Research shows kids who are bullied through adolescence or teen years are more likely to suffer adverse physical and mental effects later in life.
One Williamson County teen is all too familiar with being the target of a group of bullies.
Franklin High School sophomore, Lauren “Lulu” Williams said she has been bullied at school since her freshman year.
The 16-year-old suffers from eczema and psoriasis, which affects her hair growth.
“Patches of my hair would fall out in random places for no reason, so I wore a wig because it was my biggest insecurity,” she said.
Earlier this year, Lulu said her wig was ripped off as part of a bet.
“These people behind me were taking a $5 bet on who would rip off my wig,” she said. “Then this guy ran past me, tore it off my head and threw it across the hallway and just kept running.”
In that moment, Lulu said one of her worst nightmares became a reality.
“I ran into the bathroom stall and a girl followed me in there and started videotaping me over the stall while I was crying and trying to put my wig back on,” she said.
Lulu’s mother, Myckelle Williams, said her daughter suffered scalp abrasions. Lulu’s wig was torn off, along with chunks of her own hair.
Physical pain was just part of the suffering.
“She was diagnosed with anger and depression initially. It’s very upsetting, it’s embarrassing and humiliating,” said Williams.
According to Mental Health America,11 percent of youth, ages 12 to 17, report suffering from a major depressive episode.
A child who experiences bullying is twice as likely to commit suicide.
Lulu’s incident was recorded on the popular multimedia messaging app, Snapchat and posted by a bystander.
“They’re not the ones bullying, but they are,” said Tiffany Love-Harden, Founder of the Nashville-based organization, Man Up Against Bullying.
“They are instigating it all and they’re filming it on their phones, then they’re putting it on social media,” said Love-Harden.
She believes cyber-bullying is the number one form of harassment. Experts say for a child, being bullied through social media can have the same psychological effect as abuse.
“It’s becoming easier for kids to bully through social media, which in return, is allowing the victim to feel the effects of depression,” Love-Harden said.
Lulu is hoping to change the bullying narrative.
“This could have ended so much differently, but she made a decision to take back her power and not let her bullies win,” said Myckelle.
Later that night, Lulu made the decision to shave her head proving to her bullies that a wig does not define her.
“I feel like people think, ‘Oh, let me just make a video of me bullying someone because it will be funny,’ but it’s not, it’s a very serious thing,” Lulu said.
Love-Harden teamed up with Lulu and her mom to reach even more teens and parents.
“Lulu is a great role model for other kids,” she said, “She actually turned a negative thing into something positive and said, ‘Hey, if you’re going to take that to social media, I’m going to take my message to social media.'”
The teenager hosted an anti-bullying rally earlier this year and said she plans to hold additional rallies to empower other kids.
Lulu also hopes to compete for Miss Tennessee Teen.
“I will be using this opportunity to advocate for my platform against bullying and will be talking about my hair journey, confidence journey, and bullying experience,” she said. “I want to show girls around the world that being different is beautiful and that you don’t have to be society standard to win or be in a pageant.”
Myckelle said she plans to homeschool Lulu next school year.
Williamson County school officials said due to privacy laws, they cannot comment on student discipline.