By Tracy Vedder | KOMO News
SEATTLE — A local woman says she was slapped, taunted and bullied until she became anorexic, and it all happened when she attended a private middle school just for girls.
The Seattle Girls’ School just settled a lawsuit with Olivia Ray, who hopes her story empowers other young girls to stand up to bullying.
Today, Ray is a healthy, happy Junior at the University of Washington, contemplating a future filled with promise. That’s a bright contrast to the nearly three years she spent at Seattle Girls’ School, where she says bullying was an almost daily event.
“Oftentimes I remember waking up crying and I did not want to go to school,” she said.
Ray attended SGS from 2006 to early 2009. On its Facebook page, SGS says its mission is, “to inspire and develop courageous leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change.”
But Ray says during her two and a half years there she was slapped, called names, taunted and kicked. But she says being ostracized was the worst part, and she says the bullying ultimately led to anorexia.
“And I remember thinking, I don’t want to live like this, this is awful,” Ray said.
She said she told her teachers and administrators what was going on, but says she was, “kind of treated like a joke,” and that they would put her in a room with the bullies so they could talk it out.
“They told me just to, ‘Man up and deal with it,'” she said.
After Ray’s parents pulled her from school they filed a lawsuit against SGS. In September, SGS settled for $120,000. In a statement to KOMO 4 News, Head of School Rafael del Castillo said the school, “would not comment on any details of the recent lawsuit.” But added, “any portrayal of our school….as a place that tolerates bullying or harassment is wholly inaccurate.” The statement goes on to say, ” at Seattle Girls’ School, we take the issue of relational aggression very seriously…physical or emotional harassment of any sort is unacceptable.”
“Their understanding of the issue is non-existent,” said attorney Jack Connelly, who represented the Rays.
He says SGS hasn’t changed its policies and needs to start paying attention and get educated on the issue of bullying.
“So it doesn’t lead to isolation in students, it doesn’t lead to suicides, it doesn’t lead to acting out and murders such as we’ve seen in Marysville,” Connelly said.
Ray is thankful the lawsuit is now behind her though she says it empowered her by giving her a voice and she hopes it will do the same for others.
“I hope it will show kids that they have a voice and they have power to create change,” she said.
Ray adds she’s now hoping to be a role model for others and show that, “one person…really can make an impact if you just keep fighting.”
October is National Bullying Prevention month.