Online school provides safe haven for bullied students

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX  -- Life has come full circle for one valley teen who is marking National Bullying Prevention Month by speaking out about the experience of being bulled after coming out.

“When I came out in public high school, I thought it would have been a better environment,” said 17-year-old Aramina Kennedy. “I really thought people would be OK with it, but I guess I was wrong.”

Kennedy, better known as Radioo, admitted to being a lesbian and later, transgender. He was attacked countless times, beaten up and cyber-bullied.

“I was threatened a lot and felt unsafe," he says. "It took months, even coming here, for me to be like OK, I got this.”

But Radioo now looks forward to school every day. He now attends Q-High School at the One-n-Ten Center. That's a youth center that provides resources specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

The non-profit established a computer lab and partnered with Insight Academy of Arizona, an accredited virtual charter school with some 720 students statewide.

“The majority of our students are at home in a virtual environment,” said Erin Jones, a social worker at Insight Academy. She says students attend the school online for various reasons. Some are athletes, some are special needs students, and some are from military families. Others, like Radioo, are bullied and are looking for an alternative to traditional public high school.

“Just to be able to talk about it in a safe and supportive environment; it's great the way they support each other online. It's amazing,” said Jones.

In fact, Radioo is now earning As and Bs like he used to, and is hoping to attend Northern Arizona University next fall.  Proof, he says, that bullies can't control you. Still, they try.

Between 2010 and 2011 Arizona schools reported 18,815 cases of bullying, harassment, intimidation or hazing. About 3,100 of the incidents involved sexual harassment.

Radioo's message for the thousands of kids being bullied in Arizona schools, “I really want to make sure they feel safe where they are or they aren't going to make it.”