CHS students who experienced, witnessed cyberbullying encourage others to speak up

PUTTING THE PAST BEHIND:
Sophomore Catherine Baker reads as a hobby. Baker said while the cyberbullying she experienced left mostly emotional memories,  she immerses herself in activities she enjoys to avoid dwelling on the incident.
SARAH LIU // Photo

PUTTING THE PAST BEHIND: Sophomore Catherine Baker reads as a hobby. Baker said while the cyberbullying she experienced left mostly emotional memories, she immerses herself in activities she enjoys to avoid dwelling on the incident. SARAH LIU // Photo

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Last year, sophomore Catherine Baker attended a private school. At that school, Baker’s closest friends made a hate account about her by posting pictures and following Baker’s followers on her real account.

The fake account was made on Instagram, a site that gets around 75 million users a day.

They also bullied her in person at school. Because of this situation, Baker now attends CHS.

“We knew each other too well. Most of us had started out in (the) 3-year-old class. So, drama was bound to happen, and I just happened to be the target,” Baker said. “One time I was about to perform for my dance team, and a bunch of girls cornered me in the bathroom, and just started yelling in the bathroom. I don’t remember what they were yelling, but they borderline beat me up.”

Baker is not alone in her situation; many other high school students across the country are bullied throughout the school year.

A May 2013 study by the Cyberbullying Research Center showed nine percent of teenDidYouKnow.Cyberbullying.2.19age girls have been bullied on Instagram.

According to a 2015 National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) study, one in every four students reported they had been bullied in the past school year.

In another study, the NCES found 83 percent of victims said being bullied negatively impacted their self-esteem. Baker said she would fall in this group.

“(Because of the bullying) I became more aware, and I started second guessing everything,” Baker said.

Officer Donald Schoeff said he is also new to CHS this year.

He said he used to be a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) officer and regularly gave presentations about how to prevent and stop bullying to the students at Carmel Middle School.

From his experiences with teaching about bullying, Schoeff said, “As in any form of communication, I believe that we, as adults, need to make sure we help youth know how to appropriately communicate, whether it’s online or in person. We need to continue to guide students to make sure the kids are treating people with respect.”

“The problem with something that happens online, is that it isn’t something we hear and you can possibly forget about it,” Schoeff said. “It is revisited online every time someone sees it. I think cyberbullying is a much more dangerous kind of bullying because the victim can constantly revisit it.”

Baker’s friend and sophomore Ethan Counen said he witnessed the bullying incident. Cyberbullying.2.19

“I didn’t know the people, but I was friends with Catherine and I knew what they were doing was wrong, so I told them to stop. I had learned that people actually do bad things and I thought it was terrible someone would do such a thing,” Counen said.

Baker said her other friends also noticed the account and took action like Counen.

“My exchange student’s brother was the one to inform my parents of the account. He had seen it within 20 minutes of it being created and he informed his sister, who then contacted my parents,” Baker said.

Baker said her situation did not revolve around just one form of bullying. In fact, she said she was bullied verbally, physically and online through social media.

“It was mostly verbal at school, (and) some physical. I just got shoved. Then it moved to social media,” she said.

Baker said not much action was taken to address the bullying at the time. Her former school had required more evidence than what was available to prove the bullying actually happened.

According to Baker, different schools have different policies and levels of involvement with bullying.

Freshman Counselor Rachel Cole said she has dealt with bullying cases at CHS, and takes care when addressing each case.

“Sometimes there can be that persistent, stalker situation where weird situations can occur and we’ll either block them or sometimes we’ll have to talk to (CHS dean Christopher) Glander. We’ll come into the middle and talk to the other person and it usually stops. If it doesn’t, they could be suspended or expelled,” Cole said.

After the fake Instagram account had been noticed by her peers and former school’s staff, Baker said she was not the one to tell the principal; her friend did.

She said, “Someone else went to my principal because they told me that if I told, it would be worse off for me, so someone else told the principal about it, and I was like, ‘This is great; someone knows. This is going to end.’ But, it didn’t. The principal (was informed) that the Instagram account wasn’t enough evidence for him to expel the girls or suspend them, so nothing really happened at my old school,” Baker said.

Cyberbullying.2.19Baker said that she was the only cyberbullying victim she knew of at the school at the time. She said there had been cases of other types of bullying before, but none of the cases involved the Internet.

“It made me really mad because (witnesses) only went to the principal after the account was deleted. Actually, a lot of people were afraid to stand up for me because they were so afraid of that group of girls. When the person did stand up for me they went anonymously, so the principal only had one person as a witness. The only problem, was that the account had already been deleted, so they weren’t able to track the IP address,” Baker said.

According to Baker, none of the girls got in trouble with the school, even after she transferred to CHS.

However, Baker also said that the principal could only have had so much control on this case.

“Even though it was mostly happening on school grounds, none of the big stuff was happening during school. Like, the fight in the bathroom happened after school, and there were a few pictures posted during school, but I don’t know if it was the school’s responsibility or not. As I was leaving, the principal told me how this has happened in the past, and I remember standing there thinking, ‘Then why haven’t you done anything?’”

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