FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Bullying is a big problem in schools across the country, but are local school administrators doing enough to keep our kids safe?
While Fort Wayne Community School officials says they take claims of bullying very seriously, Megan Trent spoke with four moms who say the district is failing them and their kids.
"He was hurt six times in one school year," says Bethany Smith. She says her son, a special needs student with ADHD, began to be bullied at Forest Park Elementary in 2007 as a kindergartner.
Smith claims the worst came when he was hurt on the playground during recess.
"They said he was lethargic and vomiting and they think he needs to be rushed to the hospital."
Her son was rushed by ambulance to the emergency room, bleeding from his lip and forehead.
"I got to the school, and they told me that he had fallen asleep on the playground, they think it was due to the meds, and that he was probably groggy and tripped over a student's foot or his own foot."
At the hospital, Smith says doctors told her he needed liquid stitches and had a concussion. According to Smith, doctors also said they doubted her son's injuries could have been sustained from tripping.
"After the doctor had told me that, I called the school and said, I want answers. What happened to my child?" says Smith.
She says that's when administrators began to avoid her. "They said we'll call you back and they wouldn't. Or I'd try to call them and I'd get nothing."
Smith says other kids saw her son pushed from the monkey bars, and he only remembers the world being turned upside down. "They know, they just don't want me to know what happened."
Smith says she took action after her son was hurt yet again during recess. "I looked into different things and I put him into Imagine and he's done a whole lot better."
Jessica Shaneyfelt says her bullying problems began two years ago on the school bus when her oldest son was in second grade at Forest Park and her youngest in pre-k. "Our youngest son at the time, who was four, was strapped into the school bus seat in a five point harness. Another student slammed his head against the bus window, punched him in the stomach, and he came home with scratches all down the side of his face."
She said promises to separate the boys went unfulfilled, so she began driving them to school. The next year, things got worse for her oldest son. "He had all kinds of problems with bullying with various students on the playground, at recess."
A neighbor boy, she says, was also physically bullying him at home and threatening him at school.
"They'll tell you what you want to hear as to how they're going to solve the problem," says Shanyfelt. "In my personal experience, I've rarely seen it done."
Instead of punishing the bully, Shanyfelt says the school made her son spend lunch and recess alone in a classroom. "So he could be safe, not to be punished, but so he could be safe - which doesn't not seem right."
Meg Shively says her son has been bullied since the 3rd grade, but things really got bad in fourth grade at Haley Elementary. "There are some bike racks by the side of the school and he was beat up four times by those bike racks by the same group of boys."
After the first incident, she called a school administrator with her concerns. "It took him days to return my phone. After awhile he just stopped contacting me. he didn't even take my calls. It just went to voicemail."
In September, she filed a police report after she says her son was jumped by the same group of boys at recess. "He had a bruise on his face. He was covered in bruises on his arm. Where they had kicked him and pushed him to the ground, he had bruises on his leg and knee."
She says the boys were all sent back to class, and no action was taken. "Not even a slap on the wrist - just acted like it didn't even happen. I did not get a phone call. I was not aware of what was going on until I picked up my son."
She says her many letters continued to be ignored and the bullying has gotten worse. "He cries every morning because he doesn't want to go to school anymore. The kids are now calling him gay as well as other derogatory remarks."
Shively says she has plans to pull her son from FWCS in the very near future.
"If parents are going through this, and they're scared to speak up, please don't be. The next child could be yours," she says. "The school is failing to comply with their obligation to keep us informed. Don't be afraid. People are there to support you 100%."
Yolanda Hall has a daughter who is a sophomore at Wayne High School. She says until this year her daughter attended private school, but wanted to try out public school this year. That is when she claims the bullying began.
Hall says several female students have harassed her, bullied her, and physically attacked her because of the way she looks and dresses. She says it all stems from jealousy, because her daughter is attractive, dresses well, and has aspirations to become a pediatrician.
Meanwhile, Hall says one male student in particular has been extremely abusive to her daughter mentally and physically. In addition to making sexual comments on a regular basis, Hall says the boy has come up behind her and made inappropriate sexual gestures.
He has also physically attacked her on two occasions, says Hall. One time was on the bus, and the other in the school hallway as they were preparing to board the bus. She says the boy choked her daughter (who has asthma), hit her, shoved her, and kicked her.
Hall says the school is not protecting her daughter from this boy by allowing him to stay in school after short suspensions and allowing them to remain in the same class together. She says this boy is also responsible for pulling down another girl's pants and underwear in front of a classroom full of kids.
Hall wants her daughter to be protected, but she also wants this boy to get help. She would like to see more counseling services available to students.
The Indiana Department of Education defines bullying as overt, repeated acts against a fellow student with intent to harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate or harm that student.
The DOE says rules must be adopted by the governing body of a school corporation to prohibit such acts and include provisions about education, parental involvement, reporting, investigating and intervening in acts of bullying.
The Fort Wayne Community Schools says they work to fulfill these requirements. Within the district, according to Public Information Officer Krista Stockman, a “minor” instance of harassment or bullying that can be taken care of in school with the help of a mediator does not necessarily need to involve a parent coming to the district. Continued or more severe instances of bullying are addressed through intervention. In this case, parents are called in to meet with teacher and/or administration about bullying issues.
Stockman says concerned parents should begin by contacting their child’s teacher. If unsatisfied with the actions taken by the teacher, parents should then contact the school’s principal. She says the district works hard to answer each and every complaint filed with FWCS.
“They are returning those calls. I am always surprised when I hear people say they are not getting a call back because that is never my experience. I talk to principals all the time and I work here in the building and I see the response that our employees give.”
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