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Bullying incident raises concern

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The grounds of Greenville Central High School in Greenville.
October 9, 2019 05:41 pm Updated: October 10, 2019 12:09 pm

 

GREENVILLE — A local mother is keeping her 10-year-old daughter home out of fear for her safety.

“He clearly knows where my house is located,” Aimee Richards said, referring to a 14-year-old Greenville High School student who allegedly threatened her daughter and, by implication, other students on a school bus Tuesday afternoon.

“As he reached their seating when getting on at the high school in the afternoon, he stated, ‘I am going to kill all of you little kids one day,’” Richards said in a statement.

The 14-year-old will have a probation hearing, at which point the Probation Department will determine the consequences, said Lt. Adam Brainard of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.

“It is quite concerning and scary,” Richards said. “The school has no grasp on solutions for bullying, racial issues or bus solutions.”

Teaching inclusiveness and tolerance is a core part of the district, Greenville School District Superintendent Tammy J. Sutherland said.

“Teaching students how to interact in productive ways is a primary goal within Greenville School District; self control, assertiveness, respectful behavior, empathy, persistence and cooperation are key attributes that are taught across grade levels,” Sutherland said in a statement. “These skills are the core of the district’s character education programming, and are nurtured in classrooms and school-wide programs.”

One of Richards’ primary concerns is bus safety, she said.

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade ride the buses together, Richards said.

“There are no bus monitors,” she added.

Two bus aides are listed on the school district website.

Last week, Richards’ daughter, who she declined to name, alleged she was bullied by middle school children on the bus. Aimee Richards said she believes the bullying is in part racially motivated.

“Last week my daughter was called a n***** on the school bus while she and her small group of bus mates were also called pussies, bitches and sluts by a young middle school student,” Richards said in a statement. “All [has been] corroborated by other students and the bus video. He was suspended from the bus until the end of this week, my daughter was interviewed by the School Resource Officer and the school met with the family. The school also filed A Dignity for All Students Act report as it was racially motivated and included sexual orientation as the middle school student prompted his kindergarten brother to call the group of children ‘gay’ repeatedly.”

The state’s Dignity for All Students Act prohibits bullying, harassment, discrimination or cyberbullying based on race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender, Sutherland said.

“If a student, parent, or teacher notifies the District about behavior that intersects with these categories, a DASA investigation is conducted,” she said.

Since Richards took her story public, a number of other parents have reached out to her telling of similar experiences.

“It has been an eye-opening experience,” she said.

Richards contacted elementary school principal Peter Mahan to deliver a list of requests she had.

“I asked them to provide me with what their plan of discipline is in regard to the school’s No Tolerance policy and Code of Conduct,” Richards said.

When asked what the students’ consequences would be, Sutherland said a student’s disciplinary records are confidential under FERPA.

“The Code of Conduct addresses inappropriate student behavior, and is presented to the public on an annual basis. Possible violations of the Code of Conduct are investigated, and consequences and/or preventative strategies are implemented based on the findings,” Sutherland said. “As outlined in the District Code of Conduct, disciplinary action, when necessary, will be fair and consistent so as to be the most effective in changing student behavior, and consequences will be progressive. This means that a student’s first violation will usually merit a different consequence than subsequent violations.”

Richards has also requested a meeting with all of the administrators of the district and an apology from Sutherland.

“She told me, these are the kinds of things that happen on school buses,” Richards said.

When asked for comment on Richards remarks, Sutherland said the district was focused on working together with the families.

“Despite concerns to the contrary, all of our conversations with parents were focused on offering support and the best information that was available at that time,” Sutherland said. “I believe that bus behavior should be held to the same standard as behavior within our school buildings. Members of the administrative team called the reporting families as soon as they were made aware of the concerns. The district leadership team worked with our School Resource Officer and other representatives from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office to make certain that the investigation was initiated as quickly and thoroughly as possible. We want to partner with families; our goal is to support Greenville school district families and children.”

The district is lacking in bullying intervention training, Richards said.

“We can’t have a full-time mental health counselor from Greene County but we can repave the elementary school parking lot, get a new track and put in a new playground,” Richards said. ”We have a planning team for students with high intelligence. Why not have a planning team for bullying or children with mental health issues?”

The school encourages bullying intervention and awareness through assemblies, classroom lessons, school-wide character education programs, intervention groups that encourage social skill development, and presentations designed to build community, Sutherland said.

“Students are taught that the skills that we use inside the building are the same skills that are to be used during lunch, recess, in classrooms and on the school bus,” she said.

The school has a variety of staff members dedicated to meeting the needs of students, Sutherland said.

“In addition to teachers, support staff, and administration, students have access to a variety of support services including school counselors, school psychologists, registered nurses as well as the School Resource Officer.”

Richards has asked the district to provide her daughter with a separate bus if there will be no bus monitor, she said.

“If they cannot guarantee he will not be on the same bus as her, provide a separate bus or a bus monitor, I have requested they pay to send my daughter to another district, which of course she does not want because she doesn’t want to leave her friends,” Richards said.

Richards has requested her daughters’ absences from school be considered excused for her safety and well being.

Richards plans to speak about her experiences dealing with bullying in the district at the board of education meeting Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Richards thinks the district is trying to contain her, she said.

“I have been contacted by the PTA" she said, adding that the vice president of the PTA and the board of education have been in contact with each other. “I believe they want to hold a separate meeting to deal with this.”