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Herriman Journal

A story of school bullying: The pain, the frustration, the solution

Dec 01, 2023 09:55AM ● By Jet Burnham

Eighth-grader Anecia Carstensen loves taking online classes at Career Academy of Utah. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Carstensen)

According to the 2021 national statistics on stopbullying.gov, 15% of high school students said they had been bullied at school in the past year. A 2020 report by the Cyberbullying Research Center in partnership with Cartoon Network showed that bullying is an even bigger problem among tweens. Half of the 9-12 year olds they surveyed said they had been the victim of school bullying, and 65% said they had witnessed bullying at their school.

Anecia Carstensen was bullied during the fifth grade and the problem continued into middle school. The bullying she endured caused mental health problems, a change in personality and negatively impacted her education.

“I was missing a lot of school and my grades were bad,” Anecia said.

Anecia’s parents, West Jordan residents Sarah and Shaun Carstensen, searched for solutions and finally made the decision to transfer their daughter, mid-year, to Career Academy of Utah, an online charter school.

Things improved immediately for Anecia. She began to actively participate in class, make friends and earn better grades.

“Since being in an online school, she has maintained either all A's or B's and is excelling,” Sarah said. “It's the best change that we could have made for her.”

Sarah said after years of pain and frustration, she is glad to see the improvement in her daughter’s overall happiness.

“It was kind of scary having her in in-person school for a little while there, with the stuff that was going on,” Sarah said. “It's been a big, big change, and that, for me, is the biggest positive of it, just her mental health and the change that we've seen with that.”

In her online classes, Anecia, now in eighth grade, has made friends and said the teachers are all nice and helpful.

Amy Vance, academic administrator/principal of Career Academy of Utah, said student safety is a top priority.

“We address concerns with bullying in a timely manner and work with a positive behavior intervention system to allow students to change behaviors,” she said. “Some students have had experiences of bullying at previous schools and they are given support through our counselor.”

Homeroom teachers also check in with students daily and teach Mindset lessons, which develop the social emotional skills students need to navigate life, said Vance.

Anecia takes core subjects, an elective Spanish class and classes that are part of the health science career pathway she has chosen. She enjoys the frequent field trips, like a recent visit to UVU for hands-on health science activities.

Sarah said they explored other online school options before choosing CAU.

“When we learned that they had the career pathways and things like that, we just decided that it was what was best, and we applied,” Sarah said. “It was easy. They sent us all the supplies that she needed—a printer and everything—and we were set up and ready to go.”

Sarah enjoys the flexibility of online school—Anecia can keep up with schoolwork if she’s sick or on vacation—but mostly, she is just glad that her daughter is happy, safe and enjoying school again.

“There was a lot of tears cried, a lot of figuring out what to do, and I'm just glad we finally found something that works,” Sarah said.

Anecia and her family wanted to share their story in hopes of helping others who are experiencing a similar situation.

“We just want people to know that there's other options,” Sarah said. "They don't have to stay and there's other things they can look into, especially if their mental health is struggling like hers was.” λ

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