WESTBROOK – Victoria Pabst has had enough.

The Westbrook High School junior, 16, says she has been the target of bullies at the school all year, and, frustrated at what she sees as a lack of response from the school, she has taken her story public.

A letter Pabst originally wrote to Assistant Principal Howard Jack about her experience at the school was posted Tuesday on local radio talk show host Ray Richardson’s website, and she was scheduled to go on Richardson’s radio show on Thursday, May 24, to discuss her experience.

“You wake up, sick to your stomach at the thought of coming to this place,” Pabst wrote. “The last thing you want to do is go to your locker because all the people who terrorize you are standing around it…You pretend you didn’t do your homework and get the zero on it even though you worked so hard on it just so you don’t have to face these people.”

Richardson said the posting had already received thousands of hits.

On Wednesday afternoon, Pabst, who is a member of the school’s cheerleading and wrestling squads, as well as a member of several in-school service clubs, said the harassment, which she said is mainly coming from a group of girls she has known for some time, started around October. She said it stemmed from an issue with an ex-boyfriend who is now dating one of those girls. Pabst said she was involved in some legal issues with the boy, and she wasn’t able to discuss it any further.

Pabst said the harassment happens both in school and after school.

“It varies, from stuff on Twitter, stuff on Facebook,” she said. “They’ll pass me in the hall and make remarks. I’m a Christian and they’ll call me a ‘Bible Thumper’ and ‘Jesus Freak.’”

Pabst said her grades suffered this year, though they have started to rebound, and she started finding excuses to miss school because of the harassment.

“I told my mom I was sick, so she would let me stay home,” Pabst said. “Or I would take my work down to guidance and do it down there. (But) this quarter, I started really being more involved in my church and finding a good core of friends to rely on and my grades have gone up like crazy.”

Pabst said she had approached the school’s administration about the harassment, trying to report the incident to Jack, but she was not satisfied with the response.

“They would give me a harassment form and say I could fill it out if I wanted to,” Pabst said. “They would tell me if I did, or if they did anything about it, it would make it way worse for me.”

Jack did not return a call seeking comment by the American Journal’s deadline.

School Superintendent Marc Gousse said while he has not been personally involved in the case, he has spoken to Principal Thomas O’Malley about it, and he said he is satisfied that the administration at the high school is on top of it.

O’Malley said that he got a copy of Pabst’s letter on Tuesday, and said he was “saddened” by its contents. He added that he has met with the family and he will continue to work to resolve the situation.

“We take all of these situations very seriously,” he said.

Gousse said the school department has a clear anti-bullying policy in place.

“We absolutely don’t condone any type of bullying or harassment for students and adults,” he said. “We want to make sure all kids are safe.”

But, Pabst said, no matter what policies are in place, the fact is that bullying is a problem at the school. She said one recent morning, she sat in the cafeteria wearing headphones that were switched off so she could hear what the kids around her were saying, and in just a few minutes, she heard the group around her make multiple derogatory comments about other students.

In an effort to get some relief, Pabst said, she wrote the letter and turned it in to the administration recently. She also turned in multiple pages of harassing posts from social media. She said she didn’t get a response, and as a result, she decided to go public with her situation through Richardson.

Very quickly, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“A lot of people have shared it,” she said. “A lot of girls in my school have read it and cried.”

While she has gotten some negative feedback, Pabst said she wasn’t worried about it.

“If I get negative responses from it, it’s not going to hurt my feelings,” she said. “I’ve been through a lot worse, I’ve been called a lot worse. I’m proud to do this. It doesn’t bother me.”

Pabst said she was hoping her letter would spur some changes at the school. Incoming Principal Jon Ross said when he takes over in July, he is going to be working to make sure the school is a safe place for everyone.

“We don’t tolerate bullying, we never have,” he said. “I’m looking forward to really changing the culture of the school to make it a positive and engaging place.”

For her part, Pabst said she wasn’t worried about losing any friends as a result of her public stance.

“Anyone I lose in my life because of this doesn’t belong there any way,” she said.

Victoria Pabst


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