Is A Bullying Problem at River Road Schools Being Swept Under the Rug?
Bullying exists in this world, and it's sad. It seems that no matter what is done, the bullies seem to win. How, as parents, can we help defeat this problem in our schools? How much control do we really have?
A potential bullying problem in the River Road School District was recently brought to my attention. I heard multiple stories from parents about their children being continuously bullied and nothing being done. I also had a chance to sit down and speak with River Road Superintendent Richard Kelly.
It all began when I received a video of a recent fight at River Road, because of the ages of the children in the video, we won't be posting it. It was a very violent fight.
The mother and father of the boy said that he had a CAT scan after the fight and he had a concussion, sprained wrist, swollen nose, and black eyes.
"The school said they are handling it but couldn't tell me per the school policy of a minor."
They were able to meet with the investigating deputy who told the mother that the instigator would no longer be on campus for the rest of the year.
The mother went on to say that three other boys are still threatening to hurt her son if he doesn't drop the charges.
I started researching what River Road was doing about bullying and I found out that they had created a couple of videos explaining why and how they are addressing bullying in RRISD.
Superintendent of River Road ISD, Richard Kelly, posted the following video on bullying
He followed up with how they investigate bully situations.
I asked Mr. Kelly about this particular fight,
I can't talk about the details of that particular situation. But a lot of times, principals have to put on their detective hats. And they've got to do a lot of you got to look and see what's the video not telling us? What led up to that situation? So you start questioning students, you start questioning families, and you start pulling video from around the campus to try to retrace the steps that led up to that bathroom situation....Our Potter County Sheriff's deputies got involved….in a situation where we have two kids that do what's called mutual combat. They just agree to throw down…And it just depends on the child. It depends on the track record of that child and Child A has nothing on their discipline folder. Their punishment might be a little different than child B who this is their third or fourth fight. So you got to look at everything.
Mom Natasha said:
We have had problems at the high school (River Road) and Rolling Hills.
Three boys tried to jump my 10-year-old and when I went up there they told me that if he defends himself he would be in ISS as well. I said Hell No!
They told him to just keep walking away.
They told my son he will get charged if he defends himself.
Again nope!!! This has been happening for months. And I'll be damned if it continues. And the kids at the high school, the principals won't do anything. They told my son he will get charged if he defends himself. I'm so over it.
What happens to a child if they try to defend themselves?
Mr. Kelly said that
[Sometimes] people mistake school rules with criminal and Penal Code law. And so every now and then I'll get a parent that will say, my child has a right to defend themselves that's in the penal code. Yes, you're right. Penal Code does say that. But this isn't a criminal thing that we're looking at here. This is a school rule. And so when the school rule says that you need to do ABC, that is what we're focusing on. We're not charging your child with breaking the law. We're charging your child with not following school policy.
Reports of an incident where a 9th grader broke up a fight between his friend and another boy and received three days of ISS. The other boy grabbed his arm and wouldn't let go so he pushed him. The boys that were fighting only got two days.
I asked Mr. Kelly about kids defending friends and trying to break up a fight:
There have been times even when I was a principal where the video showed somebody really was trying to break up a fight for that person, there was no punishment. Then I've seen many, many videos where, okay, you say you were trying to break up a fight but then you broke his nose and you busted his lip open. So how are you breaking up the fight by contributing to the fight? And so again, it comes down to sometimes the school and the parents don't agree.
Follow up with Anthony, the father of this boy: We did have an issue with it. He did defend a friend and got a harsher punishment than the two fighting. But it was publicly stated
the school had to do what they did, and I agreed with a punishment.
that after it all came to light, that my son's actions were excessive. He wasn't in trouble at home, but the school had to do what they did, and I agreed with a punishment.
Barron said his daughter was getting bullied and he tried to get something done but nothing happened. Instead, he taught her how to defend herself. After defending herself she got in trouble but the bullying stopped. He did say he regretted teaching her how to fight.
However, something that piqued my interest was some of the stories I hear about the teachers bullying the students.
April said that:
We could NEVER get anyone to take anything serious at the high school (River Road). It seemed like the more the parent got involved their student started getting bulled by the staff.
I addressed the Teacher bullying issue with Mr. Kelly.
He said the parent needs to go through the process of speaking with the principal. The principal will try to set up a meeting to discuss the concerns of both the parent and the teacher.
If I've got a teacher that is genuinely bullying a child, that teacher is not going to be a River Road teacher for very long. But again, we owe it to that teacher. You have to be able to prove that is going on. And so we look for patterns
Follow up with Anthony, the father of a 7th grader that broke his leg in a school football game, and had to miss 30 days of school. “When he got back to school, he was overwhelmed trying to catch up as well as complete his homework. Once he got to that point, he just shut down himself. He's like, I'm not catching up. So we talked to the school and actually made the decision to withdraw him and homeschool. He's actually going to reenter back into the seventh grade next year. So that was a collective decision. We thought it was best for him, and the school agreed. We have had issues over the years but our issues have been resolved."
When it comes to bullying what training do the Teachers get?
Mr. Kelly told us that their staff members go through a lot of training. Training that deals with child abuse and neglect. Cybersecurity training that deals with bullying and anti-bullying programs. They go through it on an ongoing basis. Even the school bus drivers are even trained on bullying.
How can the students help with bullying?
We also want to teach our kids to start being more of a self advocate because when they leave school people are under the assumption that when kids leave school, that they never have to deal with bullying ever again. And we all know that just not that it's just not true. And so if we could teach children to be self advocates to step up and say, You know what, I don't like the way I'm being treated and I need to voice that concern to someone. It might help them later on in life, when they're in a job and they're being fully bullied or harassed on the job or they're in college or they're, you know, in their own social circles and we're really, really trying to find a way to best meet the needs of our kids to stop bullying and to best help parents be able to help their child.
What Are the Long-term plans for bullying at River Road?
To continue working with students to be self advocates, to continue making awareness to students we have. We actually have several of our campuses do assemblies and do in class meetings, things like that talking to students about bullying situation, not to bully things along those lines. Trying to reach out more and more to parents parents, please know what your student is doing on their smartphone. Parents, please look and see what your child is doing at home on the internet, things along those lines. And communicate with the school when things aren't going right and we've had some parents do that. We want to be more proactive.
River Road is trying to be more aware of bullying situations.
Parents and/or students here are the basic steps you can take:
- Report bullying to the teacher
- If it isn't being taken care of talk with the principal and set up a meeting
- If you are not satisfied with the steps being taken take it to the Superintendents office
- If that fails, bring it before the school board.
If you are concerned about the backlash your student might receive in a bullying situation you can always report it anonymously or you could choose to leave your info.
As I was finishing up this article, I received word from one of the parents.
She had followed the steps listed above and also talked to the principal. According to her the principal, "didn't seem too concerned, she wanted to trespass my husband when he was handling something after school involving our daughter."
The parent has stated that she will be making an appointment with the district superintendent.
However, when visiting with Anthony in a follow up he stated that:
If you have issues go to the school board meeting. I will go with you and stand with you. We've got all our issues resolved. If you have issues don't be scared to voice it. Let's handle it and I'll stand right beside you. They're making changes in the right direction. I mean, I don't always agree with the changes. But you can see that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There's changes going in the right direction.
What About Amarillo ISD?
Let's face it, bullying takes place at every school and every district. If it seems that we have focused only on River Road it is only because we had parents who reached out with stories and concerns. However, out of curiosity and the need for information. I reached out to Amarillo ISD to see what their policies are on bullying. Here is what they sent me:
AISD Bullying Policies:
If a student believes that he or she has experienced bullying or has witnessed bullying of another student, it is important for the student or parent to notify a teacher, school counselor, principal, or another District employee as soon as possible to obtain assistance and intervention.
Another way to report bullying is for a student to complete an online bully report. Any retaliation against a student who reports an incident of bullying is prohibited.
The administration will investigate any allegations of bullying and related misconduct, based on the definition of bullying which can be found on page 28 of our student handbook and on our website. The district will also provide notice to the parent of the alleged victim and the parent of the student alleged to have engaged in bullying. If the results of an investigation indicate that bullying has occurred, the administration will take appropriate disciplinary action and may notify law enforcement in certain circumstances. Disciplinary or other action may be taken even if the conduct did not rise to the level of bullying.
Available counseling options will be provided to these individuals, as well as to any students who have been identified as witnesses to the bullying.
They encouraged the students and parents and staff to read the following:
Here's what I will end with, parents and guardians, it begins with us. It starts with us teaching our kids right and wrong. It is also our responsibility to keep an eye on our kids by checking their phones and their social media. It means teaching our kids to speak. It also means speaking up for their peers. If things aren't being done to your liking even after following the steps, you have to be a squeaky wheel. Sometimes, it takes more than a phone call.
On the flip side, our school district leaders, principals and teachers have to take even the slightest sign of bullying seriously.