Florida is first in the nation to pay for victims of bullying to attend private schools
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) - Approximately, 160,000 students stay home from school every day due to bullying, but now there is an alternative.
A new voucher program gives children the opportunity to leave what can be a toxic and possibly dangerous situation and attend a private school.
The voucher program is the first state program of its kind in the country giving hope to students who've suffered and their parents who feel helpless.
Bullying tore Victoria Brinkley’s family apart.
In April, her daughter, Stephanie, was attacked by a classmate while another student recorded it.
“I felt angered. I felt disturbed,” Brinkley said, “I felt really sad for my daughter."
Victoria thinks it was planned since another student set up in advance to record it, and then it went viral.
"It's disturbing because you never want to see something bad happened to your child. But, being able to see that in a video - not good.”
Stephanie ended up in the hospital for weeks.
Doctors discovered she had a concussion, causing her immune system to weaken.
"She didn't deserve that kind of treatment. When we send our kids to school to make sure they're in a safe nurturing environment," Brinkley said.
ALTERNATIVE FOR VICTIMS
Victoria moved her daughter to Indiana to stay with family for her own safety.
But if she wanted, Stephanie could have used the new voucher program this school year now available through the Hope Scholarship.
Students who are victims of bullying and other types of violence can now go to a private school and no longer feel trapped.
This school year alone, the state estimates 7,300 students will get vouchers at a cost of about 27 million.
But not everyone thinks it's a solution to bullying.
Lowell Levine with Stop Bullying Now Foundation helps parents whose children have been bullied.
He feels the program doesn’t go far enough.
"Nobody is addressing the problem - which is the bully,” Levine said.
"It is my opinion the bully in the school will find someone else in the school to pick on and the problem will continue,” Levine said.
The Palm Beach County School District tells us 57 bullying incidents were reported to school police last year.
Bullying advocates argue the numbers are overwhelmingly underreported.
The Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research shows one in four children have experienced being bullied.
We asked the district if Stephanie's attack is being investigated.
They said the district does not comment on any matters of student discipline.