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Bullying is difficult on students in rural areas: 'It becomes a fact of your entire life'

CBS 2 Photo

Many say they move to a small town for the slower pace, a sense of safety and that close-knit community feel.

But despite the peaceful scenery, some children in small towns face chaotic battles every time they leave home.

"It makes me feel really bad," says 12-year-old Isaac Bryant. "It just makes me want to just run away and never come back."

Bryant is a 12 year old kid who loves video games, school and Boy Scouts.

But parents Amanda and David say, being a teen in Payette isn't all fun and games.

"I'm scared for him, I'm scared for him," says Amanda Bryant.

"I tell the kids, I don't want them to go out anywhere, because I'm afraid for them," says David Bryant.

Isaac says he's still recovering after being attacked at the Public Library earlier this year. Isaac and his friend Noah say a bully came up to him, and started swinging.

"I was on the concrete bleeding, and just crying asking for help," said Isaac.

Isaac and his parents say he was able to get to help after police arrived, but he had to get stitches above his eye . Payette police tell CBS 2 the suspect is facing a battery charge. Amanda and David say their son is still shaken.

"Sometimes Isaac has questioned himself," says Amanda."'Why do people hate me mom?' 'Why do people do this to me?' 'What's wrong with me?"

Child psychologist Melissa Ruth says she sees plenty of families like the Bryants, whose children struggle with bullies in a small town.

"I can't tell you how many youth or families that i have met that have had to relocate from their home--from their community to escape bullying," said Ruth.

Ruth says scientific studies disagree whether bullying happens at a higher rate among rural students, but she says its clear students in a small towns face additional challenges that can make the situation more painful to deal with.

"It's harder to get away, out in the community in terms of community events--church, grocery stores, the spot where teens hang out, there might only be one or two--and you can't go to those places." she said. " So bullying becomes more of a fact of your entire life--not just something that happens at school."

Ruth says this constant threat of running into bullies can give victims severe anxiety. she's even seen some students drop out of actives and sports they love....because a bully's presence gets to be too much.

"They have fewer opportunities to be on teams, groups. if they can't be in this theater group, or that football team, and doing so has tremendous physiological impact for them--their options are sometimes none. that's it," she says.

Ruth also adds that she's seen rural families face other challenges too. Some include situations where bullies are being a pass for being a child of an important member of the community, schools and teachers having limited funds and resources to help, and traveling longer on the bus, providing more opportunities for them to be targeted.

Unlike their suburban or urban peers who can easily move to the next school, Ruth says rural families rarely have those options. Instead, many are forced to up-root their lives so a child can be safe.

"Picking up and moving to a new community is a tremendous stress on a family--it can set them back significantly financially," said Ruth.

It's a stress that many families know too well. Amie Walker tells CBS 2 her family moved to Mountain Home in hopes of building a life there. But she says bullies started ruining any hopes they had of staying.

"They were making physical threats," said Walker. "Making fun of him, and the size of his head."

Walker says her family couldn't escape it, and said they chose to leave, after only one month.

But that's not an option for every family.

The Bryants say moving isn't something they're willing to do. But they hope awareness can start bringing change to their community, and beyond.

"This is our home now. we need to stand our ground," said Amanda. " It's time for parents to take action, and find out what your kids are doing--why they are being this way. it all comes down to you."

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