CLERMONT COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - Two teenagers are now facing criminal charges in Clermont County, Ohio, court records show, following a nearly year long investigation.
The teens are accused of cyberbullying Natalie Relthford, who has special needs.
Natalie’s father Allen says he and Natalie, who is now 13, are finally ready to start healing after a couple of tough years.
“It’s created a lot of turmoil in our home," Allen said. "We’re starting to get to a better point now, but this will take years. This will definitely take years to get over.”
Natalie, Allen says, has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and some mental disabilities.
In 2018, Allen reported that his daughter had been discriminated against because of her special needs when she was not allowed to have a permanent spot on the school cheer squad.
Then, in 2019, Allen said his daughter was harassed online.
“They’ll only continue to do worse," Allen said. "People like them will only continue to do more when there’s no accountability.”
In May 2019, Allen told FOX19 NOW that Natalie had been manipulated into cutting her own hair so that two Fairfield teenagers could laugh at her.
He also says those same teens tricked Natalie, through social media, into stomping on a glass bottle, which led to her needing nine stitches in her foot.
After months of investigation, Allen says Clermont County officials are now charging the two teen girls with telecommunication harassment.
“Charges being brought is the best step forward, and maybe deterring some other kids from doing the same thing," Allen said. "It’s not a joke. It’s not a game. Real people are harmed. Families are hurt.”
Although this is only the beginning of the court process, Allen says he hopes it will send a strong message that bullying, in any form, is never acceptable.
“They need help. This is not decent behavior. This is not normal behavior," Allen said. "Taking pleasure from people’s pain, that’s not normal behavior.”
Allen says there is a court hearing on March 9.
He also says there is some good that has come out of this. After Natalie cut her hair in 2019, Allen explains a local woman named Jessi Skinner with House of Beauty stepped up and gave Natalie a fresh hairdo for free.
Allen says Skinner is now part of a “Beauties Against Bullying Program.”
An October 2019 Facebook post by the Fairfield City School District said this about the program:
“Fairfield High School students caught going out of their way to be kind are being rewarded each month thanks to a partnership with local salon House of Beauty. A new recognition program called Beauties Against Bullying encourages students to show empathy toward others. The goal is to have this positive behavior extend beyond the school day. Student nominees are entered in a monthly drawing for recognition and prizes, including a T-shirt and gift from House of Beauty. Assistant Principal Rebecca Salyers oversees the program.”