Gold Ball Saturday Wrap Up
by Celia Shortt
Twelve-year-old Jennifer Jarvis knows first-hand the effects of bullying. Jarvis claims she has been bullied since the first days of elementary school, and she wants to use her experiences to encourage others.
“They’re not alone,” Jarvis said of other bullying victims. “There are others being bullied.”
Jarvis recalls being singled out and harassed as a student at Brooks Elementary School. She says the unfair treatment continued into sixth grade at Madras Middle School.
Jarvis does not know or understand the exact reason for the bullying in elementary school. Her parents worried, eventually speaking to school officials and insisting that Jarvis be transferred to Northside, where she had been a student before going to Brooks.
Later, when beginning middle school, Jarvis said she was “nervous about going to a new school” because the kids who had bullied her at Brooks Elementary School would also be attending Madras Middle.
Jarvis said she attempted to make friends at the middle school, but many only pretended to be friends then later joined in to make fun of her.
Jarvis said the harassment included such things as being asked if she had head lice, and criticizing her family’s religion. “They said being Catholic is bad, and they shouldn’t be friends with me because I was a bad person,” she said.
“When I did the school talent show, they told me they would come watch me fail,” she added in a paper she wrote about the experience. “Of course, I proved them wrong, but they told me I didn’t deserve to win.”
Jarvis’ parents sought help from school officials once again. Jarvis said she believed many of the girls questioned regarding the incidents were not honest. Later, the same girls teased her about their having to meet with the principal.
Jarvis’ parents were told that there was not a bullying support group for students, and that they would have to pay for counseling if they felt their daughter needed support.
“At that point, I had been bullied for about three years,” Jarvis said. “I just wanted to be happy for once.”
Jarvis’ father, Jim, said he simply wanted his daughter to be able to learn in school without being bullied.
“What was hard for us as parents was waiting for her to come home [after school] with stories of hardness and sadness about what happened,” Jim said.
“Your child’s happiness is important,” added Jarvis’ mother, Linda. “You want them to feel safe at school.”
Jarvis heard about an option to attend school online through Georgia Connections Academy. She considered this option carefully, and decided to write a paper to her parents stating the reasons she wanted to attend school online.
“The main reason was the bullying and how I couldn’t focus on learning,” Jarvis said.
“[The paper] had rationale and justification,” Jim said. “She put so much effort into it, we felt obligated to take it seriously.”
Jarvis began participating in online classes this year. She is able to socialize through dance classes four days each week, and she continues to spend time with some students she considered friends at Madras Middle School.
Jarvis maintains that attending school online was the best decision for her.
Jarvis’ parents hope that Jarvis will attend a traditional high school when the time comes, however.
“Most people think this experience has made me more vulnerable, but on the inside I have gotten stronger,” she wrote in a recent paper about her experiences with bullying. “As a result, I have learned to never judge someone you don’t know because you don’t know what they have gone through.”
Jarvis’ mother said she does not blame the Coweta County School System for what happened, but both she and Jim would like to see more support for students who are bullied.
The Jarvis family believes raising awareness of bullying in schools and encouraging students to speak out is the first step to ending bullying.