I was very moved by this story of a girl who was bullied simply because she had a seizure in class. A simple reminder of how cruel we can be to each other. Luckily, two girls came from out of nowhere and literally saved Olivia’s life — sisters Sarah and Emily Buder read about Olivia’s experiences with cyberbullying and wrote letters of encouragement. News caught on and the result was nothing short of amazing — Olivia was no longer online, so good old-fashioned hand-written letters came to her from all over the place, totaling around 1,000. Olivia’s plans for suicide were replaced with a new sense of faith in people (and a book deal — Harper Collins picked up on this story and published some of the letters).
While I think this story is a hopeful one, I hope that educators take note of some of the more subtle aspects of it. Olivia was teased because of her health condition, yet according the the story run by MSNBC (link above), the teasing took the form of “pornographic emails.” What is the relationship between a seizure and sexually graphic comments? Nothing, except when young people tease, it’s often about sex. Another sign of the importance of acknowledging sexual aspects when designing curricula about cyberbullying, and how sex education should include issues related to internet harassment.