The girl was smart, pretty — and obsessed with the idea of taking her own life.
She was just 14 years old
What drives a child to such a dark place — in which death seems the logical escape from unbearable suffering?
The answer is both terrifying and as common as homework. The teen, a student at a highly regarded New York City public middle school, was targeted for torment by a gang of Mean Girls.
Her classmates “made fun of her because she was skinny. Other girls were more developed,” Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., a family therapist who counseled the teen and her parents, told me. Her folks were in denial.
The girl “cried herself to sleep every night.” So the psychotherapist took it upon herself to call the principal of her patient’s school.
The response floored her.
“It’s not my responsibility,” the school chief said, according to Dr. Eaker Weil. That’s because the severe body-shaming wasn’t conducted at students’ lockers, on the schoolyard or anywhere on educational property, but over the Internet. Eaker Weil finally told the principal that if her client should die by her own hand, “It’s on you.”
That was nine months ago. The wicked teasing appears to have stopped before the new school year and the girl is fine physically. But she may endure permanent emotional scars.
Since the dawn of textbooks and cliques, schools have been veritable jungles in which the strong survive and the weak are preyed upon. But the rise of social media has made bullying organized and often anonymous. Education officials either have difficulty policing it — or try to ignore it altogether.