Category Archives: Bullying

Imagine Schools That Teach Tolerance

I’m going to ask you to do something that may be very difficult for you, but I think it may be the only way to get some adults out there to open their eyes to a very real dilemma our schools and our young people face daily. So, please trust me and sincerely do what I am asking you to do.

I want you to imagine, for just this space of time, that your child has either admitted to you that they are gay, lesbian, or questioning their sexuality or that you suspect that they are, even though they may not have directly confessed this to you. Forget for now the other emotions that would probably overwhelm you at this news, and focus on the fear; the fear of what such a revelation and its life style will mean to your child due to the intolerance and hatred they will surely face because of who they are. Let that fear settle in for just a moment.

Now imagine sending them to school…

Imagine sending them to a school in Minnesota’s Anoka Hennepin School District, where teachers have been silenced by the district’s Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy, or their “neutrality policy” which states that”Anoka Hennepin staff shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation.” Think about the message this policy sends to your child; what they are feeling is so bad that it cannot even be acknowledged, let alone discussed, at school or even privately with their teachers.

And imagine the message it sends to the other students in the district. Connect the dots, just as many of these students will, that, since even the mention of LGBT students is off-limits at school, students like your child should also be off-limits. Feel the intolerance and hatred growing in these students whose minds have been closed off to the possibility that students like your child have not chosen this path but were born as they are. Imagine sending your child into that hostile environment everyday; an environment that should be safe and supportive of all students in attendance. Feel the fear that parents like you must feel every single day as you send your child off to that misguided intolerance and hatred.

Now, let me paint a different picture for you. Imagine sending your gay, lesbian, or sexually questioning child to a school which openly acknowledges the differences in all of us and treats such differences with candor and respectful tolerance. Imagine an environment that does not make your child feel that they are off-limits; rather it draws them in to a community of diversity and celebrates those things that make us all so unique. Imagine your child hearing the simple message that being born gay, lesbian, or transgender was no more their choice than the color of their eyes or the shape of their nose.

Dr. Steve Perry, CNN Education Contributor and founder and principal of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, stated it so succinctly in a recent interview with Dr. Drew when he said, “When we begin to make children feel like there’s something wrong with them, as if they can be deprogrammed for what it is that they’re feeling, then what we make them feel is that they are somehow marginalized. But we also make the other group feel emboldened, and then we pit the two groups against one another. What we have to do as a school is teach that there needs to be a safe space. And as long as your expression of who you are doesn’t impede upon my expression of who I am, then we have ourselves an amazing academic experience.”

Imagine that your child has admitted to you that they are gay, lesbian, or questioning their sexuality, or that you suspect that they are. Feel the fear, and ask yourself honestly, which kind of school would you want to send your child to? Which kind of school is going to treat your child with the respect and tolerance that they deserve? And which kind of school will teach your child and all children to celebrate the diversity they will surely encounter throughout their lives?

If your answer is what I suspect it is, don’t we owe it to all of our children-straight, gay, lesbian, or undecided-to create the kind of schools that Dr. Perry speaks of?

Perry went on to say, “Our job as educators is to tell children that the world is big and beautiful, and that they can embrace diversity and not choose a side, simply because they’re learning about it.”

Imagine that kind of school…

Dad Punches Son After Team Loses Game

There are no words to describe the horrific behavior of a father towards his son at a weekend youth basketball tournament game in Lakeville, Minnesota. And his behavior leaves you wondering what happens to this poor, unfortunate boy in the privacy of his home based upon what this father is willing to do to him in public.

Apparently this past Saturday after Eagan lost their tournament game, 52-year old Steven Wilson walked down a hallway at Lakeville South High, grabbed his eighth-grade son and began punching him in the face, while parents and children watched in horror.

Parents who were close by at the time had to physically intervene before the father would stop beating his son. When the local police arrived at the school, they arrested Wilson, who spent the night in jail before posting $10,000 to get out with no conditions to his release.

Wilson is charged with fifth-degree domestic assault, and a Lakeville prosecutor told FOX 9 News that any time there is a domestic assault charge a no-contact order is typically part of the release agreement. However, at this time, no such order has shown up in Wilson’s file.

Witnesses to this unbelievable event were deeply disturbed by what they saw, and Lakeville Police Chief Tom Vomhoff said that in his 30 years on the force he had never seen anything like it.

Vomhoff told KARE-11, “This assault is an example of particularly disturbing adult behavior on so many levels. Parents attending youth sports events have such a great opportunity to be a positive role model for kids, and that is clearly not what happened here.”

“Occasionally, everyone sees that parent at the sporting events who’s a little too belligerent, verbally abusive a little bit—but for the police to be called to an event related to it is very unusual,” he said.

Parents who attended the game said that they thought Wilson should be banned from future games. “It breaks your heart,” onlooker Tara Falteysek told Fox 9. “I can’t imagine how that young boy feels, that dad would do that to him — and in front of friends.”

Mark Kempton, Lakeville’s eighth-grade coach, said that he hadn’t witnessed the beating but he had heard about it from shocked parents. He also saw Wilson’s son after he was attacked by his father, and said, “I was shaken. It was pretty ugly. I felt terrible for him. It was obvious he took a couple of shots.”

Kempton, who has been a coach for roughly 12 years, added, “Certainly it was disturbing because we’re there for the kids. If this kind of thing happens publicly, you kind of wonder what happens privately.”

And Ken LaChance, President of the Eagen Athletic Association, released this statement on Tuesday:
“If the allegations are true, there is no excuse for the type of behavior displayed by this individual. All participants and families agree to comply to a Code of Conduct prior to the start of their sport season. Clearly, if true, this incident falls well outside of those boundaries and EAA internal disciplinary action will be taken against this individual. EAA is committed to providing a safe and positive environment for our participants and their families.”

In the meantime, this “father” faces a $3,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail and is expected to appear in court next month. It is very likely that he will be found guilty of the charges he faces since he was surrounded by so many witnesses when he decided to beat his son for not leading his team to victory in an oh-so-important-eighth-grade tournament. It is frightening to consider what he would be capable of if his poor son was ever in a truly important athletic competition.

This man needs some serious psychological help; his behavior is clearly unpredictable and violent, and his son seems to be an easy target for his rage. Hopefully the courts will demand some intensive therapy before letting this man have any access to his son any time soon.

The only good news is that the boy did not require medical help, but one has to wonder what this has done to him emotionally and the humiliation he must feel over being treated so horrifically by his father in such a public forum. I hope that there is a mother involved in this boy’s life and that she is getting him the emotional support he needs, as well as protecting him from his father.

Offensive Racial Chant Leads to Suspension of Entire Team

Shamed: The chant has been a multi-year tradition for the girls varsity team at Kenmore East High School in Buffalo, New York

Well, clearly racism is not dead, and all you have to do is go visit the Kenmore East High School girls’ varsity basketball team, just outside of Buffalo, New York, to be reminded of that sad fact. You see, it has been a tradition, going back for several years, for the teammates to hold hands in the locker room right before a game, say a prayer together (oh, how nice) and then yell, “One, two, three, n#@@&*!” rhymes with Tigger (oh, how disgusting)!

Offended: Tyra Batts, 15, reported that her white teammates were using the n-word during a pregame cheer. They continued even after she asked them not to

Tyra Batts, a sophomore on the team and the team’s only African-American player this year, was shocked and disgusted as well when she heard the team’s chant right before their game against Sweet Home High School on Friday, December 2. She told BuffaloNews.com in a home interview, that she argued with them about their use of the racial word, saying, “You’re not allowed to say that word because I don’t like that word.”

But according to Tyra, she was told that the team was not racist. “It’s just a word, not a label.” (Really, girls? People have been beaten up for saying that word to the wrong person. Oh, wait! I’m getting ahead of myself.) Because she felt outnumbered, she let it go at that time. But Tyra also told BuffaloNews.com that it was pretty routine for the girls to make racial comments and jokes during practice, including ones about slavery, shackles, and “picking cotton.”

Tyra said that during a later practice scrimmage game, she and another teammate were getting rather heated with each other over some physical roughness on the court. She admits that in the heat of the moment she “said something dumb” at which point, one of her teammates called her “a black piece of sh*@!”

So, after weeks of inappropriate racial comments and the offensive comment from her teammate, Tyra admits that she got madder and madder over the weekend, and on Monday, when she saw the girl in school, she threw her into a locker, punching and choking her. She admits, “It was a buildup of anger and frustration at being singled out of the whole team.”

Tyra was suspended for five days for initiating a fight, and when her parents became angry that the school hadn’t done enough to find out why the fight had taken place to begin with, they called a local radio station and shared the whole story with the community.

Investigation: School superintendent Mark Mondanaro suspended each girl from one game and from two days of school. Their Saturday game was also cancelled

Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro launched an investigation and released a statement, saying: “This type of insensitivity to one of our students is wrong, unacceptable, unfortunate, and will never, ever be tolerated.”

On Friday, Mondanaro announced the following disciplinary measures against the team for violating both the school’s conduct code and the extracurricular athletic code:

* All Kenmore East High School varsity girls’ basketball team practices have been suspended through the rest of this week.
* Saturday’s scheduled game against Olean has been postponed.
* The related team field trip to St. Bonaventure University has been canceled.
* The student athletes will all serve a one-game suspension by the end of the season, at games to be determined at a later date. It’s not expected that the girls would all be suspended for the same game, which would result in a forfeited game.
* Mondanaro is voluntarily rescinding last year’s Niagara Frontier League Sportsmanship Award for the entire school.
* Students who engaged in the chant will receive a two-day, out-of-school suspension.
* The student athletes will be required to participate in cultural sensitivity training, which is being arranged through an outside agency.

Additionally, Mondanaro personally apologized to Tyra and to her parents, and Kenmore East Principal Patrick Heyden apologized as well.

That is all well and good, but aren’t you left wondering how this type of behavior could have been going on for years without any faculty member, coach, administrator, or parent knowing about it?

Tyra said that her coach, Kristy Bondgren, did hear comments other players made about Tyra being black, although the girls apparently waited until all adults were out of the locker room before launching into their lovely chant. Isn’t that simple fact further evidence that these girls knew exactly what they were doing and that it was wrong? Otherwise, why wait for the coaches to leave before beginning the chant?

And if Bondgren was aware that racially-charged comments were being thrown around at practice, why didn’t she address this issue the first time she heard it? This whole incident might have been avoided if she had dealt with these comments immediately, rather than apparently turning a deaf ear to her team.

The whole thing has me wondering how such a tradition got started, and what made these girls ever think this was acceptable, much less related in any way to pumping each other up for a victory? Did the use of this word really mean nothing to them, or, based on other comments they purportedly had been making, is it indicative of their racial views?

Hard to say, but since the nasty story went public, students report that there has been a lot of racial tension, and the female varsity basketball players have been harassed and ostracized.  Only two teammates have apologized to Tyra, who is now considering playing at the junior varsity level for one more year. She worries that it would be awkward for her to play with the team now, and she also expressed concern about her teammates playing other teams with black players.

“It just wouldn’t be safe,” she said. “There would be a lot of conflict going on.”

Gee, ya think?

Nine College Students Expelled for Vicious Beating Over Sneakers

Dean College, a small private school in Franklin, Massachusetts, is an institution that has earned recognition for its excellence. In fact, it was ranked number 20 by U.S. News in a comparison of regional schools. The school was founded in 1865, and up till Friday, 1,266 students were reportedly enrolled there. Now, that number has dropped to 1,257, and I’ll tell you the reason why.

Confrontation

A group of 9 students from the campus accosted a fellow student on Friday because of the sneakers he was wearing. The attacker had recently had his limited edition Nike Foamposite sneakers which sell for $200 stolen from his dorm room, and the unfortunate boy he accosted happened to be wearing the same kind of shoes.

In a clearly premeditated assault, the attacker gathered his gang together to approach this unfortunate boy. One of the members of the gang filmed the whole despicable attack, and before the confrontation began, two of the boys got in the camera and yelled, “Who wants a war?” and you can hear them encouraging the attacker to take off the boy’s shoes. (Follow this link and scroll to the bottom of the page to see the video for yourself.)

In the video, you can see that the attacker apparently accuses the victim of taking his shoes and begins to verbally intimidate him while his gang continues to taunt and laugh at the victim, egging the attacker on. You can watch the video for yourself of this vicious attack and the abhorrent behavior of the attacker’s friends who not only did nothing to stop it, but were clearly enjoying the boy’s helplessness and pain. It is a terrible video to watch, made even worse by the fact that this gang of college students submitted the video to WorldStarHipHop.com, a YouTube site for aspiring rappers, where it aired for the world to see.

Taking his shoes

Now, we have seen these kinds of videos before, but this is the first time I have seen one which originates from a small, quiet college where most professors and students all know each other. This is behavior more in keeping with tough, street-wise, intercity, warring gang bangers, not college students whose parents are paying $43,000 a year for tuition.

Needless to say, the student body and faculty of Dean College were appalled by what they saw on this disgusting video. Gregg Chalk, the Dean College Director of Communications, told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 on Tuesday, “We’re working with our own security folks, as well as Franklin police, to determine the cause of the events. We have a zero tolerance policy as it relates to this type of thing and anybody that’s involved will be dealt with strictly and swiftly as possible.”

And indeed, the school did take quick action in dealing with the nine boys involved, expelling them all from Dean College. Paula Rooney, the president of Dean College, made the following statement: “Dean College has a zero tolerance policy for conduct that is detrimental to the safety and well-being of its students, faculty and staff. The actions we have taken underscore the seriousness with which we view this responsibility. We will continue to be in close contact with the Franklin Police on this matter as they continue to investigate the criminal nature of this incident.”

She added, “I know that we are all deeply saddened by what has transpired.”

The incident is still under investigation but Franklin Police expect to file criminal charges soon.

Ironically, the victim’s roommate said that the shoes were not stolen because the victim, who he said is not an aggressive young man, had brought them with him from home. So after all of that, these boys had the wrong guy anyway. The roommate also said that the victim is currently recovering from his injuries after returning to campus on Tuesday.

A truly appalling incident that has left this small college and a young man wondering what makes bullies like this do what they do. How can you watch this kind of moral depravity and not be shaken to the core by such unprovoked violence?

I applaud Dean College for addressing this matter swiftly and unequivocally. It was exactly the right message to send to these hoodlums and to those who remain at the school. And I certainly hope that criminal charges are pressed. This kind of vicious behavior must not be tolerated. And that is a message that people like this need to hear.

Survey Showed Nearly Half of Students Sexually Harassed in School

A survey conducted in May and June of 2011 by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), released in early November, revealed that 48 percent of middle and high school students who were surveyed said that they were sexually harassed at least one time during the 2010-2011 school year.

The survey polled a nationally representative sample of 1,965 students from both private and public schools between the ages of 12 and 18. The results of this survey may be very surprising and troubling for parents and teachers alike.

The survey revealed that girls were more likely to experience harassment than boys. (For the benefit of this survey, harassment was defined rather broadly as “unwelcome behavior that takes place in person or electronically.”) While 40 percent of boys said they have experienced harassment, 56 percent of girls reported being sexually harassed at least one time in the past school year. Of these, 44 percent said that they were harassed in person, and 30 percent said they were harassed through Facebook, text messaging, or email.

Additionally, the survey was able to glean information, according to the students who responded, regarding which students were more commonly harassed. Girls whose “bodies are really developed, more than other girls” are most likely to be harassed, followed by girls who are either considered to be very pretty or “not pretty” by their peers. According to the report, boys who are “not very masculine” and overweight students in general are more commonly the targets of harassment.

A third of those who reported being harassed said that had been the target of unwelcome sexual comments or jokes. Eighteen percent said that they were called gay or lesbian in a derogatory manner. In fact, the most common form of harassment which boys reported experiencing was being called “gay.”

“I was told I was gay because of the way I had dressed for a school spirit week event,” one eighth grade boy said.

And a ninth grade boy wrote, “Everyone was saying I was gay, and I felt the need to have to run away and hide.”

Thirteen percent of girls reported being touched in an unwelcome way, and four percent admitted to being forced to do something sexual.

The survey supported the negative effect which harassment has on its victims, with 87 percent reporting detrimental effects from the harassment they faced. A third of those who were victims of harassment said they did not want to go to school. Others reported having a hard time sleeping or studying, feeling sick to their stomachs, or that they quit school activities due to harassment.

In the survey, an eighth-grade female said that she “thought of suicide” after a peer spread sexual rumors about her, and a ninth-grade boy wrote that being called gay by others made him feel “threatened for [his] personal safety.”

One of the report’s authors and director of research at AAUW, Catherine Hill, and coauthor Holly Kearl wrote that even though sexual harassment is considered to be a form of bullying, schools are often reticent to place emphasis on sexual harassment. The report said, “Schools are likely to promote bullying prevention while ignoring or downplaying sexual harassment.”

Hill said that bullying and harassment overlap, and that sexual harassment usually starts in adolescence with comments that are “focused on sex and gender.” She also stated that many administrators and teachers are “more comfortable talking about bullying. It’s hard to talk about sexual harassment.”

Another alarming tendency, according to the survey, is that most students are not fighting back. About half of those who said they have been harassed admit to just ignoring the harassment at the time, the same number who reported that they didn’t take any action after the harassment. About one-fourth of the students said that they told their harasser to stop, while a similar percentage of students reported confiding the incident to a parent, a family member, or a friend. Only 9 percent told their teacher or another adult at school about the harassment.

“There’s a fear of coming forward,” Hill says. “To school principals: If you don’t hear anything, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem. We need to do more than just respond; we need to prevent sexual harassment.”

Hill recommends that schools set up an anonymous system where students can at least talk about, if not report, sexual harassment, since there is embarrassment or fear related to these incidents. Additionally, she recommends that every school should delegate an adult who students can go talk to if they have been harassed.

Kearl has called for the need to establish programs that would include all school members, administrators, and parents to address the seriousness of sexual harassment saying, “When we talk about sexual harassment, many people want to think about it as an adult problem. But this is happening to 12-year-olds. It’s a vicious cycle. There needs to be a climate of prevention from all sides.”

Cyberbaiting is Rising Among Kids According to Norton Report

Recent information from the Norton Online Family Report, which looks at the effects of growing up in a digital age on young people, revealed a rather sobering trend in schools which can be very harmful to teachers. It is called cyberbaiting, a phenomenon, according to the report, that twenty-one percent of teachers have either personally experienced or know of another teacher who has experienced it.

This study from Symantec included interviews from kids and their parents from 24 countries including the United States which revealed some interesting statistics. For example, it found that 62 percent of kids (more than six in ten) said they have had a negative experience while they have been online such as being bullied, downloading a virus, responding to an email scam, or being pressured to do something online that they thought was wrong.

Symantec also found that 82 percent of kids who broke their “Internet house rules” experienced something negative online, compared to 52 percent of kids who “follow house rules.” Additionally, it found that 95 percent of parents know what their children are viewing online.

But the most troubling news for teachers was the report’s findings on cyberbaiting. What is cyberbaiting? Symantec Internet Safety Advocate Marian Merritt describes it as a situation in which students deliberately provoke a teacher into doing something that is out of control and stupid. Someone tapes the teacher going off on their cell phone, and the destructive video is posted online.

“This of course has the net effect of embarrassing the teacher, taking a momentary lapse of judgment in a classroom and embedding it onto the web,” Merritt explained.

I became curious after reading about cyberbaiting, as this was the first I had heard of this phenomenon. (Obviously I am not in the 21 percent from the report.) I decided to launch some Google searches trying to find some reported incidents of cyberbaiting. But my attempts came up empty; I found nothing. In fact, it was as though the internet had no idea what I was asking for.

But in a podcast interview with Marian Merritt, she said that she had Googled “teachers lose it” and discovered a multitude of posted videos which were derogatory to teachers. So, I tried it myself, and like Merritt, I was astounded at the plethora of awful videos out there.

The report further found that because of the widespread prevalence of cyberbaiting, 67 percent of teachers reported that they felt it was too risky to friend students on social networks, although 34 percent continue to friend their students. Additionally, about 51 percent of those interviewed said that their schools have social media codes of conduct which control how students and teachers can interact with each other online.

It should come as no surprise that 80 percent of teachers feel that there should be more education provided in school regarding online safety, and 70 percent of parents agree.

Merritt warned against becoming fixated on the findings that 21 percent of teachers said they had “experienced or know another teacher who’s experienced cyberbaiting.” In her interview, she said that it is likely that a very small number of teachers have actually experienced cyberbaiting themselves. However, she acknowledges that even though the numbers are low, the findings do indicate that it is an issue.

So, I’m curious. Have any of you experienced cyberbaiting? Drop us a line if you or someone you know was the victim of cyberbaiting.

Mother of Sandusky’s Alleged Victim Speaks Out

Imagine being a mother of one of Jerry Sandusky’s victims. Imagine the frustration you would feel if you could not get people to believe or to act upon the allegations your son was making about this man, whose reputation was so great that people were willing to turn their backs on so many clues of terrible misconduct. What would you do if, because your son had come forward, he faced threats and harassment at his school? The mother of the first victim to come forward in the Jerry Sandusky case is speaking up on behalf of her son and on behalf of all of the unfortunate victims of Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse.

 

Central Mountain High School Sandusky

You probably already know about the young boy from Central Mountain High School in Mill Hall, PA, who was the first to blow the whistle on the ex-Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky. But in a recent interview, this victim’s mother reveals some frightening information regarding how this school mishandled her son’s allegations. To say that her recollection of the events is different from the school’s recollection would be a major understatement.

The mother claims that her son had been active in Sandusky’s Second Mile program; Sandusky’s charity to work with underprivileged kids. She even recalls meeting him at the camp once. Things seemed to be going well with her son until the end of his eighth grade year (at a school where she frequently saw Sandusky in the hallways) when she says he was “getting mouthy and nasty at home.” She explained that she called the school psychologist asking for some help, but they chalked it up to puberty, told her he was a good kid, and that it would all work out.

She said that she didn’t suspect anything was wrong at this point, so she let it go, until his first year at Central Mountain High School, where Sandusky continued to be a constant presence. It was at this point that her son asked her how he would go about looking up “sex weirdos” and indicated that he wanted to look up Jerry because he was a “weirdo.”

When she tried to question him further, she said, “He didn’t come out and say anything directly about Jerry at first. He started telling me that he was upset about his school and his grades and that he felt everyone hated him. At first I thought he was just saying what any child says when they’re stressed out or in trouble. I reassured him that no one in the school hated him. That’s when he told me that they did, because he was always getting pulled out of class.”

She said her son then revealed something she was learning for the first time; several times a week and sometimes daily, he was being taken out of school by Jerry Sandusky, all without her permission or knowledge. Now, this is totally against any school policy I have ever known. No one can take a student from their school without the direct consent of that child’s parent or guardian. Why did this school ever allow this to happen?

“I didn’t know about that,” she said. “I was never aware that he [Sandusky] did that.” In fact, she learned later that it was Steve Turchetta, who was the assistant principal as well as the varsity football coach, who granted Sandusky access to this boy without ever requiring her permission or notifying her in any way.

According to the grand jury indictment, Turchetta defended his inappropriate actions, saying that it wasn’t an unusual occurrence to “call a Second Mile student out of activity period at the end of the day, at Sandusky’s request, to see him.” When the dust settles on the Sandusky case, Steve Turchetta needs to be held accountable for the part he played in this alleged sexual abuse scandal. It seems that he allowed his respect for Jerry Sandusky’s reputation to cloud his judgment when it came to protecting his students.

It was at this point, that the victim’s mother knew that something wasn’t right. She said she contacted the counselor at her son’s school to express her fears and suspicions. She said, “I finally said to the counselor, ‘You’re a mother. I’m a mother. I have a gut feeling that something isn’t right.’”

She also talked to Karen Probst, the school’s principal, telling her that she did not appreciate the school giving Sandusky the right to take her son out of school without her knowledge and demanded that these visits stop. But she claimed that the principal acted as though her suspicions were groundless and there was nothing to be concerned about.

“The principal just waved it off, saying, ‘You know; it’s Jerry. He’s around the school a lot and talks a lot with Second Mile kids. He has a heart of gold.’ I was furious. They were defending this guy,” she said.

Giving up on the principal, who was clearly not listening to her, she asked to have the counselor speak to her son. Just a few hours later, she said she received a phone call from Probst who asked that she immediately come to the school.

She recalled that when she got to the counselor’s office, her son was crying uncontrollably, and the principal told her that her son thought something inappropriate might have happened with Sandusky. At this point, he told his mother that Sandusky had been abusing him.

After hearing what she had dreaded the most, his mother announced they we’re going to call the police. But she claims that both the counselor and principal suggested that she think it over and consider how it would affect her family if she were to call the police. “I repeated the line three times. I said let’s call the police. Right now. Let’s do it. And they continued to stare at me,” she said.

She said that at this point her son began rocking in his chair, shaking his head and sobbing, “See! They don’t believe me!”

According to this mother, neither the principal nor the counselor responded in any way to her or to her son. She said that they offered no condolences. “I remember saying, ‘I’m not playing. This isn’t funny. I mean seriously, look how upset he is! Something happened.’”

Instead of coming to this boy’s rescue, his mother said that Probst said, “Jerry has a heart of gold, he’s been around all these kids and you really should just go home and think about what this is going to do to your son and your family if you do that.” When the dust settles on the Jerry Sandusky case, Karen Probst and this counselor need to be held accountable for the parts they played in this sexual abuse scandal. Whether it was misguided reverence for Sandusky or fear over the part the school played by its misconduct coming to light, these women did not perform their duties to protect the safety of one of their students. And their unwillingness to comfort this boy and his mother who were clearly devastated is beyond reprehensible!

At this point, this distraught mother took her equally distraught son home and called a friend who worked with the state’s Children’s Youth Services program, who took them to the Services center. It was here that they met Dr. Mike Gillum, a licensed psychologist who has a private practice in Williamsport. He has worked with the state on child abuse cases and has been working closely with these two ever since. It was Gillum who called Probst to inform her that Sandusky was the subject of an abuse investigation and that he was not to be allowed near the school or this boy.

It has never been explained by Turchetta or Probst, or any other school official, why Sandusky was allowed to take this boy from the school without his mother’s permission. Sandusky was barred from the school, but according to his mother, her son has faced terrible repercussions for stepping forward.

She said that only Child Youth Services, the police, Gillum, a few school administrators and immediate family had been told what happened to her son. Yet, she was shocked to discover that Turchetta, apparently angry over the removal of Sandusky from school grounds and the football team, talked openly about her son’s case at his weekly football parent meeting. She learned this from a grandmother of one of the football players, who also told her, “Coach Turchetta said these charges are never going to stick and he’ll walk away.”

The mother claims that after her son developed a close bond with a 28-year old volunteer coach, Turchetta approached her son, got in his face, and yelled, “With what you’ve done already, no 28-year-old man needs to be around you.”

She said, “I think he was accusing my son of having some kind of relationship with him. That’s how my son took it, too.”

Recently, she learned that some students were threatening her son, so she immediately reported her concerns to Principal Probst, telling her, “I heard that some kids were going to do some gang beating on my son. I want to make sure you are aware of that and that Mike Gillum was going to talk to the county to see if we could get some police up there, to take whatever measure’s to keep him safe.”

Probst told her they would discuss it and get back with her. But when she finally heard back from Probst, she said, “There was nothing about her meeting, nothing about my son’s safety. No response to the threat that some kids were going to hurt my son. Instead she brought up the BB gun they apparently found over a month ago. She said that he left the school distraught and had a BB gun. And I thought, ‘What are you getting at now?’ What’s that BB gun have to do with this? That BB gun is rusty and probably 100 years old. It’s been sitting in his car forever.”

This mom finally had enough. She removed her son from Central Mountain High School and is hoping that in a new environment he may be able to heal.

I hope that when the dust settles on the Jerry Sandusky case, this school and its officials will be held accountable for the horrendous way they handled this family as well as the potential danger they placed other young boys in by allowing Sandusky free reign in their school.

Ironically, on Nov. 7, Central Mountain High School was praised by Pennsylvania State Attorney General Linda Kelly for “doing the right thing” regarding the Sandusky matter. According to the indictment, the school immediately called the police when it became aware of the abuse, a fact that this mother firmly refutes.

In a statement Gillum made regarding the actions of the school compared to their statements regarding their actions, he said, “Given the disparity between the actions taken when the initial symptoms were observed and the mother requested intervention to determine whether or not he was being victimized by this man, and then for the school officials to resist pursuing law enforcement or children and youth services, then later down the road to have officials claim that they were suspicious of Jerry Sandusky, or concerned about him, is obviously not congruent.”

Obviously it is not, and just as obviously, this school played a part in the alleged victimization of this boy. When the dust settles in the Jerry Sandusky case, I would hope that this school is held accountable for their inaction and the part they played in allowing this alleged sexual offender unapproved access to potential victims!

Paraprofessional Gone After Taping Student’s Mouth Shut

My final blog about teachers bullying their students, while not as disturbing as the previous two incidents I have told you about, nonetheless points to a disrespectful and publicly humiliating attitude some school employees have towards disciplining students. Due to the public manner in which this situation occurred, it could be considered bullying or harassing.
 
On September 21, a paraprofessional at Whitehead Road Elementary School in Athens, Georgia made a very poor choice when disciplining a boisterous student. Apparently, a girl in this kindergarten classroom would not quiet down, so the paraprofessional put clear packaging tape over her mouth to keep her quiet. In spite of the fact that it didn’t stay on for long, because the little girl reportedly removed it seconds after it was placed on her mouth, the damage was already done.

The classroom teacher was working with a small group of students in the room at the time and did not actually witness the incident, but when made aware of what had transpired, reported it to the school’s administrator.

Philip Lanoue, Clark County Superintendent of Schools, told the Athens Banner-Herald that this sort of discipline is not permissible in their elementary schools. “This incident is counter to our philosophy and how we work with kids, and we will not tolerate it. Swift action will always be taken if there are any issues like this in our district,” Lanoue stated.

While the incident is disturbing, I am impressed that school officials truly did deal with what took place in a responsibly prompt manner. They immediately informed the child’s parents and told them what disciplinary actions had been taken.

School officials initially placed the paraprofessional on administrative leave pending an investigation. However, according to Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, a spokeswoman for the district, the aide is no longer employed with the Clarke County School District, although, due to privacy regulations, she would not elaborate on whether the aide resigned or was fired.

An interesting sidebar to this story is that the state of Georgia is one of only 19 states which still allow corporal punishment. However, that could be changing very soon due to a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York. The intent of this bill is to ban “paddling, spanking, or other forms of physical punishment, however light, imposed upon a student.” If this bill should pass, states that refuse to do away with corporal punishment could lose federal funding for their schools.

Teacher and Aide Taped Bullying Special Needs Girl

Yesterday, I told you about a teacher who apparently thought he had the right to bully a 15-year old special needs student. Well, as if that story wasn’t bad enough, get ready for the dastardly duo: Christie Wilt and Kelly Chaffins, a special education teacher and her aide.

 

This story is about Cheyanne, a 14-year old special needs girl who attends Miami Trace Middle School in Washington Courthouse, Ohio, who used to love school. Her father, Brian, told TODAY that up until fifth grade, they never had a problem getting their daughter to go to school. But in fifth grade, she was in a classroom with an aide named Kelly Chaffins. On one occasion, Brian said that Chaffins jerked Cheyanne up by her shirt and pulled her from the line. When they tried to talk to the school about what had happened, they were told that Ms Kelly would not do what their daughter claimed she had done, and the situation was dropped by the principal.

Brian told Ann Curry on TODAY that sixth grade was better, seventh grade was worse, but eighth grade was terrible. It was at this time that Cheyanne began to tell her parents that she was being bullied. She claimed that her teachers called her dumb, lazy, and a liar and they taunted her about her belly.

“She got to where she didn’t want to go to school, and Cheyanne’s always loved school. We’ve never had a problem with her. And…she was doing things that, starting to harm herself to keep from going to school. So we knew we had to do something at that point. We weren’t getting anywhere with the school. Every time we’d call, ‘We didn’t do that,’ ‘She’s making up stories’. It was always, ‘Cheyanne’s lying,’” Brian said.

Brian told Curry that when they went to the principal with their concerns, their complaints were always met with the same response; Cheyanne was lying. And when he went to Miami Trace Schools Superintendent Dan Roberts for the first time after getting nowhere with the school’s principal, Roberts told them that they were bordering on slander and harassment and to let it go. He guaranteed that he would provide the best education possible for Brian’s daughter.

Out of sheer frustration, Cheyanne’s parents wired her for sound and were able to tape four days of devastating proof of profound bullying and abuse. Here is a sample of the horrendous things being said to this poor girl.

At one point in the tape, Chaffins became annoyed with Cheyanne over how she had answered a question, saying, “Are you kidding me? Are you that damn dumb? You are that dumb? Oh my God. You are such a liar.”

Cheyanne responded, “I am not lying.”

“No wonder you don’t have friends,” Chaffins bullied her. ”No wonder nobody likes you.”

On another occasion, Chaffins asked Cheyanne, “Don’t you want to do something about that belly?” She and Wilt began to badger her about being lazy, accusing her of just sitting around watching TV. They even called Cheyanne’s parents lazy for not going for a walk with her for exercise.

And there was another time caught on the tape when Wilt refused to even look at a test that Cheyanne had just finished, saying, “…you know what? Just keep it. You failed it. I know it. I don’t need your test to grade. You failed it.”

As if all of this were not enough, at one point on the tape, Cheyanne’s parents heard Chaffins call them “liars raising a liar” after they had called to complain about Wilt and Chaffins forcing their daughter to run on the treadmill as punishment for getting an answer wrong, an episode which was also caught on tape. 

Imagine, as a parent, having to listen to this tape; horrific proof of what Cheyanne had claimed all along. Two adults who were supposed to be teaching your child, protecting your child, and encouraging your child, bullying, humiliating, and destroying your child!

Cheyanne’s tearful father said, “We’re listening to seven hours worth of stuff on this tape, so we were up all night crying, upset, cause we didn’t understand why. We didn’t understand why. Why would they do this?”

Finally, when Cheyanne’s parents provided Roberts with the irrefutable proof of what their daughter had been trying to get someone to believe all along, Roberts finally acted. “There was distressing, disturbing things on that tape that caused us to act immediately.” Dan Roberts said. Chaffins was asked to resign.

As far as Wilt was concerned, Roberts said, “We felt the level of her involvement there did not meet with the level that educational aide had done.” Therefore, Wilt was only required to take eight hours of anti-bullying and child abuse training, in compliance with the Ohio Department of Education’s decision.

However, this Monday, the district placed Wilt on an unpaid leave of absence for the remainder of the school year (I’m guessing because the publicity got a little too hot).

But Cheyanne’s family does not feel this is enough, and I must agree. Christie Wilt was the teacher in charge of that classroom. An aide is exactly that; they are there to do what the teacher asks them to do. It is the teacher who sets the tone for their classroom. Wilt allowed this atrocious behavior to continue and participated in it as well. And Wilt is the trained and educated professional who should recognize inappropriate behavior when she sees it or engages in it. To treat her less severely than the aide is a travesty!

The school district settled a lawsuit with the family for $300,000, but the family isn’t done. They are working with their lawyers to see that Wilt is not only fired from the district, but that she lose her teaching license, too.

Brian told Curry, “I just hope they do something with this teacher. She doesn’t need to be around kids at all. She participated in it, she was right there. I’m looking out for (Cheyanne), but also I’m worried about the other children in that class and what they went through. She’s (Wilt) just as much to blame, if not more, because she’s the one who takes that oath to protect our children. She has more education than the teacher’s aide.’’

Brian is right. At the very least, Wilt should be fired. As far as losing her license, would any of you want her teaching your child in the future? I sure wouldn’t!

Julio Artuz Records Teacher’s Bullying Rant

Sadly, over the next few blogs I will be reporting on an issue that both angers and appalls me. I will return to an issue that I am so passionate about, and that is bullying. Unfortunately, this is not the typical story of kids bullying other kids; instead it is the reprehensible story of children being bullied by their teachers.

 

Julio

Tonight, I will tell you about Julio Artuz, a 15-year old special education student from New Jersey, who had been complaining for some time that he was being bullied by his teacher at Bainbridge Regional School in Gloucester County. Sadly, no one believed what Julio told them, not even his parents, which doesn’t surprise me since the teacher’s behavior is so bizarre that it would be pretty hard to believe without seeing it for yourself.

Finally, a frustrated Julio decided to provide proof of his allegations and used his cell phone to secretly capture one of his teacher’s abusive tirades. The offensive footage shows Julio’s teacher yelling, swearing, and being outrageously abusive to his student. In the video, Julio tells his teacher to stop calling him “special,” which seems to be the impetus for the unbelievable rant that follows.

At one point, amidst cursing, the teacher asks what Julio wants him to call him. When Julio says he wants to be called “normal,” the teacher responds, “What? Oh my God. [expletive]…Just what do you think you’re here for? What does the title on the front of that school say? Special education!”

At another point, he says, “I will kick your [expletive] from here to kingdom come until I’m 80 years old.” And when Julio told him not to threaten him, he yelled, “What are you going to do? You gonna get a chopper and chop me?”

The teacher proceeds to threaten Julio saying that when Julio gets out of school, he will be there and there is nothing he will be able to do about it.

Julio showed his taped proof to his parents first. Julio’s father told NBC PHILADELPHIA.com, “I was appalled by what was going on. I don’t appreciate my son being called out at school.”

He reported that he met with the teacher at school, where he was told that he talks to his students this way in order to motivate them. Yet, moments later, Julio’s father said that the teacher gave him a different excuse. “Basically, he just said that he was sorry, that he didn’t mean what he said, he was having a hard time at home with his wife.” But, in his opinion, there is no excuse for how this teacher has treated his son.

Julio and his father also showed the tape to a local attorney. After watching the video, Attorney David Arnold, who specializes in representing special needs students, said, “That’s truly disappointing. The only thing that this child is learning at this point is that, you know, violent behavior is the answer.”

After an NBC news affiliate in Philadelphia got hold of the cell phone footage, the school placed the teacher on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

School officials refused to talk to reporters, however, they did issue the following statement: “This incident is under investigation. The school district takes all bullying allegations seriously.”

And in a statement from Gloucester County Special Services Superintendent Michael Dicken, he said, “The actions depicted on the video do not reflect the mission or culture of our school.  Our school district takes all bullying, harassment, and intimidation allegations seriously…we do not tolerate it.”

Dr. Joel Haber, a clinical psychologist who runs an anti-bullying website called RespectU, said, “Statistically about 1 to 2 percent of teachers are actually involved in bullying students. There needs to be a clear policy in schools not just for students bullying other students but for teachers as well. Teachers are humans too and this kind of thing does happen, so it needs to be managed early.”

The issue for many school administrators whose teachers are dealing with unruly classrooms is when does a teacher’s efforts to control such a classroom cross the line and become bullying? According to Dr. Haber, “Its blurry sure but you know when someone wants to make a kid feel bad, or when they’re abusing their power as an authority figure. That’s not the way a role model should be managing a student.“

It does not appear, from the cell phone video anyway, that the teacher in this classroom was dealing with unruly students. They were in their seats and seemed to be quietly listening to the exchange between the teacher and Julio. And Julio himself seemed intent on getting across a simple and absolutely appropriate message; he just wanted to be referred to as “normal,” and shouldn’t every student have a right to expect that from their teacher?

When NBC asked how it makes him feel when his teacher talks to him the way he did in the video, Julio said, “It makes me feel like trash.”

Should a teacher ever be the catalyst that would lead to a student feeling like trash? This teacher’s behavior is morally and ethically reprehensible, and I can’t imagine any district being willing to take the risk of putting him back into a classroom. Certainly Bainbridge Regional School District can do better than this.

Keep this bully out of the classroom!