By Carl Azuz, CNN
(CNN) - At Ogemaw Heights High School, one student shocked by the announcement of homecoming court was a girl named to be on it.
Whitney Kropp was not the most popular student at her West Branch, Michigan school. Described by the Detroit News as a “free spirit,” Kropp, with her bleached hair and alternative style, says she had been picked on in the past.
She’d shaken it off like so many others do, but the bullying she’d faced reached a new low earlier this month, when some of her classmates decided that nominating an unpopular girl to the traditionally popular court would be a good prank.
Kropp, of course, wasn’t in on the joke. When she heard her name announced in connection with homecoming, she was elated. Her mother said it never crossed Whitney’s mind that it could’ve been a prank; the 16-year-old was too happy.
Shortly after she discovered the truth that night, her mother found her in tears.
At the very least, Kropp was planning to skip homecoming. She said she’d felt betrayed and that she wasn’t a worthy student at Ogemaw Heights High.
Her mother and some of her friends had a different take: They told her to go to the dance anyway - that it would be the best way to get back at those who’d bullied her.
Kropp decided they were right. So did her community.
As word of the prank got around quickly in Kropp’s small town, her phone started ringing. People were calling just to encourage her.
Then, local businesses stepped in. One offered to cover the cost of Kropp’s homecoming dress. Another started planning her dinner. A local salon is picking up the cost of her hair, her makeup, her nails, and “anything else she wants,” according to the owners.
“Because so many people came together…it just turned right around,” said Bernice Kropp, Whitney’s mother.
And it didn’t stop at the borders of West Branch. A former student posted a support video on YouTube. Kropp’s sister and friends started a Facebook page. (As of this posting, the “Support Whitney Kropp” site has more than 50,000 likes. The student’s community has a population of 2,100.)
The school district is currently investigating the incident, and the superintendent says that any form of bullying is unacceptable.
As for where Kropp stands now, she says this will make a difference to victims of bullying. And she's looking forward to this weekend, when she'll represent her sophomore class at homecoming.
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org