I am the mother of a severely bullied teenager. The problems began when my daughter was 11 and had just started at a private catholic girls' school. The bullying continued there for 18 months and little was done to discipline her aggressor or support my daughter. During that time, my daughter's self esteem gradually eroded as did her trust in her peers and educators. In the latter days she was feeling suicidal and began self harming. Eventually she refused to attend mainstream classes and the school's solution was to put her alone in a room for most of the day with work to get on with. Her self esteem eroded further and I took her out of the school.
Our doctor referred my daughter to CAMHS, she saw a psychiatrist there and was put on fluoxetine but it did not improve her mood and made her feel nauseous. She also went to see a youth counsellor at our local youth counselling service (she would only see this lady if I was present). I acquired support letters from our GP, child psychologist and her youth counsellor all advising that my daughter would do better to be given a place at one particular school where she had several family friends in the same year group, who could support her with her reintegration. Instead they put her in a much larger school where she had no close friendships.
Due to a lack of understanding, support and poor choices made by our local education authority, she went on to experience more bullying at the school they moved her to. Focus for them was on getting an absent child back in school as quickly as possible; whereas focus for me as a parent was helping my child to recover from her ordeal and arrive at a place where she was ready for mainstream classes again. The LEA's strategy won of course and my vulnerable daughter was rushed back to mainstream classes which she then refused to attend. At one point I was threatened with legal proceedings and she was moved to live with her father for months as he was seen as more able to get her into school. It was a devastating time for my daughter and myself. The result of rushing her like this was she became easy pickings for a similar type of aggressive personality to come along and repeat the process - this is exactly what happened!
At no point during my daughter's absence from school did anyone from our local education authority investigate the bullying history at the private school or meet with her to see for themselves how vulnerable she was and what support would help her reintegration. The new school was given very little information about my daughter's history and had very high expectations for her attendance when she joined them at the beginning of year 9. My daughter's reaction was to shut down and refuse to attend the new school and she was often treated as an obstinate child with behaviour problems rather than one who had psychological injuries from bullying. The pressure ramped up for me too. At one point the school counsellor at the new school sent a complaint about me to Children's Services. Thankfully the children's officer who came to meet with my daughter and I in our home saw the situation exactly for what it was and closed the report saying there was absolutely no evidence to back up the complaints against me. I was so pleased to hear that recently thanks to a local politician who is very focused on improving our education system, a pilot scheme has started in our small community where vulnerable children going through difficulties of any nature can be educated temporarily out of mainstream school then supported with a reintegration plan. So improvements are happening, it's just sad that something like this was not implemented years ago.
As my daughter has matured and with consistent support from family and out of school friends, she has found strategies to rebuild and hold on to her self esteem. The bullying that restarted in the school the LEA placed her in followed her to sixth form school. Thankfully, this time she had some in school supporters who could see through the bully's lies and manipulations and her plan to continue the bullying didn't get off the ground. This is all it takes, just one or two defenders and the whole dynamic can change (please read my post titled Olweus Bullying Cycle). Her current sixth form school has a zero tolerance policy too which is walked not just talked and this gave me confidence to know if the situation did get out of hand the school would intervene.
The tide is finally turning for my daughter, but her friendships and social life were severely affected since the beginning of secondary school. It's been six long and very challenging years. The effects of living so long with this stressful situation and feeling unsupported also had effects on myself and my older daughter.
Six years is far too long but I remind myself everyday that my daughter is still here with us when at one point she was ready to take her own life. When it comes to overt bullying and more covert relational aggression (which is prevalent amongst females) everyone needs educating - the young kids, the middle school kids, the teenagers, the college students, the parents, the community and especially the educators. If adequate information and education on these issues were introduced in schools as early as reception class, then I think we would see bullying statistics change dramatically for the better, most likely grades would rise too. Most importantly I believe we would see a large drop in teen suicide.