March 23, 2011

Lost Orange Teen Was Bullied

There's still no sign of 13-year-old Isabella Oleschuk, the seventh grader from Orange who was reported missing Sunday morning. The FBI has now joined in the search. Troubling details are emerging about Oleschuck's life at school.

"It was an escalation of what has been happening for years," said Kathleen Schurman, editor for Bethwood Patch. It appears, the hearing impaired 13-year-old was bullied, mostly on the school bus.

"All I kept hearing was the names she was being called, and how she had been constantly teased," Schurman said.

Schurman has been talking with Isabella's classmates on facebook since her disappearance.

"The only topic of conversation online that night was that Bella was missing, and that she had threatened to run away, because she was being bullied so badly," said Schurman.

Experts say stories like this one are teaching moments for families.

"Half of all kids these days experience some bullying at some point in school. About 10 percent of kids are bullied on a regular basis," said Dr. Frank Fortunati, a Psychiatrist at the Hospital of St. Raphael.

Fortunati treats kids who are being bullied. He recommends role playing, so victims learn how to be assertive.

"Just tell the bully. Just tell him to stop. 'I don't like that. I want you to stop, or I'm going to tell the teacher'. Often the kids will say that doesn't work. Well, it does work in a surprising number of cases. I think parents can help role play that," Fortunati said.

He also said parents can encourage students on the sidelines to do the right thing.

"Tell the kids to stop it if they are afraid, because they don't want to speak out like that. They can tell the teacher. They can tell their parents," said Fortunati. Not afraid to speak out, Kathleen Schurman, also bullied as a child, is dealing with criticism.

"How dare you bring that up. Nobody knows that's the reason why she ran away. We don't know for sure if that was it. We don't know, but if it was indeed a factor, the police should be told."

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