TRINITY, N.C. -- It's a powerful story of such perseverance. She's now a beauty queen, about to compete for Miss North Carolina USA; but growing up, Brittany Pierce felt anything but beautiful. She shared with FOX8 her story about bullying that was so widespread it seems hard to believe.
"I had nightmares; I would wake up shaking," Brittany says. She says the bullying started in 6th grade, when one boy said one mean-spirited comment about how she looked. Todd Henderson is now an assistant principal at a school in Randolph County and taught Brittany when she was in 7th grade.
"It wasn't just one or two people; it became an entire grade level of 7th graders, 8th graders. They picked on her on the bus, in the cafeteria. It was constant everywhere she turned," he says. "They started calling her a dog, barking at her. All the kids would laugh. It was terrorizing."
Brittany's experience in 2007 was the worst case of bullying Henderson says he had seen in many years of working in the school system. It was her experience that in large part led to Randolph County's very active anti-bullying program.
"The more we know about bullying, we find out there are a very small percentage that actually start the bullying. The rest are active followers who don't step up to help; the henchmen who help support it."
Henderson and other school officials suspended some students in the case and talked to many others about how important it is to step up and emotionally support the person being bullied.
Brittany says she guesses about 90 percent of the people bullying her have since reached out to her in person or on social media and have apologized.
"You have to forgive to move on, peacefully. I forgave them," she says.
Brittany hopes to win the Miss North Carolina USA pageant held in High Point later this year. She says if she wins, she will go into every school that will allow her to share her story in hopes of helping someone else. "I want to encourage them, inspire them, let them know that even if it's hard, don't let that bring you down. I'm an example."