Father protests school's response (video)
Oct. 5, 2012 at 5:05 a.m.
Updated Oct. 6, 2012 at 5:06 a.m.
Sandwiched between two white poster boards, Randy Duke marched the sidewalk outside Cade Middle School.
Black letters read, "Bullying victims are punished here."
The Cade parent was outside the school Friday morning protesting the decision to send his son, Max Duke, to the Mitchell Guidance Center.
The 14-year-old was sent to the center after getting into a fight with another student in art class, Duke said.
The father asserted the student whom Max fought was a longtime bully who has physically and verbally bullied his son since the sixth grade.
School officials declined to comment about the handling of the disciplinary issue, citing privacy laws.
Duke said his son felt fighting back was his only option. "They had to tear the bully off my son," he said.
The Navy veteran returned to Victoria from the Middle East on Tuesday after training Afghan police officers for the past year.
"I left one war and came back to another," Duke said as he received waves and supportive honks from passing cars. "This is not about this one bully; this is about the school district not standing up and doing something about it."
The father said he was looking forward to seeing his son perform with the Victoria West High School band on Friday.
But disciplinary action is keeping the eighth-grader out of the show, he said.
"He's crushed," Duke said. "Band was helping him get out of his shell, get good grades, but now he's back to being an introvert."
As of Friday morning, the father said he had been in three meetings in two days with school officials.
"It was more of a pacification process," he said.
During the father's Friday morning protest, Brent Knalls and his family stopped to thank Duke.
"I like what he's doing," Knalls said. "We're from East Texas. This would have been handled there. Here it's been ignored."
The district has detailed procedures for handling bullying and fighting. One option is for sending students participating in a fight to the Mitchell Guidance Center for 30 days.
The monthlong sentence to Mitchell cannot be appealed, said Victoria school district spokeswoman Diane Boyett.
"There are restrictions placed on the district as to how long that placement can be for," Boyett wrote, citing the Education Code and the Student Code of Conduct.
After a formal bullying complaint is made, it is forwarded to campus administrators for an investigation, which involves gathering statements from those involved and witnesses.
By policy, the investigation should be finished within 10 days, Boyett said.
In July, the Victoria school board expanded its bullying policy to allow a transfer of the bully, instead of the victim, as an option for school administrators. VISD employees and students also underwent training on handling bullying at the beginning of the school year.
"We expanded the policy to say that the bully can be moved, which in my mind makes a great deal of sense," school board president Tami Keeling said.
She said she was confident in the district's updated policies and handling of bullying.
Boyett said transferring a student is considered only after other options have been explored.
"You're just moving the problem," Boyett said. "We're trying to address behaviors, so students can learn in those young years that is not acceptable behavior."