A Clintonville couple addressed the Oct. 14 school board meeting to discuss an alleged bullying incident that took place while their child was riding a school bus.
To protect the identities of minors, the County Post East will not disclose the names of the students or their parents who were interviewed for this article.
“My child had marks on the neck and ear due to a bully grabbing my child from behind in a headlock-type hold,” said one parent. “At that point, my child may have bitten the bully; but in that situation, I fully support my child’s actions.”
Video from the on-board security camera on the bus is low quality. School administrators say the video shows that the entire incident was instigated by the child who claims to have been bullied. The parents disagree, and allege that their daughter was forced to lie about starting the fight.
“My child came home crying because of not wanting to go to hell for telling a lie,” said one parent. “My oldest child (a high school student) doesn’t go to school right now because of being bullied in the halls. I didn’t do anything about that situation, but I will do something for my younger child. I was bullied myself when I was in school, and I won’t allow my kids to be bullied.”
Clintonville Superintendent Tom O’Toole said bullying complaints are often difficult to handle, and this incident is no exception.
“The parents went on to suggest incidents from years ago that their child had allegedly experienced – yet they never made those incidents known,” said O’Toole. “A one-time incident is not necessarily a pattern of bullying, either. These situations are always messy, and involve a lot of ‘he said, she said.’”
O’Toole said Individual incidents of bullying are generally handled at the building level by the principal and staff.
“We do not have a ‘master list’ of all reported bullying incidents in the district. I can say that I have had zero complaints formally filed to me or my office by students or parents that have not been resolved at the building level,” stated O’Toole. “What one person considers bullying is not bullying at all in many cases that we investigate.”
O’Toole noted that any incident that is brought to a principal’s attention is initially considered serious enough to look into.
“There are some students who initiate their own incidents,” commented O’Toole. “The incident that was brought up at the board meeting has been resolved with a meeting between the parents, principal and other appropriate staff – as it should have been in the first place.
“The issue of bullying within the district is no more serious now than it has been in the past,” said O’Toole. “When we as parents were in school, it was called ‘picking on’, ‘hazing’, ‘harassing’, ‘intimidating’, and so on. It now all seems to fall under the heading of ‘bullying’. Those types of incidents have been occurring in schools, homes, and workplaces for many years. We have not had serious violence so far, and we do have plans in place to hopefully deal with that should it occur.”
O’Toole said cyber-bullying is a new variety, but noted that the district has not had significant instances of this type of bullying.
The effects of bullying are a main concern for the district, and O’Toole said all incidents need to be reported immediately so that situations do not worsen over time.
“Any time that an individual feels intimidated – whether it be an adult or a student – it can certainly have negative impact on their work output or their potential,” said O’Toole. “If someone feels that they have been a victim, it is not a good situation. That is why we repeatedly tell students and employees that they must report such incidents to supervisory staff.”
O’Toole said that over the years, students have been disciplined in a variety of ways as a result of inappropriate actions toward other individuals. The district has policies in place that prohibit harassment and bullying amongst students as well as staff members.