A High School Homecoming ‘Like Carrie with a Happy Ending’

When high school bullies pulled a cruel practical joke on an unpopular classmate, the entire town got involved and rallied around the would-be victim in support

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Humans can be unspeakably cruel — and immeasurably kind. The residents of the small Michigan farm town of West Branch displayed both tendencies recently when students at the local high school voted a quirky, unpopular sophomore girl to the homecoming court as a vicious joke. Turns out, though, the joke is on the bullies, because the rest of West Branch quickly rallied around the girl in a show of unexpected and overwhelming public support.

Local businesses will buy her dinner, take her professional photo, give her salon treatment for her hair and nails, and outfit her in gown, shoes and a tiara reported the Detroit News. A Facebook page that was created to support the teen, 16-year-old Whitney Kropp, went viral — an inspiring case of social media being used as a vehicle for the better angels of our nature, not the bullies.

When Kropp first heard she was elected to represent her class at the homecoming game on Friday, she was shocked but happy — until she learned the ugly truth about her selection. The popular kids thought it would be funny if an outcast won the popularity contest, and then the other sophomore rep, a popular football player, withdrew. Kropp thought it was because he “never goes to homecoming,” but as another student told Kropp, “That’s not what he told everybody.”

(MORE: How Not to Raise a Bully: The Early Roots of Empathy)

Wrote Francis X. Donnelly in the News:

Word of the prank quickly spread through this small town, whose water tower is a yellow smiley face.

Kropp’s sister told her friends, who told their parents, who told their friends.

The Facebook support page was created, quickly drawing hundreds of messages of encouragement. The page has more likes (more than 3,500) than the town has people (2,100).

A bank account was opened for Kropp’s homecoming expenses but wasn’t needed. So many businesses donated services that everything was covered.

Kropp’s experience shows that when a community rallies around a victim of bullying, it’s not the victim who winds up looking ridiculous. When teens with more social power harass those with less, it’s the bullies who lose social status when they’re exposed — but only if the adults in the community do what West Branch’s parents and businesses did, and send a strong message that such malice will not be tolerated.

Many people think that bullying is impossible to fight, that it’s part of human nature and that the only real solution is for victims to toughen up and grow up.  But research now shows two things clearly: first, that bullying can cause lasting psychological harm, leading to or exacerbating depression and other mental illnesses because of the stress it creates. And second, that schools and communities that create a climate where bullying is actively fought by adults, rather than tacitly accepted at every instance, can actually reduce both the prevalence of bullying and the damage it does.

Think about what it might have been like for Kropp if her town hadn’t rallied around her, promising to pack the stands on Friday wearing “Team Whitney” shirts, holding up posters and cheering for her in her new red dress. As Donnelly concludes: “It’s like ‘Carrie’ with a happy ending.”

Check out the whole story in the Detroit News here — it’s a great read.

Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com. Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME Healthland’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIMEHealthland.

7 comments
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Justin Engel MLive
Justin Engel MLive

This wasn't the first time a student at the school claimed students were bullies. A 2011 federal lawsuit settlement capped a previous allegation of a student being bullied there after she came out as a lesbian. Read here: http://www.mlive.com/news/sagi...

Jonathan Ross
Jonathan Ross

This act was indeed a cruel and elaborate prank. In other words in order to pull it off a group of like minded cruel students banned together and put a good deal of planning and time into the prank in order to go out of their way to make a fellow student miserable. That being said this girl really needs to take it on the chin and to grow up. There are people in this world with real problems, and contemplating a serious thing like suicide and scaring you family and community members over a prank however cruel just shows weakness. Does she really think sh'es the only high school girl who's been pranked and is dealing with the pressures of teenage life. There are people out there who can't feed them selves, have no wear to live, or maybe they are victims of gorilla war far and lost their parents all together yet they still keep on truckin with out the support of the whole community like this girl has. I lived in southeast Asia for some time working as an English teacher in Vietnam, Thailand, and China to name a few places and i have seen some disturbing things in my travels as well in terms of the realities of the world. Coming from New York  one can only really understand the concept of another culture, you can read about it, watch it on TV/movies but when you actually get there it's a whole new ball game, for example when a crime is committed in the U.S. there is a general knowledge that the police will actually come after/pursue you in Vietnam for example the laws are not enforced police openly ask for bribes i got pulled over once in Vietnam and the cop strait up told me he needed beer money, in short you could literary get away with murder, small children rome the bars selling gum Smokes etc... to all the drunk foreigners at 3am in the morning cuase we have money so they will try to charge us more, then get beaten if they cannot sell all their stuff. Contemplating killing ones self, an act that not only affects you but those around you over a high school prank is just weak, did she ever stop to think how her family would have felt if she up and killed her self because of something that happened during four years of high school, a small period in ones over all life span of about 80 years or so. I'm only 24 and can say I've seen and learned a lot since i was 16 and that's not that long ago, imagine what she'll learn about life if she doesn't take the cowards way out. i do not condone what was done to her by any means however it just sounds like some silly teenage girl superficial bull crap to me, (ohhhh i didn't get elected, oh no i must be no good no body likes me boo hoo!!!). Bottom line, suck it up and deal with it. because when it comes time for her to graduate nobodies going to care about any of this, she'll go on to a good school and the people who did this will probably be hanging out in the same places they did when they were kids in the same town quote un-quote living the dream and if and when she comes back to visit there going to be the pathetic ones not her if she gets her act together.

This message is not meant to be cruel, just brutally honest.

breakingjen
breakingjen

Yeah this isn't honesty, this is instead your immature view of the world. Trust me I used to think the same way, but then you group up and see more things. You are only 24, you are not done learning, well really no one ever is. But take a step back and try to not be so hostile to someone else's problems. She didnt' run to the media, this was picked up, the town rallied, people chose to act. You need to learn a little humility and empathy still.

Jonathan Ross
Jonathan Ross

This act was indeed a cruel and elaborate prank. In other words in order to pull it off a group of like minded cruel students banned together and put a good deal of planning and time into the prank in order to go out of their way to make a fellow student miserable. That being said this girl really needs to take it on the chin and to grow up. There are people in this world with real problems, and contemplating a serious thing like suicide and scaring you family and community members over a prank however cruel just shows weakness. Does she really think sh'es the only high school girl who's been pranked and is dealing with the pressures of teenage life. There are people out there who can't feed them selves, have no wear to live, or maybe they are victims of gorilla war far and lost their parents all together yet they still keep on truckin with out the support of the whole community like this girl has. I lived in southeast Asia for some time working as an English teacher in Vietnam, Thailand, and China to name a few places and i have seen some disturbing things in my travels as well in terms of the realities of the world. Coming from New York  one can only really understand the concept of another culture, you can read about it, watch it on TV/movies but when you actually get there it's a whole new ball game, for example when a crime is committed in the U.S. there is a general knowledge that the police will actually come after/pursue you in Vietnam for example the laws are not enforced police openly ask for bribes i got pulled over once in Vietnam and the cop strait up told me he needed beer money, in short you could literary get away with murder, small children rome the bars selling gum Smokes etc... to all the drunk foreigners at 3am in the morning cuase we have money so they will try to charge us more, then get beaten if they cannot sell all their stuff. Contemplating killing ones self, an act that not only affects you but those around you over a high school prank is just weak, did she ever stop to think how her family would have felt if she up and killed her self because of something that happened during four years of high school, a small period in ones over all life span of about 80 years or so. I'm only 24 and can say I've seen and learned a lot since i was 16 and that's not that long ago, imagine what she'll learn about life if she doesn't take the cowards way out. i do not condone what was done to her by any means however it just sounds like some silly teenage girl superficial bull crap to me, (ohhhh i didn't get elected, oh no i must be no good no body likes me boo hoo!!!). Bottom line, suck it up and deal with it. because when it comes time for her to graduate nobodies going to care about any of this, she'll go on to a good school and the people who did this will probably be hanging out in the same places they did when they were kids in the same town quote un-quote living the dream and if and when she comes back to visit there going to be the pathetic ones not her if she gets her act together.

This message is not meant to be cruel, just brutally honest.

Disquskurr
Disquskurr

Thank you West Branch !!

You may be a small town, but in my books you are bigger than biggest !!

And thanks for showing America the way, the REAL AMERICAN WAY !!

Tons of love from NYC !!

ProudHumanist
ProudHumanist

Here's another great story about anti-bullying. Someone put a post-it note on the back of a new student at a Utah middle school--it read "Caution: wide load." When the girl found it she was devastated and went to a school counselor who immediately contacted the school's "student ambassadors" who spent the night texting, emailing, and calling fellow students. The next day 1000 students and the school were covered in post-its saying "Not in our school," "Stop the hate," etc.

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/n...

Lee Tilson
Lee Tilson

We can make a difference.

Let's tell Whitney Kropp and other victims, "We stand with you." by signing this petition: http://tinyurl.com/WhitneyKrop.... Let's get more signatures by sharing this post, emailing it your friends, and posting comments to news articles.

Let's support Whitney by joining her support group https://www.facebook.com/Suppo...

Let's develop some strategies to help victims at this Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/group....

Here is a summary explaining petition http://tinyurl.com/TilsonPetit....

Lee Tilson

Detroit