CHICAGO (CBS) — There are about 160,000 students nationwide who miss school every day because they are afraid of being attacked or bullied by fellow students.
Christie Paulick, a former Grayslake North High School student, became one of those statistics last year after being brutally beaten by female classmates. CBS 2’s Dave Savini spoke with the Paulick family about the emotional trauma and available help for victims to heal these wounds.
Nancy Paulick says her daughter, Christie, could not return to school after being attacked in the hallway at her locker.
“She couldn’t do it anymore,” said Paulick. “She just couldn’t–enough was enough–she didn’t feel safe in that environment.”
Dozens of fellow students stood around and watched as Christie was blindsided with a punch then repeatedly kicked. She suffered a broken nose and required surgery to repair a badly damaged eye.
“It turns your stomach,” an emotional Nancy Paulick says about seeing recently released security video of the attack. “You can see the first punch and the hard part is all of her nightmares are of that first punch.”
Christie Paulick suffered nightmares and she says she was ridiculed when she returned to school; it became too much and led to her suffering severe anxiety.
“I don’t feel safe at all at that school,” said Christie Paulick. “I wasn’t able to stay home alone. I didn’t trust anyone, I stepped away from friends who have been friends with me for years.”
After the Paulick’s contacted CBS 2, and after the surveillance video was released, Christie Paulick finally was given the help she needed. Grayslake North paid for a special school-refusal therapy program at Alexian Brothers.
Jackie Rhew is the clinical supervisor of the program.
“We use what is called exposure therapy,” said Rhew. “We also role play different ways they can respond to the bullying.”
The therapy sessions take place during a minimum two-week period. The students work in mock classrooms, learn how to process their anxiety, and handle bullies and other school-related traumas.
“We re-create situations,” said Rhew. “We have them identify what their fears are; what their thoughts are related to the fears.”
Since its creation five years ago, the program has helped over 800 students from across the Midwest.
Christie Paulick is in the process of completing the program and is enrolling in a different high school. She says she wants to do well and go to college.
The students who attacked her were prosecuted as juveniles and removed from the school.
The Paulick family believes school counselors are not enough, and student victims involved in school related attacks should have their therapy covered by the schools.