Victoria parents stand up against bullying (w/video)
May 22, 2014 at 12:22 a.m.
Cobie Adams, a sixth-grader at Patti Welder Middle School, recounts his experience with bullying at a bullying protest Thursday outside the Victoria school district Administration Building.
IF YOU GO
• WHAT: Bullying Awareness Rally hosted by Parents Against Bullying in VISD
• WHEN: 9 a.m. May 31
• WHERE: Hopkins Park, 505 S. Laurent St.
WHAT IS BULLYING?
The state of Texas defines bullying as something that occurs when a student or group of students engages in written or verbal expression through electronic methods or physical conduct against each another student on school property, at a school-sponsored or related-activity or in a district operated vehicle and the behavior:
• Results in harm to the student or a student's property;
• Places a student in reasonable fear of physical harm or of damage to the student's property, or;
• Is so severe, persistent and pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment.
This conduct is considered bullying if it exploits an imbalance of power between the student perpetrators and the student victim and if it interferes with a student's education or substantially disrupts the operation of a school.
Cobie Adams, a sixth-grader at Patti Welder Middle School, stood outside the Victoria school district Administration Building on Thursday morning and held up a sign that read, "Bullying needs to stop, enough is enough."
"These parents are standing up for a good reason," Cobie, 12, said. School officials should discipline the bullies more, he added.
The student was accompanied by about 22 parents and grandparents who voiced concerns about bullying and how the school district identifies and disciplines bullies.
After attempting to stand up for a girl whose hair was being pulled by another boy, Cobie said, he was attacked by the boy. Afterward, he and his mother were not satisfied with the way the attacker was disciplined.
The attacker was given three days of in-school suspension, according to Melissa Garcia, Cobie's mother.
"Bullies should be given at least one week of suspension from school and one month in ISS," Garcia said.
The mother and son's complaint illustrates the challenge the school district faces with such incidents. A student cannot be suspended for more than three days, according to the Texas Education Code, Section 37.005.
In addition, school officials cannot share the punishment of individual students because of federal privacy laws.
Garcia said she was fearful of letting her son return to school after the attack and felt her son's case had not been taken seriously.
District officials did not address the protesters directly but encouraged all parents to take their concerns first to their campus principal. After the protesters left, officials spoke with the media about how they handle bullying.
Tammy Nobles, VISD director of student services, said the safety of students is not taken lightly by the district.
"We want them to feel safe at all times," Nobles said. "They can't learn if they don't."
As of Thursday, the district has confirmed nine cases of bullying this school year, Nobles said.
The flowchart helps campus administrators determine whether inappropriate behavior falls under the state's definition of bullying, Nobles said.
"The chart does a really good job," Nobles said. "I want to reassure parents that we're going to deal with inappropriate behavior according to district policy, whether or not it meets the definition of bullying."
To report a bullying case, a parent can either speak to the campus principal directly or fill out an incident reporting form, Nobles said.
This year, 29 incident reports have been processed through the administration building.
"We want to make it cut and dry for the parents, but every case is different for each student," Nobles said.
Protesters moved to the Cactus Canyon parking lot off Navarro Street for about an hour Thursday morning. They returned to protest at the administration building, where they remained until 2 p.m., protest organizer Michelle Robinson said.
The group was not addressed by school administrators, Robinson said.
"I don't understand why they wouldn't even acknowledge the fact that we were even there," Robinson said. "They're supposed to be our support system."
Jeannie Decker, the grandmother of a Smith Elementary School student, said parents have become distrustful of district administrators when it comes to identifying bullying.
Decker suggested appointing parent volunteers to represent their views for each campus.
"The PTA is there, but they are there to raise money for whatever the school needs," Decker said. "We need a volunteer advocate."
Superintendent Robert Jaklich said the communication needs to occur between parents and campus principals.
"We need to work together with parents. It needs to start there," Jaklich said. "We are committed to do our part to provide information."