WSAZ Investigates: Parents Battle Against School Bullies

By: Jennifer Rizzi Email
By: Jennifer Rizzi Email

UPDATE 2/14/13 @ 11:30 p.m.
ELKVIEW, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Nearly three months ago, students and parents rallied outside Elkview Middle School to call attention to what they called a big bullying problem.

Now, parents are gathering once more, saying they're fed up and frustrated by a lack of progress from the rally.

"I'm scared for my daughter," Karrie Cunningham said. "I'm scared for the way that she feels and the thoughts all of this bullying has caused her to have."

Amanda Anderson says she's tried to every avenue to fight on behalf of her daughter after seeing her go through two years of constant cruelty.

"I'm at my wit's end," she said. "I'm tired of talking to the counselors and principals and beating my head against a bush."

Tonya Barnett-Huff leads the nonprofit group Bully-Free West Virginia. She says they've gotten 12 reports of bullying at Elkview Middle -- four of them since the start of the rally. She says that's an unusually high number.

“We try to train parents on policies and procedures they can use to take steps and make changes at their school,” she said. compared her numbers with state records from last year. They show a 6.35 percent discipline referral rate for Elkview Middle School. The highest schools in Kanawha County were John Adams Middle School with 80 referrals and Cedar Grove Middle School with a 27.08 percent referral rate.

“I think it’s a universal problem, and we certainly have put procedures in place,” Superintendent Ron Duerring said.

He said he met with school leaders at Elkview Middle following the rally. He says they’re following proper procedure, and that it takes a village to correct the problem.

“There are all kinds of ways that parents can get involved in the school to try and reduce the amount of bullying that is taking place and create an awareness campaign,” he said.

But parents at Elkview say that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.

“I love both my kids and I am not going to stand by and let them be hurt anymore and do nothing about it,” Anderson said.

Barnett-Huff says parents have certain rights when it comes to dealing with bullies.

She says you can file harassment charges with the school against a student, or assault charges if the bullying is physical.

She also says schools and students cannot retaliate against you for reporting bullying.

ELKVIEW, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A group of students and parents came together Monday night at Elkview Middle School to address what they call a bullying problem in their school and many others across the region.

"I want to see action taken," mom Amanda Anderson said. "That way my child no longer has to suffer or any child that goes here to school."

They arrived with signs ready and voices strong, soliciting support from passing vehicles. Students say they see classmates victimized time after time by bullies, even when adults are standing nearby.

"I think they should act like an adult and do something about it," student Hannah Anderson said. "They don't, and I think they should."

Garrett Cantrell, another student, agreed. "The adults [say] 'bullying is a part of life," he said. "They say, 'It's going to happen,' and they don't take any action after that."

Tanya Barnett-Huff of Bully-Free West Virginia attended the rally and says the students are hardly alone. She says bullying is a statewide problem.

"Our schools are becoming more and more crowded," Barnett-Huff said. "We're getting less teachers and less teacher aides. So it's bound to happen. But I think a lot of it is because adults are turning their heads."

Students like Mikayla Anderson hope that won't happen anymore.

"I want to see a change in the school," Anderson said. "If they're going to make a 'no bullying' policy, they need to enforce it."

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