MADISON -- A teenage victim of cyber-bullying is speaking up. 17-year-old Janelle Taylor says things were so bad, she didn't even want to go to school. Now, she's sharing her experiences with lawmakers in Madison in hopes of sparing others similar pain.
Cyber-bullying is not the sort of thing you expect to have happen to a kid like Janelle Taylor. "I play in the band and I do musicals and stuff like that," Taylor said.
Taylor says she started setting up social media accounts while in middle school, partly as a way to keep in touch with her college-bound older sisters, and never saw the attacks coming. "I was like, really friends with these girls, and like, nothing had happened and everything - they just decided to do this," Taylor said.
Taylor says those "friends" hacked into her MySpace account, tore down her information and pictures, and replaced them with: "Things about the way I dressed and the way I looked, and my sexuality, and like rude things, like untrue things, and then they like, deleted all my photos and posted like, crude and gross photos on there," Taylor said.
Taylor says the following day, she faced physical bullying. One of the hackers punched her at school! Taylor says she went to the principal. "She got suspended for like, three days I think it was, but there was nothing my principal could do about the cyber-bullying because there's no policies in schools against it," Taylor said.
Taylor says the cyber-bullying has continued throughout high school (she's now a junior), and it's been the same group of people continuously going after her. "It's gotten so bad that I've had to change my phone numbers at points, and I have tons of people blocked on Facebook, and I've had to delete 'friends,'" Taylor said.
Taylor says she sent a letter to Senator Tim Cullen a couple months ago, and shared her story with lawmakers in Madison Tuesday, prompted by a hearing for a bill that would require schools to incorporate electronic bullying into their bullying policies. "What it really intends to do is say that if the bullying occurs off-campus, which of course, this does in the social media, it is the responsibility of the school district to deal with," Cullen said.
Taylor says she doesn't think cracking down will completely stop cyber-bullying, but she thinks it will still help. "Hopefully when people see this is something that's serious now, and they will be punished for it, they'll stop and they'll realize that what they have done has hurt people," Taylor said.
Cullen says the bill would require school districts to have a policy on cyber-bullying, whether that's the state-adopted model policy or their own. He says they must also keep track of incidents and report them to the school board.