March 14, 2013
We hear it all too often, that bullying is an epidemic. Whether it's happening on social media or at school, it's happening all across the country. One local teen says she's been through it all and tells us her story.
Bullying. A word that will send chills down your spine if it's ever happened to you. High school student Ali Funke says it's happend to her.
"It's a mix between the anxiety, stress and build up - and nauseating. It just makes me sick to my stomach," the Albemarle High School student said.
Her mother says there was a day when her daughter was bubbly, happy and energetic all the time.
"Watching her be bullied, I saw a girl who became withdrawn and couldn't sleep, was quiet, very angry and down all the time," Jennifer Pritchett, Ali's mother says.
And one bully is all it takes. In Ali's case, the stalking, verbal abuse, rumor spreading and physical shoving by a female classmate, made going to school a nightmare.
"School made me shake, I was terrified. On Monday, it's just four more days until the weekend. Until I don't have to be in school every day," she said.
After overcoming a bullying experience when she was in 8th grade, Ali and her mother say they're going through it again, two years later at Albemarle High School.
Pritchett says there has been no support from the school.
"It just really seems that the schools are afraid to document or admit to any problems. If they're afraid to admit or document any of that, then nothings gonna happen."
She says they were told Ali should try to avoid the bully but nothing could be done unless the girl physically touched Ali.
But the bullying continued and in February, Ali says she was sexually assaulted in a school hallway.
"I had to call the police, I had to file the report, that was an actual law being broken," Pritchett said.
She reported the incident to the school but says it took two weeks for any answers and another week to start an investigation.
"I've had to do it all on my own. What about the kids who don't have a mom that's in there and constantly making phone calls. Or a mom who even has the time to do that," Pritchett said. "If my daughter was able to fall through the cracks and laws were broken with her, what about the other kids?"
School leaders won't comment directly on the matter but tell us they are there for their students.
"Let us get involved. Let us try to find a way to help. Let us have an open conversation about what's going on," said principal of Albemarle High School, Jay Thomas. "Believe that we're gonna be there to help you. And I can honestly say that I do try to treat every single situation like these kids are my kids."
While Ali isn't alone, a study done by Safe Schools Healthy Students shows that fewer students report being bullied in the past four years. Schools may be making progress but experts say bullying will never be completely eliminated.
"Currently we recognize that bullying has a serious impact on students mental health but also their academic performance. This is why we need prevention programs in schools is all students can learn to seek help for a classmate or friend who's being bullied," said UVa professor, clinical psychologist and youth violence expert Dewey Cornell.
For Ali and her mom, it's too late. They're already planning a drastic move to Georgia.
"If you cant send your child to school comfortably as a mom, and you have to fight to the nail to protect them. How can you stay in that school system? I have to move her I can't stay knowing that this is a battle that continues."
The thought of moving is what puts a smile on Ali's face and gives her a glimmer of hope to one day start being herself again.
"Hopefully what comes out of this is people see what actually happens, there's awareness that can lead to prevention. I just want to
be an advocate for people like me," says Ali.
She hopes other kids can find the support they need so they too can overcome and stand up against bullying.