Tiffani Reed, Raylee Bachtold, and Zoe Bachtold pose in their CCHS journalism classroom
Months ago, when Tiffani Reed and Raylee Bachtold, both 18, were tasked with making a video to raise awareness for the ongoing issue of bullying, the topic really hit close to home.
Tiffani and Raylee weren’t close when they chose to do the project together, but both could see in the other an intimate knowledge of what it is like to be bullied.
“I didn’t look the way everybody said I was supposed to look,” Tiffani said.
Raylee has spent the better part of her teenage years fending bullies away from her younger sister, Zoe, 15.
“You can look at my sister, look in her eyes, and tell that she’s been through stuff,” Raylee said, her words filled with anger. She prides herself on being strong and willing to stand up for herself and others, but Zoe is different and Raylee hates that she is a target for bullies.
“She doesn’t have the ‘be strong’ mentality. She takes [being bullied] to heart and now, she struggles with depression and she struggles with anxiety,” Raylee said bluntly.
Together, the two high school seniors joined hands to create their video, which was submitted as part of an anti-bullying competition put on by Safe2Tell, a statewide program that allows students to anonymously report anything that threatens themselves or the people around them.
The stakes were high, $500 to be split between Tiffani and Raylee and another $500 to be given to their journalism class, but neither cared about the money. Their only focus is on making sure the community is aware that bullying is still a topic that needs to be talked about.
Tiffani believes that people are willing to “talk the talk” when it comes to addressing bullying. She said that people are willing to speak out against it or are willing to make pamphlets or posters stating why it shouldn’t happen. But when those same people have a chance to “walk the walk,” they simply don’t.
Their video states that, oftentimes, bullying happens in front of other people, whether those people choose to acknowledge it or not.
Earlier this month, Tiffani recalled an incident where a fellow student was hospitalized for “a serious cause,” but students around her were cracking jokes about the student and were laughing.
“It’s not something to laugh about, [the student] could have died from what happened,” Tiffani said. “I just think, our community needs to work more together.”
Another incident in November, where a student was “jumped” or assaulted by several other students in the school parking lot was reported to the police and was, for a time, the talk of the school.
“[The student] got kicked in the head, kicked in the ribs, and was even in the hospital,” Raylee recalled. “But they (the aggressors) made it out to be a joke.”
“Basically, that’s what our video is about, our community is broken,” Tiffani stated. “It doesn’t work together anymore, we’re against each other.”
The two seniors say that the community has a certain set of standards regarding what people should wear or how much money they should have.
“If we don’t meet those standards, we are nothing,” Raylee said. “We are nothing to anybody, a pile of trash.”
Tiffani and Raylee acknowledged that there are a few people out there, like themselves, who do their best to make others feel better, but that action can lead to feeling overwhelmed or can result in they themselves becoming a target for bullies.
Tiffani has experienced those feelings and the consequences herself, having helped countless people who confide in her feelings of depression and, rarely, thoughts of suicide. But being their rock requires sacrifice; Tiffani has a limited number of people that she can turn to when she herself begins to slip into the dark woes of depression.
Raylee, who over the course of the project has become Tiffani’s close friend, is one of those people. On several occasions, she’s helped her friend overcome depression and alerted authorities when Tiffani took a turn for the worst.
“If it wasn’t for [Raylee], I wouldn’t be here,” Tiffani said. Raylee did the right thing, knowing full-well that her friend would be angry with her for getting involved, by reporting Tiffani to the school counselor and getting her the help she needed.
“You were going to find out it was me anyway,” Raylee mumbled.
The exchange highlights an issue that Safe2Tell seeks to quench, repercussions for doing the right thing.
“I think, with the Safe2Tell App, it’ll be easier,” Tiffani said.
Students, she says, oftentimes don’t report their friends when they feel depressed for fear of angering them.
Using the Safe2Tell App, there are no names or identifying information given. Students can report without having to worry about the repercussions.
Using the film “A Girl Like Her” as inspiration, Tiffani and Raylee captured their take on the bullying issue in their school through the eyes of students who have been bullied and the adults who are doing everything they can to stop it.
“Our video isn’t based off the popular kids,” Raylee said. “We went to the people that the popular kids don’t really hang out with.”
In their experience, it is the “self-proclaimed” popular clique that are the perpetrators in high school bullying.
“I’ve seen a lot of the popular kids be the bullies, or bullying happens around them because they have the money,” Tiffani said.
Through their video, Raylee and Tiffani challenged their fellow students and educators to answer a series of three questions.
1. Do you think that bullying is worse with certain groups of kids?
2. Where do you think that bullying starts?
3. What can the community do to stop bullying?
On Dec. 14, Clair Carter, one of Tiffani and Raylee’s Campbell County High School educators, announced that their video had been chosen by Safe2Tell as the winning submission.
“I’m so very proud of Tiffani and Raylee,” Carter said in a statement. “They put their hearts into this project and it paid off.”
View the winning video below.