Bullied teen reflects on homecoming, media gaze

ALGER, Mich. (AP) – It has been several months since 16-year-old Whitney Kropp stood tall on the football field and faced a packed stadium during the Ogemaw Heights High School homecoming coronation.

While any court member could be expected to have butterflies during the halftime ceremony, Kropp faced more than her peers and family members in the crowd.

The sophomore student was elected as her class court representative as a joke, and when word spread about the prank, she became the focus of national media attention. A Facebook support group was “liked” by thousands.

“Some of my classmates were judgmental when the news focused on me,” Kropp said. “But things have gotten better – the media attention and the criticism has died down quite a bit since I was on the Katie Couric show.”

Kropp’s mother, Bernice Kropp, said that it was difficult to function in the days leading up to the homecoming game. Once her daughter’s story made national news, Bernice Kropp said she received upwards of 200 calls and text messages from media outlets hoping for an interview with the bullied teenager.

“The phone was constantly ringing, from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., and reporters were showing up at my work,” Bernice Kropp said. “Whitney only spoke with 1 percent of the news that wanted to speak with her.”

Bernice Kropp said that her daughter was criticized by some residents from their small town who believed she was receiving gifts and profiting from appearing on radio shows and the news.

“We had no time to figure out what we were doing,” said Bernice Kropp. “We thought we could do a few interviews to satisfy the media and steer the conversation into something productive rather than this turning into the news bashing the school.”

The attention started after a Facebook page “Support Whitney Kropp” gathered thousands of “likes.” The creator of the page graduated with Whitney’s father, Jason Kropp, but did not know Whitney or notify her before the page went live.

Whitney Kropp said the ordeal caused her to lose some friends who were envious of the attention.

“It was hard to have a healthy relationship, and it was hard to get all my homework done, but my teachers were wonderful and really lenient with assignments,” Kropp said. “It is well worth it, though, if I saved one person’s life, and to hear all the messages from kids who I inspired.”

Kropp, who likes to change her hair color frequently and listens to Adam Lambert, created her own Facebook page several weeks ago to serve as a safe place for bullied teenagers to share their stories.

“I was bullied as a kid for being tall, but then I wasn’t picked on until high school,” Whitney Kropp said. “My situation definitely made me even more aware that bullying is something that needs to stop.”

One perk that Kropp’s family did receive was a paid vacation to Disney World from the producers of the Katie Couric show. Parents Bernice and Jason Kropp are heading to Florida with their three children, Whitney, Alivia and Jason Jr., the day after Christmas.

“It was hard at the time, but looking back, I can say that I’m glad it happened,” Bernice Kropp said. “I mean, what an experience. It really brought us closer together as a family.”

Editor’s note: Burger writes for MLive.com.