‘Dateline’ raises tough questions about bullied teens

  • By David Wiegand
    San Francisco Chronicle January 3, 2014

Renata is a South Carolina teen who participated in beauty pageants when she was younger. By the sixth grade, she became withdrawn and didn’t want to go to school.

Her mother didn’t understand what caused the drastic personality change.

“I’m getting more uglier,” she finally confessed, convincing her mother she had to be homeschooled because couldn’t take the bullying at school anymore. “I don’t want people to see me.”

Renata is one of four teenagers who are profiled in an especially eye-opening “Dateline” report Sunday on NBC. “Little Baby Faces” takes its title from the name of a New York foundation that provides surgery at no cost to children born with facial birth deformities.

Founded by Dr. Thomas Romo and his wife, Diane, the foundation evaluates applicants on the basis of financial need and on the severity of the deformity. The program does not provide mere “cosmetic” surgery, but, rather, surgery to correct birth defects.

As Renata grew older, the size and shape of her nose grew as well. She became convinced that surgery “would probably change my whole life.”

But that touches on one of the tricky areas of reconstructive surgery for teens. Psychologist Dr. Vivian Diller, author of the book “Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change,” opposes “elective surgery as a response to bullying.”

“Dateline” follows the quartet of teens through the application process as well as surgery for some – but not all – of the group.


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