Parents options for addressing bullying at Ohio schools

Every year it’s estimated that ten percent, or over 160,000 students in Ohio being bullied on a consistent basis. The Centers for Disease Control says bullying is a serious public health problem and the best people to address it are school administrators, teachers, coaches, and staff who are in contact with students on a daily basis.

Katrice Boudry said, “My daugther Kaziah, an honor roll student loves learning, but didn’t want to go to school after bullying increased at Campbell Middle School. It made her feel so bad in a depressed state. There were nights I would hold my child in my arms and she would just cry, dreading to go to school the next day.” We are not showing video WFMJ news obtained of a girl in class who hit Kaziah since minors are involved. “It hurt me physically and it made my stomach hurt real bad,” said Kaziah. Her mom says the girl was taunting her daughter saying, “I know you’re afraid of me.” “I know you’re scared.”

Campbell’s Superintendent Matthew Bowen was emphatic saying, “All incidents of bullying are addressed but, it’s important that parents understand, by law administrators can not share the outcome or disciplinary action taken against a student. We would like to give parents closure. We understand they want closure, but we can’t give that to them because these are children.”

If you believe your child is not in a supportive learning environment parents can contact their child’s principal. If you put your complaint in writing there can be no misunderstanding what was communicated, or when. Follow up to check if the principal read your complaint. If you have no results and no one contacts you back to let you know they received your complaint and are investigating, there are many options for parents which include:

Contact the superintendent
Bring bullying up at public board meetings and to the attention of board members
File a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education
File a report with your community’s police department
Check out charter or home schooling
Move your child and state dollars to a district with open enrollment

Kaziah’s brother believes if his sister, or other students who are bullied, have to move to another school, that would only punish the person being bullied. “That’s just making it like the mean girls win,” said Kalen Boudrey. .

Boudrey tells WFMJ news last year a girl took a picture of her daughter at school, which was unknown to her daughter, then posted false vulgar statements on a social media site. She believes the girl should have been suspended. Austintown school district have suspended students for a first incidence of cyber-bullying in the past. Campbell’s school superintendent said the district was not made aware of the post until over a month later. Districts still have an obligation to investigate. School districts across the state can work with the local law enforcement, or their human resource officers to file a request that evidence is preserved, then get a civil subpoena through the court to obtain information that many kids and adults think no longer exists.

All districts should review anti-bullying policies with students, and have them posted prominently. Policies should address how, and to whom, complaints should be made. They should be easy to understand and enforced consistently by teachers, coaches, administrators and staff. Superintendent Bowen said, “If you talk with superintendents across school districts you will find there is more of a problem with bullying in the middle school grades. We will be bringing an anti-bullying program to our district that is tailored to girls in middle school, and we are working on an anti-bullying forum for our parents and students.”

The Ohio safer schools website is a good source of information on what bullying is, responsibilities of school staff members, administrators, and parents. Parents or students can submit complaints by leaving the information about bullying or serious matters, by leaving their name and contact information for a later follow-up, or they can leave the information and remain anonymous. The site states calls or texts to 844-SaferOH (844-723-3764) are answered by analysts in the Ohio Homeland Security’s Threat Assessment and Prevent or TAP unit. If action is needed immediately the TAP Unit forwards information to local law enforcement immediately. Ohio’s Department of Education says TAP Unit analysts always follow up with the affected school and law enforcement agencies to make sure the incident is investigated, action is taken, and the outcome is tracked.

Mental health professionals recommend parents talk with their children, find out why a child or teen doesn’t want to go to school, and to take reports of bullying seriously.