ST. CHARLES, La. - A St. Charles Parish teen said constant bullying has forced her to quit high school because she fears for her life.
She has been violently attacked multiple times, and has also been the victim of cyber bullying.
Christina T. Smith, 16, was once a cheerleader and athlete, but said after a group of girls ganged up on her at Hahnville High, her life at school fell to pieces.
"I still do have flashbacks about it," said Smith.
Smith said it started with threats at school, then turned into a series of off-campus attacks. Smith was hospitalized in April after a 16-year-old girl struck her multiple times in the face.
But the worst happened at a going-away party last month when Smith said 10 girls took turns beating her. Some, Smith said, had brass knuckles.
"They pulled me from out the car and they grabbed my hair, and one of them tripped me -- I don't know who tripped me -- and that just led me to falling on the ground and they just started kicking me on my face," said Smith. "I thought it was going to be my last day."
St. Charles Parish deputies charged four teens with simple battery in that case. Kenner police arrested three of them last week when the teens verbally confronted Smith at Esplanade Mall.
Chelsi Matthews, 18, and Shenneria White, 18, are charged with disturbing the peace in Kenner, along with a 16-year-old whose name is not being released. The three were also charged as fugitives in St. Charles Parish for the simple battery charge.
And the bullying hasn't stopped there. For months, the group has posted threatening tweets using Smith's nickname, "Ceedy."
One posted July 11 said, "Ceedy just need to give up on life!!!! [Expletive] the whole parish want yo head."
"They say words don't hurt, but it hurts," said Smith. "For them to tell me they wish I was dead, I mean, that hurts."
Smith and her family believe they've been victimized again by the public school system's response.
"They said, to them that's not considered bullying, not even harassment, because [the teens] used [Smith's] nickname [in the tweets]," said Rondalyn Williams,
Smith said three teens were sent to alternative school for a few days, but doesn't think that's enough.
"Hahnville [acts] like they really don't care at all," said Smith.
At Hahnville High, Smith was in the TOPS program, on track to get a free college education, but after the first attack, her family opted to pull her out of high school. Now she's getting her GED at Delgado Community College.
"It's not fair that I'm not able to walk across the stage. Just getting a GED, that's not fair at all," said Smith.
"St. Charles Parish Public Schools does not condone bullying as addressed in our Student Code of Conduct and Discipline Policy," said Rick Treuting, administrator of Student Services and the Arts. "Our main emphasis is on teaching and learning and if there is a distraction, we have to address it. Every administrator has a duty to take appropriate action when an incident has a negative impact on learning."
As she battles depression and struggles to live a normal life, Smith hopes bullies will be better addressed.
"They're threatening to kill me, jump me. It's not fair," said Smith. "I think they need to be stopped."
The St. Charles Public Schools handbook addresses bullying, harassment, and intimidation on school property. It also addresses cyber bullying. According to the handbook, the consequences range from a parent conference to expulsion.
Treuting said, while counselors are always available to students, school policy does not mandate that bullying victims be matched with a counselor or offered mediation services.
And an official with St. Charles Parish Public Schools said three schools have bullying prevention programs, and the program will be implemented at another school this year. Hahnville High is not one of them.
The school system is working on grants to expand the program to other schools. It is also working on an effort to introduce "restorative practices," which would allow for mediation between the bully and the victim, helping the bully to feel greater empathy toward the victim.
The legislature this year also strengthened laws against bullying.