Echo Carter was always a bright, happy and outgoing child, but when she got to junior high, she became the target of bullies. “I was always a good student — the problem was the social environment for me. Kids would bully me constantly and it got to the point where I was depressed, didn’t want to go to school and almost flunked 8th grade,” Echo said. “The good news is that it led me to this school, where I could be myself again.”

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 don’t 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.

While more than 20 percent of students in traditional high schools experience bullying, it is virtually nonexistent at our schools. One of the benefits of nonclassroom-based schools with a flexible schedule is that students are not forced to be with the same kids all day, every day. In addition to having a zero tolerance on bullying, we’ve eliminated the structure where bullies thrive. Many of our students came to us to get away from bullying and now love coming to school.

Echo especially likes the flexibility of her school, because when she started struggling in math, she got extra help until she mastered the lessons. “Thanks to the tutoring classes I am able to understand math WAY better than I used to without feeling ashamed for it. I don’t have work piled on me constantly and can go at my own pace.”

She says the staff and teachers have taught her that it’s okay to go to them when she needs help and that they’ll be there for her. “They’ve taught me that I deserve respect from my staff and teachers at school.”

Even though she is only 14, Echo has big plans. She’s on track to graduate early and wants to go to college in Germany, earn a bachelor’s in psychology and attend culinary school.

“I just want kids who’ve been bullied like me to know, you should never give up and always go for your dreams. Don’t let anyone bring you down!”

Written By:
Ann Abajian