NORTHFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — Bullies are forcing more than 160,000 kids across the country to stay home from school every day. Fear of an attack or intimidation can have an impact that lasts a lifetime.
Kelly Miland, 20, knows firsthand how terrifying it can be to become the target of a bully.
“Back then, I didn’t know what bullying was until a couple of years later,” said Kelly, who was the victim of a bully.
During her freshman year at Northfield High School, her family noticed a change in her normally upbeat personality.
“She became a different kid and we just couldn’t quite figure out what was going on,” said Lynn Miland, whose daughter was bullied.
Lynn believes Kelly was targeted because she has a learning disability. But Kelly never mentioned the bully and allowed the torment to continue for months. Eventually, she was attacked in class.
“I was a little bit nervous and didn’t know what to do. I was pretty scared,” said Kelly.
“It’s really hard to talk about, still,” said Lynn.
Working closely with the school, Kelly’s mom found a way to keep her daughter safe.
“It got a lot better. I was relieved,” said Kelly
“It’s important for them to work with their school, because the school wants to help resolve that situation too,” Lynn said.
Kelly’s suffering would also become the positive building blocks to help comfort other victims.
In March, President Obama invited the family to take part in a summit focused on preventing bullying. In Washington, the Milands heard from community leaders and parents whose children committed suicide because they were bullied.
“One of the things that I walked away with was that we were really lucky. We were lucky because we were able to get some help,” Lynn said.
Her younger sister, Maggie, turned her attention to the school where her sister was tormented.
“I don’t want the same thing that my sister went through to happen to someone else,” said Maggie.
In the hallway of Northfield High School hangs a pledge to stop intimidation. Students throughout the school signed a large poster board promising to put an end to bullying.
“We had so many people, it was incredible,” Maggie said.
Kelly has now found her voice and uses it to encourage other victims of bullying to speak up.
“Don’t ignore it. It doesn’t work, because I tried it,” said Kelly.
Kelly’s family also got a lot of help from the Pacer Center. The anti-bullying organization helps walk families through the steps to stop their child from being tormented at school. For more information, go to www.pacer.org.