Biden responds to St. Marys girl's letter about bullying

Oct. 13—Bailey Snodgrass endured insults, body shaming and physical bullying starting in sixth grade.

Classmates — mostly girls — jabbed her with pens, ridiculed her for the way she dressed and greeted her with barks and growls.

It got so bad, Bailey, 12, of St. Marys, spoke with her parents, Jennifer and Rodney Snodgrass, and asked if she could be home schooled. They found an alternative, Georgia Connections Academy, where she started attending this school year and is thriving academically and psychologically.

She decided to write President Biden a letter several months ago expressing concerns about bullying in schools and how the problem has gotten worse in recent years with the added pressure of social unrest nationwide. She did not share her personal experiences of being bullied in the letter.

"I didn't want it to be too self centered," she said. "Bullying has been around forever. They were targeting me for the way I dressed and looked."

What Bailey didn't expect was a letter in response from Biden two months later.

Jennifer Snodgrass said the letter to her daughter from the White House stood out when she opened the mail box.

"A letter from the White House feels different from any other letter you'd receive," she said. "I looked at the addressee and it was for Bailey."

The family gathered around Bailey as she opened the letter and read it aloud to everyone. She had forgotten about the letter to the president and then she realized he had just responded to her plea for support.

"Even at your young age you have the power to change the future and make history," Biden wrote. "I urge you to remain curious, creative and fearless."

He said students like Bailey "are the future of our great nation" and that it's important to speak up on the issues that matter most.

"When you make your voice heard, adults listen," Biden wrote. "I wish you the best in the years ahead and look forward to seeing where your future takes you. Study hard. Keep challenging yourself. And be kind."

This is national Bullying Prevention Month, so it was timely for Bailey to get a response from the president. Her message for people who are bullied is to stand up before it's too late.

That doesn't mean to be confrontational but rather to find a safe place away from the attacks.

Precious K. Williams, a guidance counselor at Georgia Connections Academy, said bullying is a "multi-layered encounter." She said parents should watch for warning signs their children are being bullied, including changes in likes and dislikes, bad grades and mannerisms.

If a child is being bullied, it's important to find out if it's via social media, in person, physical, verbal or a combination of harassment.

"You want to separate them from a bullying environment in the least restrictive way," Williams said.

Bullies also need help to determine what motivates them to want to hurt others. Some show a lack of empathy and also bully siblings.

"Bullies are typically victims, too," Williams said. "Hurt people hurt people. If you are a parent you need to find out what's behind that anger."