 10 reports.
“You feel extremely angry that the school was doing nothing about it,” Mendoza said. “They were sweeping it under the rug. They weren’t even telling me that my daughter was being harassed.”
The family also spoke out about how the bullying impacted Breanna, who has contemplated suicide. News of Mendoza’s situation prompted Modesto businessman Craig Day to solicit donations from the community to lift the girl’s spirits, putting together a full day of luxury clothes shopping, spa treatments, a fancy dinner, guitar lessons, and a limo ride to a Taylor Swift concert.
The publicity from Breanna’s case is bringing attention to local efforts to curb bullying in Modesto schools, which several parents believe is a major problem, both online and at school.
Modesto mother Nina Gatton said the district has dragged its feet in dealing with bullying while her son has suffered beatings and nonstop harassment from bullies at his school.
“The school did nothing about it; you can’t have a zero-tolerance policy to bullying and then do nothing,” she told the Bee.
“He beat up my son,” she said. “He spun him around and round three times, grabbed a handful of dirt and grass and shoved it in his mouth, and then punched him in the eye.”
Gatton said officials essentially shrugged their shoulders.
“They told me, ‘We can’t protect him everywhere,’” she said. “That’s the last thing a parent wants to hear!”
The lack of action is undoubtedly a big reason why Merced County Teacher of the Year Annie Delgado is launching a mentoring program for middle school girls called “Lift While You Lead.” That program will use undergraduates from the University of California to mentor 36 girls from several school districts through a five-week summer program, the Bee reports.