Battling the bullies
LUCY KLAUS is only 13, but she has stared death in the face and stood up to school bullies hurling verbal abuse, trying to trigger her epilepsy-like seizures.
Now she is speaking out about her experiences to help other victims of bullying.
Last year, when she had been at high school barely a month, she was rushed to hospital from school shortly after receiving a Gardasil shot under the Government's free cervical cancer vaccination program.
It was touch-and-go for the Goonellabah student for a week, and the seizures following the injection lasted for four months.
Her school, Lismore High, was warned about the circumstances that might trigger a seizure and it promptly passed the information on to students for Lucy's protection.
But some students had a different idea.
Kids would come up behind her while she was walking between classes and whistle suddenly in her ear, causing her to fall to the ground and have a fit.
“I was called to the school probably 20 times in that four months,” her mum, Wendy Klaus, said.
Lucy said the bullies were careful to target her out of sight of the teachers.
“When it did happen it was not usually in the classroom. It was at lunch time or recess, coming home from sport. People did it on the bus,” Lucy said.
“They were whistling to make me have a seizure.”
Lucy is also asthmatic and other students discovered they could bring on an attack by spraying aerosol deodorant, banned by the school, in her face.
“Sometimes I handled it better, but sometimes it got to me more,” she said.
“I got upset and then I got angry.
“If it was serious I told the teachers, but it happened so often they were just going to think I was whingeing.”
As if the physical bullying wasn't enough, some students - usually boys - teased her verbally as well.
“For me it happened nearly every day, but not every single day.”
The Year 8 student was grateful for a group of staunch friends and a supportive family, but drew on her own strength to stand up to the bullies with a maturity beyond her years.
“It might be how they're brought up in a family with abuse. It might be how they're treated and it's what they think is normal.”
Her parents glow with pride. “We're pretty proud of her and the way she handled it because she'd been through a lot,” Mrs Klaus said.
Lismore-based youth counsellor Darmin Cameron said bullying was prevalent in adolescence and parents often asked him how to make their kids 'great'.
“My simplest tip for parents is: Be the person you want your teenager to be,” he said.
“Have a look at your own behaviour, become aware of yourself, are you displaying respectful behaviours towards your children and others?”
Mr Cameron said teenage bullying could have long-term consequences.
“Bullying can have immediate effects or cascade later into the life of a person who receives it, causing post traumatic stress disorder, self-esteem issues, depression and anxiety,” he said.