FORT MYERS, Fla. Every seven minutes a child is bullied. You may know them, love them, or may never meet them, but you’ll be a part of paying for it, we all will.
When 13-year old Leila is painting, everything just flows, “You can create what’s in your mind, relax yourself a little bit,” Leila says. An important sight after what she went through when she started middle school two years ago.
This artist, who’s so sure of herself with a canvas and brush, found herself being shunned and ridiculed by girls who had always been her friends, “She started not talking to me at all. And then she started calling me immature and weird.”
Leila’s mother, Janel, says the problem grew right in front of her eyes, “After a couple of weeks she started to cry as soon as the other girl got out of the car.”
Janel says she tried to talk to the other girl’s mom, someone she was close friends with, “I said we need to get the girls together and talk. Something’s going on. And she said I’d just prefer if they work it out themselves.”
As time passed, it only got worse.
Janel became increasingly concerned, “(Leila) didn’t want to go to school which, practically since pre-school, she’s never not wanted to go to school. So it went from just her, to two other girls, to three other girls, and that’s the point where, OK.. now they’re kind of ganging up on her.”
It’s that intent to hurt someone, according to Doctor Laura Streyffeler, where it becomes bullying, “When it’s done with a malicious intent or intent to hurt or to control, and it’s a pattern of behavior, then it becomes bullying.”
Bullying even has a real academic cost. A Texas A&M study shows up to half percent off a student’s GPA in the year after bullying starts – and minority students suffer more than white students.
Statistics from the national education association may explain why. The NEA says 160 thousand students a day miss school because of bullying.
“They use the term helicopter parent. I don’t think it’s that kind of a thing. If you see something that’s affecting your child and you can help to fix it, or come to some kind of conclusion.” MOM
In Leia’s case, getting the school involved made all the difference. “The other two girls that were involved, they were very apologetic.” Janel said.
But for Leila’s original friend, that’s still awkward – and unresolved. Leila has even dropped a class she loves to keep her distance. “She’s not in chorus anymore. She’s been musical her whole life but she dropped that class for that reason.” Janel Said.
The Journal of Psychological Science says, bullies and victims both are more likely to have money, health, and employment problems as they get older. Those cost all of us in the long run.
Despite the bullying and because Leila knows herself well, they’ve come out of it stronger. According to Dr. Streyffeler, “A lot of people talk about post traumatic stress. But there’s also something called post traumatic growth, that after a trauma, you become stronger.” The kind of person who would look a bully in the eye and come out on top.
Research shows that family involvement is key. Up to 85 percent of kids who tell an adult about bullying get no help.
Schools have people trained to help. So whether you’re being bullied or someone in your family is, that’s one of the first places you can turn if you’re not sure what to do.
Journal Psychological Science: Impact of Bullying in Childhood on Adult Health, Wealth, Crime, and Social Outcomes
Journal of Bullying & Social Aggression: The Socio-Emotional and Financial Costs of Bullying