JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Three Jacksonville-area girls have recently come out with three painful stories -- stories that have once again put bullying in the spotlight.
Middleburg teen Haley Napieracz said, "I got bullied to the point I could not handle it anymore."
Dianna Friske says her 18-year-old daughter was a victim too, attacked with words, not fists. But she says it was just as damaging.
"She still has a little anxiety over it," said the local mother.
She says tension on the school campus eventually led to an off-campus incident. And when she went to school administrators, she says she was told, "I can't do anything."
University of North Florida psychologist Dr. Lauren Yerkes says she often sees college students still reeling from the effects of high school and middle school bullying.
"A bully is anyone who threatens or harms a person repeatedly, usually for a sense of power and control," she said. "I find that it is often a cause or a contributor for depression or anxiety or substance use."
Yerkes says the problem is real, the effects lasting. And she believes solving the problem is everyone's responsibility -- parents, teachers, society as a whole.
She said, "Bullying is becoming so prevalent, and it has such an effect on not just our children and our students, but on our culture."
Friske also believes in a team approach to prevention.
"If they let it go like it has been going, they're going to get exactly what it going on right now. An epidemic of bullying. It's all over," said Friske.
She believes the prevention needs to start early, so no other child is a victim.
All Florida school districts have specific policies when it comes to bullying. The cases are documented and reported to the state. Punishment can range from counseling to suspension, to expulsion.
To look at Duval County's policy, visit www.duvalschools.org/static/aboutdcps/departments/acadprog/health/bullying.asp
And to see the state's policy, go to www.fldoe.org/safeschools/bullying.asp