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The bullied take a stand at community meeting

By chirst
Oct. 18, 2012 at 5:18 a.m.
Updated Oct. 19, 2012 at 5:19 a.m.

Randy Duke, a father who protested his son's punishment as a victim of bullying, welcomes community members to a meeting held at the Victoria Mall Community Room Thursday evening about bullying at VISD.

How to recognize bullied victims

• They come home from school with torn or dirty clothing.

• They have cuts, bruises or scratches.

• They have few if any friends.

• They seem afraid to go to school or often complain about headaches or stomach pains.

•  They lose interest in school work and seem sad, moody or depressed.

Source: Louis Geigerman, founder of the National ARD/IEP Advocates

Cheyenne Nalls, a junior at Victoria West High School, had an anxiety attack at school Thursday.

"I couldn't breathe, I started crying, my chest was hurting," Nalls said, describing her walk to the nurses' office.

Though she had never had an attack before, Cheyenne thinks it was brought on by relentless bullying at school.

"It is the same girl, and I'm dealing with the same stuff over and over again," Cheyenne said. "When I stand up and try to stop her, it just gets worse."

Cheyenne said another student at the school spreads rumors about her, posts comments about her on Facebook and calls her on her phone to harass her.

To find a solution, Cheyenne and her mother, Stephanie Nalls, came to the bullying awareness event Thursday night in the Victoria Mall Community Room.

The event was planned by Randy Duke, parent of Max Duke, a Cade Middle School student who was sent to the Mitchell Guidance Center after reportedly defending himself against bullying.

Duke, a veteran contractor in Afghanistan, then protested at Cade Middle School and took the issue up with school administrators.

"Fortunately for me, we had a positive outcome and things are progressing for us, but that is because the communication happened," Duke told the crowd of about 20. "So that is what I have to give to everyone - you have to find that one person who will listen to you, for me that was the superintendent."

Nalls said she has been talking to the principal at West, but wants to make sure she doesn't let up the pressure.

"It makes me feel helpless, if the school isn't going to do anything, and I can't be there," Nalls said.

She urged the parents in the crowd to stand up for their children.

"If you have to look like the crazy nut job, that is what you do," Nalls said. "They are our babies."

Louis Geigerman, founder of the National ARD/IEP Advocates, presented at the meeting definitions of bullying, how to recognize bullying and what action students and parents should take against bullying.

Geigerman also compared the new Texas anti-bullying law with Victoria ISD policies. He said they are compliant, but that the website should be clear that students who use reasonable defenses against a bully cannot be punished under the law.

Because the awareness meeting was scheduled during a school board meeting, Diane Boyett, spokeswoman for the school district, said Superintendent Robert Jaklich asked Trey Edwards, principal at Mitchell Guidance Center, to represent the district at the meeting.

"You need to talk to your principals," Edwards said. "There is an administrator dedicated to investigating this and Mr. Jaklich is instrumental to making some real changes in procedures this year. If it is not dealt with on the campus, he wanted me to tell you to contact him because he wants to fix that."

Edwards encouraged the audience to report bullying online and told them about counseling through the district for students.

Nalls said she is concerned that after Duke returns to Afghanistan, the anti-bullying movement in Victoria will lose momentum.

She wants to look at organizing student groups to teach anti-bullying at the elementary level and keep the conversation going.

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