Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

February 26, 2014

The bullying issue: Parents, school disagree on response

By Leeann Akers - Editor
Journal-Times

Feb. 26, 2014 — East Carter Middle School, like most schools across the country, is trying to balance discipline and privacy issues.

Recently, the Journal-Times was approached by three mothers of East Carter Middle School students who claim their children are being maliciously bullied while the school's administration failed to help them.

Meanwhile, the school claims that all bullying issues have been dealt with and an ongoing anti-bullying curriculum is in place.

In order to protect the privacy of the children affected, they will not be identified in this article. All three are female.

The girls say they are facing almost constant name calling and verbal abuse. All three told their parents they had thoughts of suicide after malicious rumors, isolation, and physical contact, such as pushing or knocking books out of the girls' hands, made them hesitant to return to school.

“My daughter has been having panic attacks when thinking about going back to school,” one mother said.

Anxiety was a common theme with all of the students, as as their belief that the school administration was unwilling to help.

“They won't do anything,” one parent said. “My daughter told the teacher, the counselor, and they did nothing.”

“It will just get worse if I say anything,” said one of the students. “They won't make them stop but if I tell the teacher they just think of worse names to call me.”

ECMS Principal Shannon Wilburn says that student victims and their parents aren't aware of what actions are taken when bullies are confronted.

“School confidentiality is a huge issue,” Wilburn said. “But no incident that is reported goes without something being done.”

She said the curriculum that is taught at ECMS is not only reactive, but also proactive.

“Last week we had some stuff come up on Facebook so we made sure to go over cyberbullying with the students,” Wilburn said. “But we also anticipate issues that might come up and try to teach the kids what they should do if they see bullying or if they are being bullied.”

The parents all claimed they had been denied parent/ teacher conferences, had been told that it was “taken care of” while the students saw no behavior change.

The parents say they have considered pulling their children out of school completely.

“These girls should be able to get an education without being terrorized by these bullies,” one mother said. “But it’s very obvious that these kids just don't matter to the administration.”

Wilburn says those claims are untrue.

“We can't take care of something if we don't know it is happening,” Wilburn said. “The assistant principal and I are both parents, so we have been in these same situations and we are sensitive to the kids. We want them to like school and be happy. That may not work 100 percent of the time, but we want them to be able to come to us if there is a problem.”

Wilburn said all reports of bullying are investigated and disciplinary measures are taken. Communication between the school, students, and parents, she said, is imperative to a healthy learning environment.

The anti-bullying curriculum is spread throughout the month. Wilburn said that lessons include role playing, sharing personal experiences, and pledges against bullying.

Leeann Akers can be reached at lakers@journal-times.com or by phone at 474-5101.