Two years ago my husband and I moved from Kansas City to a small rural area in Nebraska. It would involve major adjustments for each of us — but we felt it was worth it. It would allow our kids — Leia and Caleb — to spend time with their cousins and grandparents. We'd trade in our stressful urban environment for a lower-key life in the country. We were psyched.
Leia was heading into 7th grade — a year that can be dicey for anyone, but especially a new kid at school. My husband and I toured every middle school in the area and interviewed each principal. We asked about the girls who would be in Leia's class and researched the general reputation of the school. We eventually met a principal who proudly talked about his anti-bullying and harassment policy. We were impressed with his commitment to make sure that all the kids were safe and happy. We were confident that Leia would fit in nicely.
A couple of weeks into school Leia seemed very quiet. For weeks she insisted that everything was fine. One day she broke down crying and told me that some girls were calling her "slut," "whore," "bitch," and "fat" in classes and in the halls. One girl was the ringleader but others followed her lead.
I immediately started monitoring Leia's Facebook page. One day I noticed an email from the ringleader filled with foul language. I emailed a reply right away and said that I was Leia's mom. I told her I wanted to speak with her parents. She apologized immediately and begged me not to do this. Leia found out and pleaded with me, too. She said things would only get worse if I talked with the parents. So I backed down. I hoped that everything would blow over.
Click here to read the rest of Bobby’s story.
Bobby Brugger lives with her husband and two children in Crete, Nebraska. Her daughter's harassment is a vivid reminder that schools must do more to protect students and make schools safe places to learn. Like many other parents, students, and even teachers, Bobby wasn't familiar with Title IX and had no idea that there was a law that protects students from bullying and harassment. Bobby's proactive approach is leading to positive change in her daughter's middle school. In a recent survey of 7-12th grade students, nearly half experienced some form of sexual harassment during the 2010-11 school year, with a vast majority of those students (87 percent) reporting that the harassment had a negative effect on them. Studies find that girls are more likely than boys to have experienced harassment.