NORTH FALMOUTH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – A total of 746 incidents of bullying and harassment were reported in public schools statewide in 2016, according to the Department of Education.
For several Maine families, their child was a part of that statistic. Anthony Moore said he was bullied right out of school.
"I felt so depressed and felt so unwelcome in those schools that I felt like I don't belong here,” Moore said.
Moore described years of relentless bullying, including an incident where his peers slammed him up against a locker.
It was that incident prompted his mother Stacy to pull him out of traditional public school and enroll him in the Maine Connections Academy, a publicly funded state charter school. Moore completed his schooling entirely through virtual classrooms online.
Now ready to graduate, he and his mother Stacy reflected on the decision with NEWS CENTER.
“I'm his mom. I'm supposed to protect him as best as I can, Stacy Moore said, "It breaks my heart that he's had to experience that already in his life."
She said she and her husband saw the effect the bullying was having on Anthony and feared he would hurt himself. For them, the alternative of a cyber charter school was just what they needed.
"The students and the teachers work together on getting what's important to the individual so they get the full experience personalized to their needs,” Douglas Bourget, Principal at Maine Connections Academy said.
The academy, one of two of its kind in the state, also provides students with several in person field trips and events to ensure a social experience.
Anthony Moore admitted he missed out on some of the activities provided in a traditional school setting, but said he took advantage of the opportunity to make friendships through the academy too.
While the school is not solely for kids like Anthony, some fear it should not be an immediate alternative to traditional schooling.
"I simply would not advocate that parents who get frustrated with their public school take their child out and put them in a cyber charter school or home school them in a response,” Jenna Mehnert, Executive Director of NAMI Maine, said.
Stacy Moore said it was what was absolutely best for her son.
"It's a very important question but what I would say to them is that it's the best thing for him. I had to look at what was best for Anthony,” she said.
Anthony is set to speak at his upcoming graduation ceremony and hopes to take some time off before possibly pursing higher education. While he admitted it was a long road, he insisted it was the right path to success.
"I was able to be who I am and they actually loved it,” he said.