Sierra’s Story

This account is based on that of a real girl who, unfortunately, became a statistic because no one stood up for her. 

Sierra (not her real name) was just one credit shy of graduating from high school. She had worked hard, made decent grades, and was a kind person. Most of her peers liked hanging around Sierra. She was funny and easy to be with. Few people realized Sierra’s family had very little money. Even fewer people realized that Sierra often came to school hungry.

For years, Sierra had convinced her peers that she loved sweat pants. She wore them everywhere. “They’re just comfy, you know,” she would tell her friend. “Oh, these pants, they’re my favorite,” she would say when someone mentioned the holes that grew larger each month. “I’ll never get rid of them.”

Not even her closest friends knew Sierra only had three pairs of sweat pants. She couldn’t afford anything else. Even if she did have money, Sierra’s mom didn’t have a car so going to a store was usually out of the question. So was taking a bath every night; the water in their house was usually shut off because there wasn’t enough money to pay the water bill. Forget about things like new shoes, a professional hair cut, or something other than cheap baby shampoo, discount deodorant, and vaseline tinted with food coloring and melted crayons used as lip gloss.

Sierra had grown accustomed to being hungry, washing herself in a restroom at school before the other students piled in, and making do with one pair of shoes and what few tattered clothes she owned.

What she could not get used to was the bullying.

Despite being one of the most well-liked students at her school, Sierra was tormented by a group of students who constantly made fun of her sweat pants. And her shoes. And her hair.

After years of taking the abuse, Sierra finally had enough. She dropped out of school just months shy of graduation. It wasn’t until a school guidance counselor visited her house that anyone learned why Sierra quit school.

“I’m not going back,” she told the guidance counselor. “I just can’t take it any more.”

Sierra isn’t alone.

Bullying: Some Sobering Statistics

  • Each day, approximately 160,000 students skip schoolto avoid being bullied, the National Education Association reports, with approximately 13 millionschool students being affected by bullying each year.
  • Sixty-two percent of NEA teachers and education support professionals polled for a 2010 study “indicated they’d witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month. Forty-one percent indicated they’d witnessed bullying once a week or more.
  • A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that “(u)p to to 15 percent of American children are chronically absent from school, missing at least one day in 10 and doing long-term harm to their academic progress,” The New York Times reported.
  • The Times also reported that frequent absences have been linked to low academic achievement and high dropout rates. The article cited studies suggesting a direct correlation between attendance and academic performance, and suggesting “that attendance may predict a student’s academic progress as effectively as test scores do.”
  • According to the Times’ report, “(p)oor children —who stand to benefit most from attending school — are also more likely to miss school.”

“This a social justice issue for us because bullying compromises students’ basic right to learn and grow in a safe environment,” former NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said in 2012 when he headed the labor union.

  • Nearly 1 in 3 elementary and middle-school students report being bullied during the school year (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2013).
  • The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students were: looks (55%), body shape (37%), and race (16%) (Davis and Nixon, 2010).
  • Twenty percent of high school students in the US report being bullied at school in the past year. One in 12 teenagers will attempt to commit suicide because they were bullied. (Center for Disease Control, 2014)
  • More than 30 percent of students admit to bullying classmates and peers (www.bullyingstatistics.org, 2013).

Even more sobering is the fact that the statistics don’t begin to show the extent of the problem — nor the damage. That’s because most students who are bullied do not report it.

  • Fewer than one in three students report being bullied. Sixty-four percent of children who were bullied did not report it (Petrosina, Guckenburg, DeVoe, and Hanson, 2010).

Think about that.  That means the majority of students who are bullied never come forward. Like Sierra, they do their best to survive — until they can’t anymore.

Fortunately, Sierra’s story has somewhat of a happy ending. Her guidance counselor was able to arrange for Sierra to complete her final class at home, and Sierra graduated with the rest of her class.

For too many other students, that’s not the case.

Fight for Sierra and all the other students who take it when they shouldn’t have to. Help us put an end to bullying. Support Secret Boutique today.

For information, email jenellewatson@gmail.com

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