Local teen speaks out against bullyingWritten by Danielle Stanton | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Raven Foster was tormented at a former school: bullies tossed her books, they taunted her, played tricks on her and once a group surrounded her and threatened physical harm. She became depressed, transferred schools and eventually dropped out to be home-schooled.
The 14-year-old eighth-grader, now at Toledo Public School’s Byrnedale Elementary School, is trying to put an end to bullying with her anti-bullying campaign.
She started a blog, organized a two-mile walk called Stomp Out Bullying, started a school task force and, over Christmas, she created cards for the Boys & Girls Club of Toledo.
Raven wants to make sure what happened to her doesn’t happen to someone else. She wants to give people a safe place to express themselves, she said, and increase the awareness of bullying so adults take it more seriously.
“People don’t take bullying as seriously as they should,” Raven said. “There’s a lot of bullying that goes on in our schools; some principals don’t take it as seriously. … They don’t see the big problem.
“There’s kids that are going through the same thing [as me] because bullying affects so many innocent lives,” Raven said. “It just really brings me down to hear that people are committing suicide because of bullying and not living the life they should because of people bullying them.”
Byrnedale principal Christina Ramsey said she and her staff take bullying very seriously and work with the students to prevent and stop bullying through education. Counselor Tina Kyriakou visits each classroom to talk about what is bullying and how to combat it.
The school also has a bullying drop box monitored by Kyriakou. Any reported incidents of bullying are investigated by Kyriakou and the assistant principal follows up with any discipline, Ramsey said.
“Bullying is a problem at every single school. It doesn’t matter where you go to school. Now there’s more social awareness about it,” Ramsey said. “My teachers are not afraid to address it or report it.
“[Raven] will be the first one to come to me to talk to me and we always work through those problems,” Ramsey said. “She’s become a school leader. The other kids look up to her. … I’m proud of her and I appreciate all the contributions she does bring here to Byrnedale.”
Ramsey and Kyriakou were not at Byrnedale last year when Raven was experiencing problems with bullying, Ramsey said. She said Raven was having a difficult time with a group of girls, but now that the school has taken steps at prevention, things for her have improved.
Raven’s campaign covers physical, verbal, cyber and covert types of bullying. Covert bullying can include lies or rumors meant to hurt a person’s reputation. Raven no longer deals with physical threats, but still sometimes grapples with cyberbullying over Facebook, she said.
Raven’s experiences with bullying began when she moved back to Toledo from Marietta, Ga. There, the schools had a zero tolerance for bullying, her mother Lorraine Foster said.
Raven enrolled in the fourth grade at Rosary Cathedral, a private school in Toledo, and soon the taunting and viciousness ensued. It got so bad, she transferred to Madison Avenue School of Art. Then she dropped out in fifth grade to be home-schooled.
Lorraine said she witnessed a group of eight girls surround Raven and threaten to beat her up. The fear of adults or punishment was no deterrent to the girls, said Lorraine, who was outraged over the encounter.
“I had to really bite my tongue and not say things to people’s kids,” Lorraine said. “A few times, I flipped out and jumped in front of kids, eight kids — I jumped in front of Raven to protect her. They picked on her when she was with me. I thought, ‘These kids are going to make me go to jail.’ There was no respect for me. It was really hard. I scared them. But the real bullies weren’t scared. Nobody takes it serious or addressed the situation.
Last April, Raven was sitting in a car with a friend when a group of girls approached her window, cursing. She and her friend went home and discussed what they could do. That’s when Raven started her blog. On May 5, she posted her story:
“I was just so sad and miserable all I ever did was cry and cry,” Raven wrote. “My teachers really wanted to help me but they couldn’t handle these inner city schools, it was just too much for the both of us.”
She also offers words of wisdom for those being bullied.
“A lot that goes on in bullying is ‘he said she said,’” Raven wrote on Oct. 14. “I noticed a lot of that at my school. It really saddens me how people can turn everyone against you from ‘he said she said.’… My advice to you … if you didn’t hear that person say it out of their own mouth ignore it….”
To read more, visit Raven’s blog at http://antibullyingthe411.blogspot.com/.
Raven also started a student task force at her school in which students accused of bullying go before a panel of fellow students. The school is not tolerating bullying, Lorraine said.
“I’m really proud of her because … at first she was super depressed and it scared me and she’s coming out of it. I like the approach she’s taking,” said Lorraine, who said she understands her daughter’s battle because she also was bullied as a child.
“It was very bad for me. That’s why I take it so serious,” Lorraine said. “I’m very proud that she walks away from everything and takes the more peace type of approach. I’m glad that she’s like that. And I’m proud of her that she keeps getting back up; it doesn’t break her and it makes her better.”
Tags: Boys & Girls Club of Toledo, Byrnedale principal Christina Ramsey, Counselor Tina Kyriakou, cyberbullying, Facebook, Madison Avenue School of Art, Raven Foster, Rosary Cathedral, Toledo Public School's Byrnedale Elementary School, zero tolerance