DUBLIN, Ga. — After a Central Georgia student missed prom last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, she decided to dress up, have a photoshoot, and post the photos to Facebook. Some people on social media started leaving critical comments under Aaliyah Thomas' Facebook page.
In 2020, West Laurens High school seniors like Thomas missed out on a number of traditions because of COVID-19.
"I had to miss out on Field Day and the senior breakfast. I missed a lot of that," Aaliyah Thomas said.
Another thing Thomas missed out on was her senior prom.
"I was sad because I wasn't able to dress up or get pretty for prom one last time, so I was pretty heartbroken," Thomas said.
This year, Thomas decided to break out her prom dress, do her makeup, and take pictures. She posted her photos on Facebook, getting responses that she wasn't expecting.
"I was getting a lot of good, positive comments and stuff, and then, it took a turn for the worst -- I just started getting all kind of negative comments and a lot of shares, folks talking about my dress, my hair, how I look and stuff," Thomas said.
According to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online. Laurens County School social Worker Marquita Timmons says the first step in helping your child is talking with them.
"Make sure our children know our expectations and place limits on them. We are going to love them unconditionally through their poor and good choices," Timmons said.
Timmons also says parents should monitor their children and connect to resources like counselors for help.
Thomas says family, friends, and even strangers uplifted her with positive comments.
"I don't want anybody to feel bad if folks are talking bad about you. I just want them to turn the other cheek and think positive about everything, don't get discouraged. In my eyes, everyone is beautiful and God made everybody unique and beautiful in their own way," Thomas said.