When the Andrews family moved from Georgia to Bellevue, Washington, last August, Chantey and Travis Andrews encouraged their children to be excited about new friends and experiences. Their daughter, Nasir, was eager to make friends when she started fourth grade. But soon that enthusiasm turned to sadness when Nasir, 9, became the victim of bullying.
“In the first weeks, we were hearing Nasir saying the kids were running away from her and calling her names during recess,” Chantey Andrews, 31, told TODAY.
In a viral video that has been viewed one million times, Nasir tells her story, written out on cards. She asks people to help her end bullying.
"Bullying is real," a card reads.
"Share my story. Help change the ending."
After an entire school year of bullying, Nasir made the video because she felt helpless. From the start, the Andrews family talked with the school about the problems Nasir encountered. Originally, the teacher said that Nasir, who is black, faced a common dilemma; she simply had a hard time making friends at Ardmore Elementary School. She's one of only a handful of black students. According to the school website, 7 percent of its population is black, 36 percent is Asian, 24 percent is Hispanic, and 26 percent is white.
“She was a new student to the school and the other students had already formed relationships in the previous years. It was a completely new person coming into the environment,” Chantey said.
While Travis and Chantey encouraged Nasir and she remained hopeful that she’d make friends, her classmates’ behaviors only worsened. Sometimes, Nasir seemed depressed.
“It was very difficult,” said Travis, 34. “She wouldn’t cry in school and she got home and often would cry and her demeanor would be different.”
While the Andrews family kept contacting the school, the bullying didn’t stop. Students called Nasir “Nutella” and “servant” and one student drew a picture of a gun with “die, die, die, die” written on it and left in her storage cubby.
“What hurts me the most was when I was called Nutella and that picture,” Nasir said.
Her parents approached the school and eventually the district. But officials told her parents that this was a peer-to-peer problem, not bullying, the Andrews family said.
“You expect things to be done. None of it stopped the bullying,” said Travis.
When reached for comment the school district referred TODAY to its official statement.
"We are saddened by the experience shared in the Facebook video you referenced. We are very concerned about the well-being of all of our students. We can assure you that district and central office leaders continue to work with the family to ensure that their daughter and every student at Ardmore is receiving the support they need. The harassment, intimidation and bullying of any student is unacceptable. In the case you referenced, an investigation into the allegations has been in process."
To Chantey and Travis, supporting and empowering Nasir at home remained important. They encouraged her to join a Girl Scout troop and she made friends.
“It was an interesting dialogue, explaining that the things that she was experiencing are not okay and helping her understand what is really happening,” Chantey said.
But then Nasir had an idea — she wanted to create a video about bullying. She didn't want other victims of bullying to feel alone.
“I wanted people to know my story and share it,” she said. “I want people to learn that it is not okay to bully or be a bully because you are hurting other people.”
Nasir wrote her experiences on cards. While her mother recorded, Nasir looked at the camera and flipped through the cards. Nasir said knew she had to be brave even though it felt tough.
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“If you don’t [talk about it] it will get worse,” Nasir said. “It will be a bigger situation you have to fix.”
Nasir hopes the video helps people who are being bullied and she started a hashtag #backdownbully to encourage awareness.
“I knew that people were going to support me,” she said.
Travis said the way that Nasir has handled things has inspired him.
“I personally gained a lot of strength from Nasir throughout this process,” he said. "She still wants to make friends and address bullying."
The Andrews family is researching new schools for Nasir for next year. While the experience has been stressful, the positive response has encouraged them.
“Nasir really hopes that kids can understand that bullying is not okay. She is comfortable in talking to kids and … sharing her story. It is just empowering,” Chantey said.