The social news site Reddit has a penchant for do-gooding. This time, a group of users took up arms, responding to a girl’s plea for help dealing with cyberbullying.
“The cyber bullying has gotten to the point where the school will not take any action unless I kill myself. Reddit- how do I get my story out and make this stop?” the girl, identified as Sarah, posted in a note to the site last Wednesday.
A senior at Arundel High School in Grambills, Maryland, Sarah explained that a well-liked student at her school had been bullying her both in school and on Twitter, the Huffington Post reports.
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“Since the beginning of the school year, I have been harassed both in-person and online by the school’s ‘bully.’ It is hard to use the word because almost everyone knows and loves him,” she wrote. As a student struggling with depression, Sarah said the bullying hit her extra hard: “There is definitely great emotional distress. I’m back on the anti-anxiety meds that I finally weened [sic] myself off after months of trying,” she wrote.
She said that it was only after the comments escalated into death threats that she decided she needed to take action. Sarah wrote that her bully said “Go kill yourself. No one would care if you died. Why aren’t you dead yet?” several times online and once in the middle of class.
After going to school officials, Sarah said was asked to fill out a form, although she was “sobbing uncontrollably” and “visibly a danger” to herself. She went on to write that even though the school’s vice principal said that one more occurrence would lead to consequences, the months of complaints that followed from multiple people about the bully have gone ignored. The bully, she said, was also targeting members of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance. She took over 20 screenshots of messages directed to both her and other students, to provide to school officials; among the messages were “Sarah has a boyfriend and I’m still single? Time to die” and “I have AP Lit in the morning. Sarah, if you say a single word, you are getting choked.”
Just 12 hours after her initial post, Sarah’s plea had garnered more than 4,000 comments, and Reddit users flooded school officials’ inboxes with emails about the post. Arundel High School principal Sharon Stratton told the Annapolis Capital Gazette, “I received responses from all over the country. It was quite surprising,” and confirmed the validity of the online posting.
In an update to her original post, Sarah wrote that she arrived at school the next morning to find a crowd of police officers around the school. Soon after walking into a guidance counselor’s office with two friends, she was asked if she was Sarah, and told that officials had been looking for her all morning. “I get taken into one of the counselor’s rooms, and a BOOK of these comments is placed in front of me,” she wrote. Police and administrator’s listened to Sarah’s story and collected threatening tweets from the bully.
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“I’m still shocked that many of the school officials were just now learning about this kid, but I know now that they know: everybody knows,” she wrote. “Nothing can happen immediately, but the process is starting and consequences can happen.”
Sarah wrote that the bully was suspended from school, and while school officials didn’t confirm this to the Capital Gazette because of privacy laws, Anne Arundel County School District spokesman Bob Mosier told ABC News that disciplinary action was taken against the bully and that Sarah was receiving counseling from the school.
The Reddit community offered words of support and both emotional and legal advice to Sarah; that support and Reddit’s knack for helping its fellow members ultimately led to school administrators taking action against this case of bullying.
Though scared of a potential backlash, Sarah wrote, “I feel amazing knowing that even if people dislike me for it, I stood up for my own safety […] You guys made this all happen overnight and sped up the process ten-fold! I don’t think I can say thank you enough for helping me, and everyone else, finally deal with the school cyber bully.”
Of course, it shouldn’t have to come to a media firestorm for schools to take action in such cases. ABC points out that several states are trying to make digital harassment a felony.
One thing’s for sure—there is no reason a student should feel that suicide is the only way to get her school’s help. And while social media can often be a platform for bullying and cruel words, it can also act as a whistleblower for those who need their story told.
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