VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - Almost every day, 10 On Your Side hears from parents who say their kids are being bullied at school, on the bus and online.
Experts in law enforcement, psychology and education have weighed in on these very troubling subjects, but perhaps the most valuable insight comes from those kids who are fighting every day to maintain their self esteem while other kids are intent on breaking it down.
12-year-old Catherine Semmler is one of those children. She is the creator of a video that can be viewed on WAVY.com . It is a message to her parents about how difficult her life at Princess Anne Middle School in Virginia Beach has become. Catherine has Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ( ADHD ) and Asperger's syndrome, a milder form of Autism.
"Just because I'm different doesn't mean I'm a freak," Catherine, who likes to be called 'Cat', told WAVY.com.
"I try my hardest to make friends and most of the time kids just blow me off, like 'whatever'," she said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm in a corner all alone."
Catherine's mother Natalie said her daughter starts each day with a smile and a positive attitude, but as soon as she leaves the house, the battle to stay happy and hopeful begins.
"She says hi to the kids at the bus stop, and they ignore her completely; then she's on the bus and no one wants her to sit with them. Then she takes a seat in class and hears 'do you have to sit here?' and then in P.E. the girls won't get out of her way so she can change clothes. It's little things all day long. They don't see my daughter as a person and it's heartbreaking."
Catherine said it's more than discouraging; it can even be deadly.
"People have even killed themselves because they have been bullied. I thought of it once but then I thought, 'No, that wouldn't be good because my mom would miss me, everyone would miss me'," she said.
Those feelings inspired Cat to make a video for her parents, where she described through words, pictures and music how painful her life at school had become. And although it calls attention to her very delicate emotions, the coordinator of psychological services for Virginia Beach public schools, Dr. Clifford Hatt, calls it a good sign.
"I think that's a very powerful way to get across her message. What's scary to me is the kids that don't talk," said Dr. Hatt.
Natalie Semmler said she believes the principal, guidance couselor and faculty at Princess Anne Middle School are trying to protect her daughter, but said that she is frustrated that their measures usually involve further isolating Cat from her peers. Sometimes they remove her from the classes she shares with problematic children.
"My daughter is there for an education, she shouldn't have to go to guidance and draw pictures," she said. "Make them leave the room."
Semmler said she has had many conversations with various staff members at her daughter's school, but believes the ultimate solution is up to another group.
"I would love to get all the parents in a room and say 'Look, your child may not mean to be injuring my child, but they are, they are injuring my child.' I don't believe they know how bad it hurts and if they did, then they'll stop."
Until then, Cat, and many children like her, must continue to find ways to cope.
"Sometimes, when I imagine my heart--like, from all the bullying--I would imagine that there are scars all over it from the bullying," she said. "It makes you feel like no one really cares."
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