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Real-Life Bullying In Wichita Falls I.S.D

bully-movie-poster

Last weekend, with the nationwide opening, albeit, not here in Wichita Falls, of the controversial,  documentary movie “Bully”, I did a poll asking about the severity of the problem in Wichita Falls I.S.D. the response was overwhelming. As well as the real-life accounts of recent incidents in the local school system.

The poll question was simple. “Is There A Bullying Problem In Wichita Falls I.S.D?” The results of the poll are below:

Yes, the problem is huge, and scary 56.99%
Possibly, but no more, and no less than any other school system 35.48%
Yes, the problem exists, but is quickly handled by school authorities 6.45%
No, there is no problem at all 1.08%

As you can see, the overwhelming majority of middle and high school students, as well as the parents who participated agree that the problem exists in a big way across all schools of the W.F.I.S.D.

Even more enlightening were the comments made by parents about actual situations that their child had been in involving bullying. I emailed several parents and asked to hear their child’s story in more detail and will now share with you their responses.

Note: all names have been omitted to protect the identities of students and their families, but accounts of incidents have not been altered in any way.

Middle School Autistic Boy Hit With Football Helmet

Football Helmet
flickr/Hernonymous

My son has a form of autism that as he hits puberty he starts to come out of. He still has comprehension problems but he can keep up with his classmates as far as school work pretty well.

Last year in 7th grade we noticed a change in him. He was not wanting to go to school, and just didn’t want to come out of his room, we finally asked him about school and that’s when he broke down… He told us that a group of kids had come up to him while he was talking to a girl he knew from elementary and told him to get up and get away from her before the kicked his a**! (In much more graphic language). He thought they were joking but realized quickly that they weren’t so he left her alone.

One of the boys was on the football team with him, it was the only one that my son knew his name. So we went to talk to the counselor, principle and the coach! Nothing really happened they took down the kid’s name and said they would watch him! Well it continued, name calling, punching him in the hallway, calling my son a retard…it was nonstop! My son didn’t want to play football anymore because he was getting harassed in the locker room, I was told a kid even hit him with a football helmet. I am not sure what all was going on!

We had enough. After, I would say, the 4th visit to the school my husband was livid, he told the council and principal that our son was going to defend himself from now on. My son now knows combative, just enough to protect himself. They told us that was not the answer and we told them it didn’t matter, since they hadn’t found one yet he needed to be able to protect himself and he had better not get in trouble for anything that happens. They said nothing.

About 2 weeks later a group of about 5 or 6 kids tried to jump him on the side of the school ….luckily his grandmother showed up! They told him they were going to get him some time or another. My husband and I showed up the next day waiting early just to see what they were going to try and do….well to my surprise they didn’t and my son finally confronted them and told them he wasn’t going to put up with their stuff anymore and if they wanted to fight then he would fight them, he stood up for himself and it worked.

Cat Fights, Concussions, and Classrooms

bully catfight
flickr

It started one morning last week when my daughter was approached in class by another student. This student came up to her and started yelling obscenities and cussing at her. Apparently they had seen each other at the supermarket over the weekend and she claimed my daughter had been talking bad about her. My daughter said she did not know her, did not see her at the supermarket and did not say anything about her. During the entire class period this student sat behind my daughter, calling her names and antagonizing her.

After the initial confrontation the teacher told them to sit down and not talk to each other. Nothing was ever said after that, even as the bullying continued. My daughter made it clear that she did not want to fight or get in trouble at school and she ignored the bullying as best she could.

At the end of class, this girl pushed past my daughter, bumping into her, and ended up behind her. The whole time she continued to verbally attack her. When my daughter refused to acknowledge her, she grabbed her from behind, by the back of the hair and pushed her over into a nearby table, all the while punching her in the head. After her head hit the table, my daughter turned around and hit her attacker back; defending herself. Shortly after it started, students separated the two and they were escorted to the office.

On the way to the office my daughter called me and I headed to the school. When I got to the school she was in with one of the assistant principals and a police officer. At the time they told me that she got into a fight in the classroom. They had not talked to the teachers or students yet. Each girl was saying the other was the instigator. So the punishment would be the same for both of them; a ticket from the police officer, 3 days of suspension, and 5 days of on campus suspension. The assistant principal told my daughter that as soon as the verbal attack began, she should have come to the office so that it could be addressed and the fight could have been avoided.

Shortly after leaving the officer called me back and informed me that after talking to the teachers and students it was clear that my daughter did everything that she could to avoid fighting. It was clear that the other girl was the aggressor. My daughter only hit back after having her head hit the table. He stated he would not issue a ticket to her. I then called the assistant principal and asked about the punishment. If the teachers said that my daughter was defending herself and did everything she could to avoid fighting; why should she be suspended and have on campus suspension? I was told that discipline could be modified to no suspension and 5 days on school suspension. Because she hit back she had to be disciplined according to the school district policies. Had she only hit once and tried to get away or just tried to get away, they could possibly classify that as self defense. But she did hit back more than once. The fact that she was attacked was irrelevant.

The afternoon of the fight we noticed that our daughter had a big egg on her head; from where she had hit the table. After the fight she was trying to explain to me what happened but she was not making sense. Her sentences were scrambled and thoughts were random. She was also throwing up and said her head hurt. I assumed all of this was because she was so upset and crying. After finding the egg on her head I took her to the emergency room, where they confirmed that she did have a head injury, a slight concussion. We did file a police report. She had a headache for three days after the fight.

So, the next morning I go to the school to talk to the assistant principal. I am not a mother who thinks that her children do no wrong. If my child has broken a rule or violated a law then I will be the first to stand up and say that they will need to suffer the consequences. In this instance I believe my daughter was defending herself and should not have to be punished. And especially after learning that she had a head injury!

After hitting her head that hard was she really expected to think about how many times she could hit back or what she should be doing? No, she was in a survival mode. Amy attacked her from behind, one minute she is walking and the next her head is being slammed into a table – who wouldn’t naturally turn around and defend themselves? So – I expressed all of this to the assistant principal. She said that she agreed with me and that she could understand my frustration but the rules were clear. So the discipline would remain.

The last two days of her on campus suspension, the girl who attacked my daughter was in the same class and they sat within close proximity to each other. At first they were assigned to sit right next to each other. My daughter expressed her concerns and seating was changed. The first day and all day, this girl and a few of her friends verbally attacked my daughter. Name calling, threats, accusing her of being scared, attacks on her character; just being mean and ugly. She text me and said that she wanted to leave school. I told her to tell the teacher. She said that she was not comfortable telling in front of everyone. I called the school and left a message for one of the assistant principals to call me back. After school he did. I told him what was going on. He wanted to know why my daughter did not speak up. He stated that in the classroom no talking or visiting was allowed. I stated well, obviously something is happening because she is extremely upset and wanted to leave school. He said he would speak to the teacher. I never heard back.

The second day it just got worse. Since being out of on campus suspension, this girl has sought my daughter out to walk behind her and taunt her with obscene verbal remarks. The first time this happened, my daughter went to the office as the first assistant principal had told her to. The office staff told her that she would have to wait to be called back and would need to go to class. She was never called. I called and left a message. He called me back the next morning. Apparently, they were too busy that day.

The verbal attacks and rumor spreading continued all day. When she was able to speak to the first assistant principal she told her what was happening. The response she got was something along the lines of “I’ll look into it”. My daughter then stated that the girl was bullying her and that she did not feel comfortable. After that the assistant principal starting asking more detailed questions, which hallway, when, etc – stated she would pull the video tape and review.

My daughter states that she was told by a teacher that this was the 7th fight that this girl has gotten into and the staff did not know what to do with her. She is a well-known trouble maker and bullies students all the time. My daughter wants to transfer schools. She will tell you herself that the school staff does not care. They are inconsistent with discipline and do not care when she expresses her concerns. She feels that when she does what they tell her to do – it is useless.

Bullying Starts Early

bullying young kids
flickr

I never thought that my daughter would face any type of bullying until at least Jr. High . I learned that it starts as early as Kindergarten . Now luckily we haven’t dealt with anything physical, but words can hurt just as bad as as being pushed, shoved, punched or worse. My daughter came home one day last year, which was first grade, and told me that some kids at school had told her that she was ugly . This doesn’t seem like it would impact you much but when you’re told you are beautiful by your family and other friends I think it really hits deep.

I wish I knew what was going through her mind when she was called names. I told her to just ignore them because obviously they didn’t see her beauty and they were just jealous. I guess name calling is something everyone should just expect it out of little kids, as awful as it sounds.

The next incident really floored me. And, something her teacher told me absolutely infuriated me. My kid isn’t perfect and she was getting into trouble for not finishing her class work , she instead chose to horseplay. I had gone to pick my daughter up from school and the teacher told me she got a mark for not following the story they were reading with her finger. I thought OK, no big deal because when she reads with her finger it slows her down but the teacher followed with “I told her that if she doesn’t follow along with us in reading time that she isn’t going to second grade with the rest of her friends and she will get made fun of.”

This made me so mad that a teacher would tell a 6 year old something like that. She was crying when we got in our car to go home. I was so mad I was shaking. How dare this person who is supposed to be a mentor to so many kids make a threat like that , it’s incomprehensible. You’re going to tell my child that just because she wasn’t following with her finger that she isn’t going to the next grade level.

The next day I called the vice-principal and set up a meeting to talk about what the teacher had said. He of course said that he would speak with her about the comment she made and two days later I get a note from the teacher requesting a conference. She blatantly denied ever making the comment and I wasn’t taking that for an answer. I told her our exact conversation in detail and she all of the sudden remembered and apologized, not to my child but to me. I never had an issue after this with the teacher.

New school , new town , new everything for this year. Our family packed up to go somewhere we knew no one. Right off the bat I had issues with the new teacher and my child of course had issues with the kids in her class because she was the new kid. I had several conferences with the teacher the first 2 months of school , more than should have been requested for a whole year. I, of course, thought here we go again.

To add to the new school, new town , also comes the adventure of riding a bus to school. I’ve heard her called names several times by older kids on the bus. I assume they don’t see me waiting for her. She’s been called a “stupid fat head”, “idiot’, and “ugly” among other things . I told my child to tell them their opinion doesn’t matter. She just ignores it.

I’ve called the bus barn because the bus is out of control, I shouldn’t be able to hear the kids coming from the end of the street and i really shouldn’t see them hanging out of windows while the bus is in motion. I have yet to see a positive outcome from the bus situation after the 12 or so times that I’ve called.

I’m not really expecting to see one either since it is so late in the year. If teachers would pay attention , take things seriously (instead of thinking someone is blowing things out of proportion) and correct the issues at hand I think we could see a lot less bullying and a lot less kids being statistics.

Knife-Pulling Forces Family To Move

bullying knife
flickr

My son is an overweight teen, which is no excuse for someone to pick on him, but was repeatedly bullied every single day. His grades suffered and so did his attendance which has led to him to fail this school year. Kids would throw condiment packages at him in the cafeteria at lunch. The off duty officer that did security at Barwise even made fun of him. He had knives pulled on him a couple of times and even had the football coach single him out to the point he quit athletics. His father and I both got with the principle and we were always informed that he brought it upon himself.

We have since moved into the City View district and have no issues at the current time. They have a zero tolerance program in place here and are strict with the students. If we as parents don’t start taking a stand for these children then society is going to assume it is okay for this behavior to continued. I was bullied in junior high when I was a kid but it wasn’t even close to what is going on in today’s society. Thanks so much for bringing this topic to people’s attention.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Obviously, there is cause for concern in the Wichita Falls I.S.D. However; in speaking with Renae Murphy, the Public Information Officer for the W.F.I.S.D., the consensus of the school system remains, “The problem is no more or no less than any other school system.”  Statistically, that may or not be true, I have no way to compare, but, after speaking with Ms. Murphy, I do do know that the W.F.I.S.D. does take the bullying allegations seriously, at least on the administrative level.

“Students MUST report any bullying to school authorities, and, unfortunately, that does not always happen. Students don’t want to tell their teachers, or their parents for various reasons.” When asked who students or parents should contact first, the I.S.D. has very clear protocol for dealing with complaints. First, “students should contact the classroom teacher immediately if they are bullied.  The teacher can then handle the situation, or refer the student to the school administration.”

The administration, in this case, at least on the Middle and High School level, refers to the school’s assistant principal. He/or she has received special and on-going training that deals with how to handle certain disciplinary issues including bullying. “The Assistant Principal will evaluate cases on an individual basis, and make determinations about who is at fault, what action should be taken, and also figure out ways to help students avoid instances in the future. ”

Well, what if parents feel that the system has let them down? “Parents can then file a grievance with the school administration and begin that process”, says Murphy.  Punishments for bullying can vary from “in-school suspension, and removal from school based on the severity of the problem.”

Finally, Ms. Murphy strongly suggests “that parents need their child’s Facebook and other social media passwords.  Kid’s won’t always report to you, as parents, what is going on, but it will be on social media. A lot of times, that is the only way parents will know what is going on. And, if bullying problems are not reported, it is impossible for the I.S.D. to intervene.”

Renae Murphy can be reached at 940-235-1000

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