The Public Education System, Depression & Bullying

My 16 year old niece quit high school.  My beautiful, talented and smart 16 year old niece quit high school.  Those words have been clunking around in my head these past couple of days.  Was it a surprise?  Not really.  I’ve seen it coming for awhile.  Did it make my cry?  Yes.  I don’t know what her future holds for her now, but I know whatever it is, it’s probably not good enough for her.

For those that aren’t familiar with the situation, here’s a little back story.  After failing 9th grade for the first time, my niece flat out refused to go back to school.  That is when the flood of revelations started coming out.  My niece was diagnosed with clinical depression and went through a series of medications to find out what worked for her.  The school, however, did not recognize this diagnosis as they should have.  Instead of working with my sister to re-introduce my niece in a positive way back into the school system, they took the hard line.  They were going to put my niece into a program that would require her to wear sweats to school and no makeup.  They gave her a probation officer.  They did everything but try to address the problem that was actually going on.  My niece was severely depressed and needed help getting through the day, but they refused to recognize that.

And then the bullying started.  As many of you can tell, my own struggles with depression has sometimes made social interaction hard and at times, impossible.  I don’t innately know what the normal social rules are and have had to teach myself many of them.  My niece is in the same boat.  If kids weren’t bullying her over the fact that she wasn’t in school, they were bullying her over things that she would say.  And I honestly understand when she says that she doesn’t realize that what she said was wrong.  She just doesn’t have that ability to realize that she’s being offensive.  There were Facebook pages put up against her.  Parents were even ganging up against her.  If she was feeling like the whole world was against her, it was with good reason.  The school’s reaction?  Very little.

I know some of you would say that my niece may have brought some of this on herself.  I think it’s impossible to say that about someone that has depression.  When she wasn’t going to school, it was because she physically couldn’t get out of bed.  When she was saying things that were out of line, it was because she honestly didn’t realize they were out of line.  So let’s do a little change-a-roo.  What if my niece’s diagnosis had been cancer?  What if she couldn’t have gone to school because of the cancer treatments?  What if kids were making fun of her because of the side effects of cancer?  I think it’s exactly the same thing.  And yes, the final outcome of depression can be just as deadly as any cancer.

So now a little girl that used to love school and used to be quite good at it is sitting at home trying to figure out what to do next in a world where education means everything.  A big thanks to the school system that failed my niece.


2 Responses to “The Public Education System, Depression & Bullying”

  1. Rachel Tayse Says:

    This story and too many others like it make me so sad. 😦 Mental illness should be treated exactly like any other illness. Bullying has to stop for any reason. It’s a shame that any person should be subjected to teenage depression and relational aggression at the same time. I am really sorry for you and especially your niece.

    • decillis Says:

      I gave my niece a lot of credit for the days that she actually did make it to school. My sister often said things like that if she were her that she wouldn’t want to go to school either. Despite this, my sister was active in trying to make it stop. She called me several times to get advice on how to document the social media part of it and was trying to work with the school on both the depression and the bullying. There is just a point that if you don’t have a school that wants to work with you that you give up. Also, a lot of what happened showed me inadequate Facebook’s policy on cyberbullying is. With how bad some of these pages can be, they really should immediately take down any page that has several reports of cyberbullying. It took forever for us to get some of these pages down.

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