Lana’s Story: When Failure to Respond to Bullying Drove Me to Suicide

One suicide survivor's story of struggle to report peer bullying and secure safe space in her school from harassment and humiliation.

Lana's Story

If you are facing any kind of stress, harassment or feelings of hopelessness, don’t wait another moment to reach out for help. Here are some great organizations that can help you now: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), The Trevor Project (866-488-7386) and the Jed Foundation

I’m really questioning the stories with schools filled with best friends and adults who are willing to help. The truth is that if you decide to speak up about bullying at your school, you should really think hard about who you can truly trust. Just because someone carries an Anti-Bullying Specialist title doesn’t mean that she cares what happens to you or will be honest. That’s what I learned. No matter how small your issues are to others, someone should be there for you. But your oldest friends could turn on you. That’s what I learned.

I was bullied at West Morris Central High School in New Jersey for almost two years. The bully didn’t punch or kick or hit, but she constantly cut me down and cut down my friends behind their backs. I was scared. I faked illness to cut school. It was the Captain of the school team. She was 17 and I was new, just a freshman at 14, so I didn’t say anything. But then my parents figured it out.

The Coach was informed, but she ignored eight written and verbal complaints. When we finally got past the Coach, the school said the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act prevented them from doing anything. The toughest anti-bullying law in the country, the one they passed after Tyler Clementi’s death, was the whole problem. The only thing they were allowed to do was to launch an official investigation, but the bully would definitely be cleared if I didn’t file a written complaint. So, my parents and I filed a written complaint. All we wanted was for someone to tell the other girl to leave me alone.

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The ABS skipped our appointments three times in a row without telling me. I even saw the bully walk right in to speak with her during my time slot. So, when the ABS finally grabbed me later and told me how timid I was, my nerves were destroyed.

It gets worse. She asked me to tell her what happened but kept interrupting me. I wasn’t allowed to say anything that was in the written complaint. I hardly got a word out before she changed the subject and started talking about my grades and how, actually, I was stressed about my grades. “No,” I told her. Then she asked if my mother was putting too much pressure on me. My mother? How did she even come up in this conversation? “No,” I told her. So then she said I could come to her for counseling about my academic stress if I wanted and told me to write my story on a piece of paper, but I couldn’t repeat anything in the written complaint. A few minutes later the bell rang, and I had to go take a test. She wouldn’t let me finish later.

A few days later, I heard from a friend that the ABS was calling people in to ask about things and to ask about my mother. My mother? Again? Why is the ABS asking about my mother? The next thing I knew, the ABS emailed me to ask me the names of everyone I had been speaking to about the complaint. It had just been this one friend who contacted me, because she was being a friend. But I said nothing. Later I found out that the bully told the ABS about this girl. The ABS punished my friend for talking to me about bullying. So, first I was too scared to talk to my friends about bullying, and then, the ABS ordered me not to talk about it at all and punished any friend that talked to me. It would have been nice to have friends or just someone to talk to; I wouldn’t have any friends for much longer.

The ABS interviewed 13 witnesses about an incident that was 10 months ago at the time. The coach managed to see nothing and another six couldn’t remember things. Another six did back me up and several noticed that the Captain and me didn’t get along afterwards. I have their written statements now. However, the ABS wrote that ‘not one’ witness corroborated my telling of the incident. The official verdict was that I had made up the whole thing.

Naturally, the ABS told the bully first, and the bully told all my friends before I even knew of the decision. By the end of that day, I didn’t have friends left. Who could be friends with me when the school told them I was a liar? The ABS’s report was a loaded gun in the bully’s hands, and the bully used it to make me an outcast at school.

The bullying spread. It had been just one girl who was making me miserable, but now, it was her, her friends and all my former friends who were making me suicidal. The coach also tried to make my life unlivable as well and kick me off the team. She told me and my parents to stay away from the bully, but the same coach let the bully do anything. The bully wouldn’t let me talk to anyone at all without coming over so I would have to leave. I was totally alone, even in a crowded gym. It worked. I quit. But nasty rumors followed me and I was miserable, and I was alone. I didn’t know where to turn. I decided the only way out was to end my life. The sad thing is that I didn’t decide to fight back until they locked me up and strip-searched me in the emergency ward which was its own horror.

Even when I got back to school, the school wouldn’t do anything at all. The bully’s friend started harassing me. For example she told me she hated me with a burning passion and that no one liked me. In front of witnesses. Admitted it to the teacher. But the school said that was not bullying.

Now, I’m telling my story on YouTube, but the school is still hostile. They said that my email to the other students about bullying violated the acceptable use policy for email. It turns out that anti-bullying is not an approved educational objective at West Morris Central; I have that in writing. So, my experience is that I’m really and truly not allowed to talk about bullying in school. The statewide Week of Respect is coming up soon. That’s when we all get together and talk about how bullying is bad and how adults always do the right thing. That’s not what I learned.

But from experience, I can tell you that what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger. Since my videos came out, several other students in school have come to me with similar stories. I really think there’s at least one other student in real trouble because our ABS will not even take notice of what has happened to her. My life would have been a lot easier if I’d just shut up and suffered the bullying. At the same time, it’s so clear that what’s happened is wrong. I don’t know how this will end, but I can’t stop now because I know that’s not me. My school really doesn’t believe that bullying is something to be concerned about. The next bullied kid might really kill herself, and I can’t let that happen.

The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.