Every day hundreds of thousands of children wake up and are terrified of what will happen to them once they get to school. According to the National Institute of Health, one in four American children is bullied daily. Jamie Isaacs, a Suffolk County teenager barely 15 years old, has lived with that terror for almost half her life.
Since she’s been in the second grade, Jamie has endured bullying in her neighborhood, on the school bus and in school.
Bullying can be relentless, putting the victim in a constant state of fear that can lead to numerous mental health issues including depression, anxiety and, in extreme cases, suicide. Every day that children are bullied feels like an eternity to them.
Jamie was just eight years old when the bullying began. She was a typical little girl who liked to draw and work with clay. She was very out-going, according to her mother, Anne Isaacs. The first incidents were verbal, and escalated quickly into hair pulling and scratching. Her tormenter was another second grader, someone that Jamie had thought of as a friend. Soon other children joined in. Her parents took her off the school bus, hoping to alleviate the situation, but the bullies found other ways to hurt her. Jamie’s arms were stabbed with sharpened pencils as she walked in the hallway. She was hit in the face with backpacks. The bullies even told other children to torment Jamie or they themselves would be hurt. When school administrators confronted them, they would say that Jamie injured herself.
She had no friends, and no one she could trust. She was being psychologically, verbally and physically abused. Her grades fell, and Jamie became depressed and suffered from stomach aches. “My daughter was an easy target,” Anne says. “She had a lot of things that they didn’t have. It was all about home life,” she believes.
The first day of sixth grade for most children is filled with excitement. For Jamie, it marked the beginning of the “I Hate Jamie Club”, for which the bullies recruited kids that didn’t even know her. They taunted Jamie that they were going to kill her after school. The 12-year-old girl who led the “I Hate Jamie Club” was sent to the principal’s office. Her punishment was suspension…for two days.
When Jamie was in middle school, girls threw food at her in the cafeteria and broke into her locker repeatedly.
Everywhere she went they harassed her. They would follow her into the bathroom, stand over her in the cafeteria while she tried to eat her lunch, and taunt her at recess. They cursed Jamie in the hallways and called her a “rat” for telling her parents about their antics. They began recruiting boys to bully her, and the group of tormenters grew.
“There were 22 kids who were after her when we took her out of school,” Anne says sadly. “We thought they were going to kill her.” Anne says Jamie’s tormenters had been warned to stop the harassment by the police and school administrators, but the bullies, she says, “think it’s a joke.”
The entire Isaacs family has had their lives turned upside down. After countless meetings, telephone calls and letters written to school administrators and numerous appointments with therapists, social workers and attorneys, her parents, Ron and Anne, believed that their daughter was no longer safe in public school and enrolled her in the Knox School in St. James. Her siblings, Danny, 13, and Lindsay, 8, have been moved to other schools in order to isolate them from the neighborhood bullies who tormented their older sister. Anne and Ron lost their business due to all the time they had to take off from work to pick their daughter up from school because of the ongoing harassment.
Ironically, the bullies still attend the public school that Jamie had to leave.
Even with her transfer to another school, the bullying has not stopped. Jamie is harassed outside of school and in the neighborhood. “You will never see my daughter walk the dog or cross the street,” Anne says. “She won’t walk in the mall alone.”
Jamie wanted others to know that there is help available. With her parents guidance and support, they formed the Jamie Isaacs Foundation for Anti-Bullying. Their board of directors includes a child advocate, an attorney and a social worker. Their mission is to help victims of bullying through education, awareness and advocacy.
Thanks to her foundation, Jamie has become a voice for the victims. “I want to help others seek peace and justice,” she says.
Jamie now speaks at local schools about bullying and its effects, and asks students to take an anti-bullying pledge together. Anne says that since starting the foundation last year they have already successfully helped many Long Island families by providing advice and resources for those who do not have the financial means to obtain them. Support can include counseling and psychological services. “There has to be a solution to this, and we are trying to get more people involved,” Anne adds. “Our concern is keeping the kids safe.”
The foundation also assists bullies who want to stop bullying. It is estimated that a quarter of elementary-school bullies will have a criminal record by the time they are 30 years old. Most bullies do poorly in school and do not have the success in life that other people enjoy.
Now flourishing as a student at the Knox School, Jamie has had the opportunity for a new beginning. She is a member of their equestrian program and the yearbook staff, and is involved in their drama productions. She is the recipient of numerous Knox Middle School Character Awards for excellence in integrity, kindness, respect and responsibility. She has also written a book about her experiences.
“I want to help put a stop to bullying to make schools safer and to help kids stay positive,” she says.
Jamie has emerged from her ordeal as an intelligent, compassionate young woman.
“I wanted to turn something really bad into something really good, and raise awareness,” she says with conviction. “I know we are not alone.”
Jamie’s Anti-Bullying Pledge
I, A student, A friend, A human being,
To put a stop to bullying,
To try my hardest to be a better person,
To improve my community,
By sharing a friendly smile and
a kind word.
I pledge not to be a bully,
I promise to report any bullying I see
I pledge to make a change
I pledge to make this school bully free!
Today is a day of new beginnings
and new friendships
Today is a day of change.
For more information go to www.jamieisaacsfoundation.org or call 888-936-6285.
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