Bullying leads to anorexia
During the 2006-2008 school years, Mary V.’s daughter was in the sixth and seventh grades. Because of her weight she was relentlessly teased by classmates. The emotional abuse led to her developing anorexia, an eating disorder characterized by refusal to maintain a healthy body weight and an obsessive fear of gaining weight. Because her daughter’s weight then became dangerously low, she entered an inpatient treatment program.
Title IX refers to a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on gender in schools receiving federal funds. That is practically all public schools in the country. Once peer harassment is identified on campus, the school is required to take action. Otherwise, the school may be liable for the student’s loss of an educational opportunity due to the harassment. Appearance discrimination is a growing violation that can have tragic consequences for its targets.
In this student’s case, teachers, school officials and a guidance counselor were aware of the ongoing harassment. No one intervened on her behalf. In 2009, her mother filed a lawsuit against the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania school district for violating Title IX. It would have been an uphill battle to prove a direct connection between classmates’ comments and her illness. Many factors contribute to eating disorders including low self-esteem, family issues, and cultural pressure that exaggerates the need to be thin.
In August, 2010, the case was settled for $55,000.00. This may be a case of first impression — where a victim sued for being bullied into a disorder. Again we remind you to treat others as you’d like to be treated. Does your school have a bully-box where anyone can report anonymously any bullying on campus? Maybe you could suggest this to the front office.
See more stories about the effects of bullying and why it’s so important to act respectfully to one another.