For Bullying Prevention Month Learn4Life highlights how flexible, personalized learning environments minimize students’ exposure to bullying at school
For the 20 percent of students who have been bullied, closing schools was a welcome respite, and many found themselves to be less anxious, depressed and fearful with online classes. Just ask Michaela M. who was a target of bullies at her previous high school where she was shoved, cornered and threatened.
Verbal bullying can be frightening, painful and traumatic – but when it turns physical, the harm can be devastating. One day in gym class, a student threw a basketball hard against Michaela’s head, leaving her unconscious with whiplash and in the hospital. She lost all hearing in one ear, had occipital nerve damage with vision complications, and numbness on one side of her face and head. She continues to have balance issues, constant and severe head pain and is not able to drive.
A recent UCLA study points to the self-perpetuating cycle of bullying. Students who are repeatedly bullied receive poorer grades and participate less in class discussions. Then they get mislabeled as low achievers because they do not want to speak up in class for fear of getting bullied. Once students get labeled as ‘dumb,’ they get picked on and perform even worse.
At Learn4Life,students are offered flexible schedules and one-on-one teaching. Students attend on different days and times, which virtually eliminates opportunities for bullying and is ideal for those who need to work or take care of family members.
“When the same students are together all day, every day and often without adult supervision, school can quickly become a breeding ground for bullies,” said Lindsay Reese, area superintendent of Learn4Life, a network of personalized learning public schools.
“Learn4Life was my saving grace. I could work at my own pace and work around the complications of my disability and my medical appointments,” Michaela explained. “I was supported and understood, and they helped me know that just because I am different, it doesn’t mean I don’t deserve respect, encouragement and a fair shot.”
“We have a zero tolerance on bullying, but more importantly, we’ve eliminated the structure where bullies thrive,” Reese said. “Plus, we teach students coping and resiliency skills, which help them deal with life’s ups and downs, so they are better able to transition to adulthood. Many of our 49,000 students transfer to Learn4Life to escape bullying.”
The good news is that Michaela graduated last year amid the pandemic and enrolled in community college. She made the Dean’s list her first semester, joined the Honors program and Alpha Iota sorority, and finished her freshman year of college with a 4.0, or a weighted GPA of 4.7.