Archive for Sunday, December 12, 2010

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Bullying drives former Baldwin student to take her education home

Amanda Randel, 16, is on track to completing high school via a virtual school after dealing with bullying at her old high school.  When she is not working on her school laptop on the kitchen table, she is usually playing her guitar.

Amanda Randel, 16, is on track to completing high school via a virtual school after dealing with bullying at her old high school. When she is not working on her school laptop on the kitchen table, she is usually playing her guitar.

December 12, 2010, 12:00 a.m. Updated 12:00 a.m.

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Amanda Randel has finally found her voice.

Only two years after bullying threatened to cause her to give up, drop out and waste her life away, Amanda is poised to get the last laugh.

Finding her voice

Only two years after bullying threatened to cause her to give up, drop out and waste her life away, Amanda Randel is poised to get the last laugh. Now she has found peace with her music. Enlarge video

The 16-year-old took her future into her own hands, saying goodbye to Baldwin High School and hello to completing high school virtually. Now, she’s on track to graduate on time and is thrilled about the life she has in front of her.

“I would’ve dropped out before,” Amanda says. “I’m 16, I probably would’ve dropped out right after the moment (I could). But now, no.

“Now, I’m more excited.”

Her story isn’t a new one — 2010 has been rife with national headlines about bullying kids taking a different route than Amanda’s. Nationally, several teens have committed suicide after being bullied in person, over the phone or on the Internet.

The rash of tragic stories has gotten the attention of the Kansas State Board of Education. The board is set to meet TuesdayDec. 14 to discuss what the state can do to toughen up on bullying. A 2008 state law requires Kansas school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies. But that’s not enough, says board member Walt Chappell, who told The Associated Press in November that the state’s education system was failing kids like Amanda.

Amanda Randel, 16, is on track to completing high school via a virtual school after dealing with bullying at her old high school.  When she is not working on her school laptop on the kitchen table, she is usually playing her guitar.

Amanda Randel, 16, is on track to completing high school via a virtual school after dealing with bullying at her old high school. When she is not working on her school laptop on the kitchen table, she is usually playing her guitar.

“Something has to be done,” he said. “We have to provide some leadership.”

Amanda says that she’s glad she didn’t wait for the system to catch up to her, and is glad she took bullying out of the equation.

The bullying started in her early teens and had reached a fever pitch by the time she was in ninth grade.

“It started in middle school. I started gaining weight and after that, everybody kept making fun of me, quite a bit. And because they made fun of me, I started fasting,” Amanda says. “And it got so bad in high school that I ended up fainting.”

After the fainting spell, her mother, Regina Randel, took Amanda out of school and rather than transferring to another high school or going the homeschool route, the Randels opted for virtual school. After a false start at another online program, they settled on Insight, a national virtual school with no cost to the students. Everything — from the computer to the books — is provided by the school. There’s also another local online option, the Lawrence Virtual School, which helps more than 1,200 students, some of whom say they enrolled to avoid a bullying situation, says assistant head of school Jana Lloyd.

At her school, Amanda has a class schedule, and times she needs to be in front of the monitor of the little black laptop that sits on her kitchen table at the family’s Lawrence home. If she can’t make it to class, she has to make it up by listening to a taped session. She interacts with both her teacher and classmates in a chat format that has allowed her to make friends, just like she would in a normal high school class. The interaction has also allowed her to see the school’s zero-tolerance bullying policy in action.

“If you even say something that’s joking around with a student that might come across as offensive, the teacher right away warns (students about) it, and if it continues to happen, the teacher blocks the chat, so no one can talk,” says Amanda, who notes the teacher also talked to the offending student virtually after class. “It’s got to be done.”

Seeing swift action taken during two bullying instances in her online classes has made Amanda feel more at ease, even though the taunts were not aimed at her. That increasing comfort level is important for children who have been bullied says Insight counselor Deserae Blanco.

“When you take away that stress factor that the bullying caused, it can — I mean, think about being a 14, 15, 16-year-old — that can play a huge factor in your everyday thinking of life,” Blanco says of bullying. “When you take that away, you’re able to put more focus into positive things and doing your work and being active and being social again without that worry.

Amanda Randel, 16, and her mother, Regina, sit in the living room of their Lawrence home. Amanda is on track to completing high school via a virtual school after leaving her Baldwin City school over bullying.

Amanda Randel, 16, and her mother, Regina, sit in the living room of their Lawrence home. Amanda is on track to completing high school via a virtual school after leaving her Baldwin City school over bullying.

Amanda says the stress of her old life is all but gone, though occasionally, she’ll get pangs of understanding when talking with friends who are being bullied at their current bricks-and-mortar schools. She says she tries to help them by relaying her experience and what’s she’s learned.

“One of my friends is also getting bullied about her weight, and I just told her that, she’s gorgeous. She’s not a heavy girl. She’s actually smaller than I am. And she’s calling herself fat and dieting and it’s crazy,” Amanda says. “I mean, it’s just crazy that people would do such mean things. Because I feel that bullies are more insecure about themselves and so, then they bring it on to somebody else.”

After graduation, Amanda hopes to get into cosmetology school and also plans to pursue the passion that has helped her most in dealing with her post-bullying feelings: music. She taught herself to play the guitar in just two weeks and sings and strums whenever she’s not studying. She even writes songs about her feelings and says both playing and listening to music has helped her deal with her past.

Now, her voice is crisp, clear and beautiful — just waiting to be heard.

“I see the world a lot differently now,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot more in just life. I learned that what I did was for my benefit, and that a lot of people might see it as running away. And, really, it was just to get everything under control for myself. I feel better about myself.”

Comments

Angela Heili 4 years, 7 months ago

Good for you Amanda! I'm so glad that you found an alternative to the bullying and didn't let those kids get to you. I too was bullied in school and it can definitely leave emotional scars. Looking back on those days though, I do recognize that those kids really did have insecurity issues. I think a lot of it stemmed from their home life and how they felt they fit in with their families and society as a whole. I'm not sure why these kids resort to bullying. Some people withdraw and become depressed, and some people, for whatever reason, resort to targeting others and making their lives miserable. It's sad that that's the only thing that can make them feel better. In the case of the person who bullied me, he ended up meeting someone that was big enough to stand up to him. The unfortunate thing was it involved a gun, and now the bully is not much more than a 4 year old, as a result of brain trauma due to the gun shot. The positive side was he never was able to hurt anyone again like he did me and several other people that I grew up with. It's just very sad that it had to go that far before he was stopped. No school stopped him, and neither of his parents stopped him either.

Audrey Nagy 4 years, 7 months ago

Way to go Amanda! I like the first sentence of this article: "Amanda Randel has finally found her voice." And what a beautiful voice it is. I read the words of a confident, mature and compassionate young woman in your quotes. Best of luck to you in the future!

Calliope877 4 years, 7 months ago

Good for you, Amanda! I wish I would've had that option in highschool. I'm glad school boards across the country are finally starting to crack down on bullying. It really is detrimental to emotional development and academic progress. Sounds like some of the students at Baldwin High need some sense smacked into them.

kernal 4 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps being "smacked" is why they're bullies, Calliope.

Calliope877 4 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps. Or they're just spoiled brats who are full of themselves. I think that's more likely.

WellInformed 4 years, 7 months ago

Amanda, I met you through my daughter. You were always a very sweet and very bright girl. Congratulations to you for not letting bullying stand in your way. Best of luck to you in the future!

friendlyjhawk 4 years, 7 months ago

Ah, Amanda.............What's the other side of the story? Is it all just poor me and how I survived or did you and your parents contribute to your problems?

kernal 4 years, 7 months ago

Well, well - speak of bullying! What's the matter, run out of sugar frosted flakes this morning?

libra101 4 years, 7 months ago

Who cares what the other side of the story is? This child did not feel safe. She could have dropped out or turned around and taken it out on someone else. She didn't, she changed her situation and and seems to be flourishing.

parrothead8 4 years, 7 months ago

The kid took a bad situation and made it into a good one without pointing fingers or hurting anybody, and your response is to ask her what she was doing wrong to deserve the bad treatment she got? What a compassionate and insightful response...not.

Scotchguard 4 years, 7 months ago

You don't sound so "friendly." More like....a bully yourself.

pace 4 years, 7 months ago

Part of bullying is when someone wants attention, they are willing to be bully for attention. It is why so many people say ignore the bully. Unhappily that doesn't work all the time. Especially when the bully gets support rather than censor from adults, attention from peers or joins a pack. It is great this girl made her way past that garbage. It is telling that some low life has to try to bully his way into the conversation, he said nothing of content. She had interesting and smart observations to the issue.

farmgal 4 years, 7 months ago

it's nice to hear that you found a solution to school bullies. i've never understood why anyone would make fun of someone else for weight or anything. there's no excuse for doing that at any age level. i remember back in grade school at the little rural school i went to, every frickin' day the kids made fun of a little girl who was over-weight. every day! i never joined in on that. it's cruel, it's stupid & it's immature. some how parents need to get that message across to young people. when you make fun of other kids it just means that you are an immature, jealous type of person.

slowplay 4 years, 7 months ago

All of my children are teachers. The bullies are easily identified, the problem is the lack of authority to do anything without a rock solid case for intimidation or physical injury. Even then, trying to get these individuals out of the system is next to impossible.

Scotchguard 4 years, 7 months ago

My kids went to a private school where all the kids were educated about what constituted bullying behavior and were told that none of the behaviors would be tolerated. Each child and his parents were expected to sign a behavior contract. Any child who witnessed or was a victim of bullying behavior was expected to report it immediately. Kids who bullied others were called in to the principal's office and a plan for behavior change was made. If the plan was not followed by the student or repeat incidents occurred, the student was expelled. This school had virtually no bullying, as the kids began to take it upon themselves to police this behavior and immediately intervened if one student bullied another. The students were extremely polite, and these were some of the happiest kids I've ever seen. Too bad more schools can't or won't follow a similar program.

eric1889 4 years, 7 months ago

From what I have experienced, schools are doing everything that they can do to prevent bullying. The problem is that students are bullying each other over social sites. Are schools supposed to punish students for something that is being done when they are on their home computers. A majority of bullying takes place in bathrooms and on buses. You can't punish a student based on the word on another student. Unless, you want teachers supervising students while they use the restroom, bullying is always going to take place.

begin60 4 years, 7 months ago

KU is one of the bully capitals of the world, and thanks to the poisonous southern- justice ethics of the place and the corrupt, conflict-of-interest politics of Douglas County successfully blaming the victim to the point of smearing them with nasty racism allegations and false criminal charges becomes almost a sure-fire thing.Smells like roses !

Lawrence is full of harrassers to the point it's hard to even feel safe walking outside alone. Walking is a joy and an exercise necessity, and freedom of movement is supposed to be a right. Being a country bumpkin means being unaware and insensitive to anything and anyone but the impenetrable- to- culture atomosphere of KS.

Mike Ford 4 years, 7 months ago

about twenty years ago an acquaintance of mine went to Baldwin High and was a Rapper and a DJ and he was White. The kids then took the "N" word replaced the N with a W and constantly harrassed him. He ended up either riding a moped from Baldwin to Lawrence or riding with his parents there and stopped going to school in Baldwin. I think I also know of a politician's kid who transferred to Lawrence from Baldwin recently. I think of two things due to this article; I wonder if people like Shewmon were bullies in High School and the whole consensus by group thing. If someone is being picked and no one intervenes there isn't a problem so nothing is done until bad things happen. I personally don't see how kids learn today with the dumbing down of education for more of a consensus approach. I wish the internet would've been around 23 years ago. There would've been more emphasis on real learning and not repetition and social assimilation. As a country we've seen how this doesn't work. Lies My Teacher taught me anyone?

ksriver2010 4 years, 7 months ago

Schools need to teach that if students do that crap then they will pay the price. You can't get away with it in the real job world so why do we allow it in the school. Oh yeah - no way to punish them. You can't send bullies home or "fire" them. My daughters were in Valley Center school systems in Wichita suburbs. Just as bad as Columbine. Funny thing is that the student in this story will get better grades and a better future because the virtual school allows her to concentrate on her work, not on the "jungle".

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 7 months ago

I admire Amanda and the fact that she found a solution to her problem. I, too, was bullied all through Jr. High and most of High school. That was 40 years ago. I find it incredibly sad that no progress has been made on this problem. Indeed, in some ways it's worse. Amanda had to make sacrifices; no Homecoming or prom, no ability to have normal interaction on things like the school newspaper or yearbook committee, just to get an education and to stay safe. Ultimately it still rewards the bully and in the end if Amanda isn't there to be picked on, they'll find someone else to target.

tbaby3076 4 years, 7 months ago

Amanda- You are so talented and have an amazing voice. I am so proud of you for not letting anyone stop you from sharing your voice with the world. I have told you on many occassions to never give up and never quit. I love you so much and am so very proud that you are my cousin... Love ya baby girl.. Your #1 fan AKA T.T

Bob Forer 4 years, 7 months ago

She hasn't beat the bullies. They won. She was forced to leave school. While more easily said than done, the easiest way to deal with verbal bullies is to ignore them. if you don't give them a rise by allowing yourself to be hurt by the words, bullies will usually find another victim where they get a payoff. Remember, they are just words from insecure people.

parrothead8 4 years, 7 months ago

To an extent, you're right, but I think what you're not taking into account is that the bullies occupy only a very small part of Amanda's world. According to what I've read in this story, Amanda is the real winner, because she's redefined her world as something much larger than the school she no longer attends. When times get tough in her future, Amanda already knows how to look outside the box for a solution.

pace 4 years, 7 months ago

My gosh, the old stick and stones story just doesn't hold up. Words and abuse hurts, not just because the victim lets them. Your idea of Ignore them, it is your fault because you let it hurt you, all baloney ideas. She shouldn't t worry about fixing the bully, giving the bully all the attention, they suck energy. It is the job of parents, peers, teachers and the bully to stop bullying. Use your energy to define your own goal, not spend your life fighting every bully who wants attention. Bullying is often not just verbal. She was smart to make her life defined by her terms. She got out of an abusive situation, made her way to her own life. She beat the bullies, some do it at school, some leave the situation. Some fall into the pit that it is the victim's fault. You can't fix someone's else s problem. I am not saying, at the first sign of bullying, don't stand up for yourself, but don't spend your life on the bully. Don't let a bully push you from your dreams, don't let a bully distract you from them. You can't fix everyone, you should spend your life on your own dreams.

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 7 months ago

I agree with you to a point. But I too believe that the bullies won. They forced a bright, sweet girl to leave the school. That, to me, is the ultimate bullying. She succeeded where a lot of people would have failed. She deserves great kudos for that. But what of others still in that school being subjected to what she went through? It didn't correct the problem!

trfcprincess 4 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

HSteacher 4 years, 7 months ago

Shame on the reporter for only reporting one side. The story may not have run if they knew some facts besides the "story" of a 16 year old. What happened to journalism that checked multiple sources for verification? Foolish reporter.

Donna Kirk-Swaffar 4 years, 7 months ago

" i remember back in grade school at the little rural school i went to, every frickin' day the kids made fun of a little girl who was over-weight. every day! i never joined in on that. it's cruel, it's stupid & it's immature."

Agreed. How many of us felt content as kids because we didn't join in? But how many of us as adults realize now that it was our responsibility (within the realm of personal safety) to STOP the taunting? Part of solving the bullying problem is moving the good kids (who are in the majority) from being merely bystanders to being positive contributors when someone else is being bullied. Not joining in is easy. Sometimes standing up and protecting someone who needs help is hard.

At an institutional level, the bullying policies I have seen seem to be pretty ineffective (I work at a junior/senior high and have kids in grade school). The change has to start at the individual level, because the schools just don't seem to know how to handle it effectively. Adults have to model for kids that we value standing up for others and will not tolerate personal cruelty. Because no matter how many times an adult intervenes, that intervention will never make as much difference as it would coming from a peer.

"Be the change that you want to see in the world." M. Gandhi

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