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Fighting bullies

December 16, 2011

Mothers ask Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education to take new approach in addressing bullying in schools.

Concerned parents, grandparents and students at Wapakoneta City Schools approached the board of education during a meeting this week to ask about forming an anti-bullying committee.
Three mothers spoke about situations in which their sons had been involved and for which they felt they were punished unfairly after they stood up for themselves against alleged bullies.
“I’m here as a voice for my son and all children who have been bullied and harassed,” said Kim Wright.
She said once her son, a student at Wapakoneta High School, spoke up about an incident that happened in class, he allegedly was bullied more for being a “snitch.” After being cornered in the ag room and hit three times in the head, Wright said her son finally threw a punch back, but now he is being punished for standing up for himself.
“He acted out of self-defense and fear,” Wright said.
Several witnesses also
are said to agree and even though administrators have said the teen did the right thing, he was given alternative school based on school policy.
“You’re sending out the wrong message,” Wright said. “You’re telling them to stand there and take it. Because he fought back, it’s not bullying but an altercation.”
School officials had said the message they were sending was no fighting. According to the student handbook, a student’s first offense for fighting results in a 10-day suspension and alternative school, but Wright said the district had other options for handling the situtation.
“I believe the school needs to take a new approach at how it handles punishment,” Wright said. “Common sense here says to help these children, that every situation should be reviewed.”
Citing a challenge brought to the school last year by the family of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine school shootings, Wright said it was time to start a new chain reaction and break the bullying cycle.
“Bullying is huge at this time of life, sometimes school is not a safe haven,” Wright said. “Teaching students counts, but caring for them and teaching them to care for others is important as well.
“My heart goes out to all the bullied, harassed and intimidated children,” she said. “Please reconsider this punishment. Show these children here today that you really do care.”
Wright and several women in attendance broke into tears as they talked about the situation and a crowded room of teachers applauded the mothers’ comments.
“Every situation is not cookie cutter, you have to look at each situation,” said Lynn Benny, a mother whose son had been bullied by the same boy.
“I would be extremely upset, if he had been hit and gotten punished,” she said, explaining that her son didn’t get hit but was threatened with his life.
“My kids don’t fight, but what are they supposed to do?” Benny asked.
Benny said for weeks she was scared for her son with a problem that extended beyond school walls to Facebook.
With a repeat aggressor who allegedly has been suspended four times and is about to be expelled, Benny said it also is important to take a look at the histories of those involved in situations.
“There is a problem with bullying and we need to do something about it,” Benny said. “I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m more than willing to help.”
She suggested forming a committee of teachers, parents, administrators and students, to serve as an example for other school districts around the country.
“Let the nightly news come here and say here’s a school making a difference,” Benny said. “Our kids deserve better. They just want to go to school and learn.”
Julie Craft, another parent dealing with the same situation involving the same group said they reported the incident to the Sheriff’s Office and now her son is harassed even more.
“We support the school and want to see something done more positive to handle this,” Craft said.
She said the situation involves two groups of juveniles who have dubbed themselves the “Dirt Gang” and “Farm Kids” and is happening in the hallways, before class, duing class, and after school.
“These are very sincere people who had an issue,” Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner told the Wapakoneta Daily News after the meeting.
“Certainly, we do not tolerate bullying,” he said. “We appreciate their concern and feel for them and we’ll take them up on their offer to be involved in some conversations.”
During the meeting he told those expressing concerns that bullying isn’t tolerated and when they see it, they address it firmly with their zero tolerance policy.
“It does not always go the way parents want, but we will work with you,” Horner said. “It is a constant struggle when we’re dealing with adolesents. The high school administration will work with you.”

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