Was an eighth-grader 'bullied out' of school? - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Was an eighth-grader 'bullied out' of school?

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CATOOSA COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -- In seventh grade, they were friends. Now, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe Middle School eighth-grader Brooke Lepard says several girls bully her for refusing to bully others.

"I stand up for everybody, because I feel bad when nerds get made fun of. They're not nerds. they're just really smart people."

Her parents say the bullying began by blowing up her Facebook wall with nasty comments. Verbal turned physical two weeks into the new school year.

"She was involved in a fight," Brooke's mother, Sherrie Lepard says.

"A girl came up and pulled my hair," Brooke says. " And then just walked away."

"Her grades have plummeted, she's not happy," Sherrie Lepard adds.

Thursday, she told the school's nurse she was sick and asked to go home. "One of those girls send her a text message about us having to pick her up," Brooke's father, Corey Lepard says.

But he couldn't find it, to show it to us. "She erased it, " he says.

"I think she's scared and worried when she goes back to school there might be a fight," Sherrie Lepard explains.

"Yesterday (Thursday) was the first we'd heard of some of this," Principal Steve McClure says. "We've talked to the girls her father has named, but we haven't gotten her side yet. Once we have all the information we can decide what consequences are appropriate."

Sorting out the difference between bullying and normal peer conflict can be tough, according to Karen Glenn, coordinator for Hamilton County Schools S.T.A.R.S, (Students Taking a Right Stand)

"Middle school years are awkward anyway," Glenn says. "But when the harassment grows severe, beyond the occasional hurtful comments, or when those comments continue, or when other students join in the teasing, or threats; that's the kind of bullying that can scar."

"They ought to bring back the paddle, but they can't," Corey Lepard says. "But they need to get everybody in the school together in a big assembly and let them know that this can scar some kids for life.

McClure says that Lakeview Middle School does just that, as part of classroom guidance sessions that kick off each semester. "It puts students in the role of what would you do if you're the bystander, what would you do if you're the victim," he says. We go into what you should report, and what kind of actions you should expect."

The school also has set aside November 12-17 as 'Bullying Prevention Week', with designated programs and coursework.

Part of prevention, Glenn explains, is building enough trust for victims to come forward to admit they're being targeted. "When I'm asked who should report it; the victim, a parent, a teacher, a friend, I answer 'whoever notices it first,'" he says.

Brooke's parents want her to stand her ground. "I've told her, 'they're not any better than you,'" her father says. "If it gets worse before it gets better, it may be worth it to prevent this from happening to somebody else."

They won't allow her to transfer. "That's showing those who bully that they win," her mother says.

Whether it's on Facebook or face-to-face, Brooke believes her tormentors need to hear this loud and clear. "Some they bully could actually get physically hurt or kill themselves," she says. "Then how would they feel?"

"It's not fun to make fun of somebody; they wouldn't want somebody to make fun of them."

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