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Are schools doing enough to battle bullies?

Posted May 13, 2015

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— On a regular basis, frustrated, worried parents email WRAL News to report that their child is being bullied. Universally, these parents believe their school systems aren't handling these cases as well as they should.

Every school system in North Carolina has a bullying policy: what it is, how it should be reported and investigated and how bullies should be punished. While school systems struggle to cope with the number of incidents, parents are asking for swifter relief for the victims and punishment for offenders.

Charter student pulled from school after bullying

Christopher Simmons, 11, a fifth-grader at Neuse Charter Elementary School in Smithfield, is a boxing champion with a whole pile of medals. He seemed an unlikely candidate to be bullied.

But then a friend told him he was the target of a "kill club."

"At first I kind of didn't care about it, but then it started hurting me," he said. "He (another student) said, 'There's a kill club and their mission is to kill you.'

"When he said the word 'kill,' yes, I do believe it," he added.  Information, resources to battle bullying

Christopher's parents went to the principal to report the threats and other offenses, including a girl they say kicked, pinched and elbowed their son.

In a detailed email to WRAL News, Tanya Simmons, said another student told Christopher "they could just kill Christopher, leave his body in the bathroom, somebody else would find it and they would not know it was them."

Principal Sharon Johnson promised the Simmonses that she would address their complaints, but she didn't act quickly enough for them. They returned to the school a day later after their child told them nothing was done.

"The principal told us she wasn’t able to get to it because she was the only administrator on the campus," Tanya Simmons said.

Johnson sent a letter to fifth grade parents saying, in part, "Bullying will not be tolerated at Neuse and what some children consider 'playing around' can be seen as bullying."

Christopher's father, Chris Simmons, said, "I personally felt like they were trying to brush it up under the rug and kind of not deal with it."

Tony Gupton, chairman of the board of the Neuse Charter School, defended the school.

"We had a complaint brought to us. We addressed the complaint. Where necessary, student discipline was administered," he said.

Both parents disagreed.

"We wanted it investigated," Tanya Simmons said. "We called the police. I asked for that child to be expelled."

Smithfield Police looked into the claims but didn't find anything that rose to the level of a criminal offense.

Ultimately, the Simmonses decided the safest choice for Christopher would be for him to withdraw.

"No one wants to leave their school, but we have to make sure that he is safe," Chris Simmons said of his son.

"I would really like to see some type of legislation for charter schools for them to be held accountable."

A month to respond to bullying on the bus

For 8-year-old Joseph and his 6-year-old sister, Kassia, bullying happened on the school bus. A bigger boy pulled on Kassia's book bag and threatened the pair, said their mother, Dana Tedder.

Tedder repeatedly called Corinth Holders Elementary School in Zebulon and met with the vice principal.

"It just absolutely breaks your heart to know that your child's being picked on and bullied, and you're fighting tooth and nail to try and get help from the other adults in the situation," she said.

Tracey Peedin Jones, spokeswoman for the Johnston County Schools, agreed with Tedder's frustration.

"This is the most precious, precious thing that our parents have is their children. And we feel the same way," she said.

Peedin Jones cited the school district's Bullying And Harassment Policy and said district officials acted on Tedder's complaint.

"When it comes to our school administration, as soon as they are made aware of a situation, it is acted on promptly," she said. "And I can definitely say so in this situation."

Tedder disagreed. It took a month to get the boy who bothered her children moved to another seat on the bus, and she thinks that is too long.

"I pay my taxes," she said. "I expect my tax dollars are going to be used by people who are going to protect the children to the best of their ability, not just mine, but all the children."

Schools are serious about investigating bullying claims, using tools like video cameras – which were present on the Tedder children's bus – and online reporting which allows students to share concerns without going to the principal's office.

Peedin Jones also recommended that parents work with the school guidance counselor to help their kids navigate difficult situations.

42 Comments

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  • Daniel Corell May 14, 2015
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    Now, I don’t blame the parents of bullies any more than I blame the parents of serial killers. That’s just not fair. We could have an entire discussion about family values and what is actually being taught in American homes today, but the point is moot and I don’t think we’d agree anyways.
    Bottom line, self-determination and self-reliance go a long way towards positive self-esteem and the earliest children are taught these values, I feel, the better.

  • Daniel Corell May 14, 2015
    user avatar

    SAM NADA, I think you are missing my point. I'm not blaming the parents of victims, nor am I blaming the parents of the bullies. I'm not blaming teachers or our schooling system. I'm not blaming anyone. I only pointed out what my father taught me to do. I do feel it's a shame more children are not taught this. Taught this by anyone actually would be good. I feel this way because I feel as a society we teach our children to be “victims of oppression” more today than I have ever seen in my life. As a victim, children and young adults need to wait until teachers or government rescues them from oppression. Rather than teaching children and young adults self-reliance. You can see evidence of this all throughout our society. Citizens waiting for government to take care of them rather than them taking care of themselves or standing up for themselves. As was stated previously in these comments, one victim and bully were both suspended. Where is the justice there? There wasn't any.

  • Ann Ethridge May 14, 2015
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    Schools are not DAYCARES! There is a lot of lack of reality comments about the expectations of schools. Yes, their job is to ensure that teaching & learning takes place in a safe and orderly environment. But parents and other community leaders need to understand that there is a lot of "stuff" going on that schools can't control. Every school is outnumbered. There are schools with 3000 students and 200 faculty/staff members - how can they POSSIBLY know every bullying/picking on or any other situation going on? FB, IG and Snapchat is ruining our youth - yet the parents won't police their own children on these sites and then demand they have their phones on them at school. Guess what they are doing w/ those electronic devices? Then, you want the school to investigate to the fullest but you're home w/your child every night and they are not talking to you? Come one people, let's get real. Schools are there to educate! Let'em do their job!

  • Lori Coble May 14, 2015
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    Ashley, do you have children in school because it is far from rare at all levels, including elementary school, I've seen it first hand while at my daughter's school in a couple girls! My daughter was also being bullied at the beginning of the year, her grades were slipping and she was acting out at home because of it; thankfully, she has a great teacher who did address the issue and things improved; the other child was bullying a few students not just my daughter.

    Sam Adams, I agree with you 100%! My daughter has always been a champion for the underdog and I've always taught her to first of all, try to understand that the bully probably has some problems going on at home, try to befriend them; but if that doesn't work and they hit you, hit them back with everything you have!!

  • Chad Johnson May 14, 2015
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    Maybe parents need to stop raising little girls and teach kids to defend themselfs

  • Jeff Abbott May 14, 2015
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    Hi Ambygirl!!

  • Sam Nada May 14, 2015
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    "Way to completely twist Daniels statement and add your own little spin to it...You are completely out of line."
    "I called you out on it. I bet you don't own up to and apologize for your rude assumptions."
    "I guess you just aren't happy unless you demean, defame, and insult people. Feel better?"

    I didn't begin with a personal attack. I objected to piling on against the victims and their parents as somehow being at fault, and ignoring where the real problem lies. You made it personal. I won't comment further.

  • Jenna Moore May 14, 2015
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    Frighteningly, Ashley, it's not as rare as we sometimes think. Actual physical, violent bullying is alive and well in the local elementary schools--you know, among those kids that don't live on Facebook yet. I can't speak for middle and high school as my kids haven't got there yet.

  • Ginny Marcom May 14, 2015
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    You just get such a kick out of trolling don't you?

  • Ginny Marcom May 14, 2015
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    Is that the best you have?? You're the one that actually looks like the bully here.

    Sam Nada, I agree with you 100%.

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