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Local family aims to raise awareness about bullying in schools

HAMPTON, Va. - Talking to your kids about bullying - while not a conversation anyone wants to have - is important to do before they begin a new school year.

One local family is still dealing with a bullying incident that happened seven years ago.

It was week three of school for the Miller family. Shanta was waiting for her twin sixth-grade girls at the bus stop.

"This young lady had kicked my daughter in the head for a total of 17 minutes on the school bus," Shanta said. "No one stopped it. The kids were video recording it. They actually offered her 25 cents to start it back up."

At 11 years old, Iyana Miller says she spent nearly 20 minutes making herself as small as possible underneath a bus seat while her bully attacked her.

When she returned home, Iyana starting seizing in her mother’s arms - little did either of them know that was only the beginning.

"There were so many nights at CHKD," Miller said. "So many days at the doctor's office. So many days I had to keep going to the school because my daughter was having seizures five out of seven days for a long time."

Shanta says her daughter went into a deep depression. All Shanta could do was pray Iyana wouldn't take her own life.

"At 11, for your child to wake up and say she isn't going to be here tomorrow because she doesn't want to go to school anymore... a social butterfly at first and then totally changed," Shanta said.

Iyana, now a bright and beautiful young woman, is getting ready for the next chapter in her life. Still, that day on the bus in 2012 haunts her family.

"Sixth [grade] and they are seniors now, and we are still fighting the system about that incident," Shanta said.

Despite their ongoing battle, the family has dedicated their lives to helping others. Miller quit her job and founded Parents Against Bullying. She goes to schools and communities to educate staff, parents and children and recently worked with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to make August 25 a special day.

"He read off that proclamation and gave it to us and announced that Virginia gave us a bully-free Virginia day, and he also announced that he wanted all of August to be a bully-free month,” Miller said.

"Tell the nearest adult that you can trust or your parents or someone, because if you don't, it's just like you are going through it alone, and you don't have to," Iyana said.

Frank Cucci, founder of Linxx Academy, teaches kids Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, a  bully-proof program.

"In today's world when bullying is such and epidemic and such a problem, I think all children need to know some form of basic self-defense," Cucci said.

"We're not teaching to punch the bully in the face or kick the bully but to wrestle them to the ground, get control of them, calm them down and wait for help to arrive,” Cucci said.

In other words, overcoming bullies without violence.

"Why Ju-Jitsu is different, it's like fighting fire with water,”he said.

Cucci says many schools have a blanket policy for fights.

"Everyone gets suspended - victim and bully - and it really comes down to the parents and whether or not they support their children fighting back against bullied,” Cucci said.

Cucci says the program has helped hundreds of kids being bullied.

Click here for more information about Parents Against Bullying and here to learn more about programs at Linxx Academy of Martial Arts.