Let’s hope other students were paying attention Friday when Dougherty County School System officials dealt with a bullying situation by sending one of the bullies to the system’s alternative school and punishing the remaining six who were found to be involved in the incident.
The decision by Westover High School William Chunn involved seven students who traveled with 29 others to Tallahassee to attend a university basketball camp. At the hotel, the one student was the target of the seven others, with the Dougherty County School System police finding he was “indeed physically and verbally abused and bullied.”
The report by DCSS Police Chief Investigator J.C. Phillips found that “the level of physical bullying involved the student having his glasses, bed sheets and pillows taken from him. When his pillow was taken from him, he was struck with it several times. On the following day, a third teammate in the hotel room who had witnessed the incident told the rest of the team about it and it instigated further mischievous conduct. While at the FSU Civic Center, there were three other teammates that were identified to be throwing items (Cheetos) at the complaintant while seated in the bleachers.
“This was clearly done with the intent to further taunt and harass the complaintant. While on the bus traveling back to Albany, the bus video clearly indicates the verbal taunting continued from certain team members. Based on the forensic interview and the totality of the investigation, it is clear the student was indeed bullied and possibly emotionally traumatized.”
The intimidation spilled into the Internet. “In reference to the allegations of cyber bullying,” Phillips found, “there was one student that posted a comment on twitter (sic) referencing the bullying/harassing. The comment that posted was threatening, but did not rise to the level of ‘terroristic threats and acts.’”
It did, however, rise to the level of the victim’s father taking him out of the school system. Last week the teen moved to Sherwood Christian Academy.
This may come across to some as just a kids-will-be-kids event, and Manswell Peterson has been critcized by some as overreacting. The investigation into the incident was prompted by Peterson’s complaint about the treatment his son endured.
To be clear, Peterson did exactly what he should have done under those circumstances. His son was targeted, attacked, mistreated and outnumbered. Peterson did not allow that to continue. He demanded that the situation be addressed by those in authority. He stood up for his son, and he should be commended for demonstrating how to be a good father.
“I feel they just sent a strong message that bullying will not be tolerated in the Dougherty County School System,” Peterson said. “It could have been more, but their actions today shows they took the situation seriously. They brought the hammer down and definitely sent a message.”
It’s a message that needs to be sent, and sent clearly. While this incident didn’t rise to the level of criminal acts, the next one might. If it is seen that bullying can have negative impact on the bully, it may give him pause to reconsider. We would imagine that being kicked off the Westover basketball team and taking classes at the alternative school were not the results this one teen had in mind when he grabbed the victim’s glasses or hit him with the pillow.
The teen years are difficult enough without the added stress of being bullied. There have been numerous reports over the years of violence by bullies and victims with lost hope who, faced with another day of abuse, made tragic choices not to see that day. It should never come to that.
Kids, indeed, should be kids. But they should never be allowed to be bullies who take the fun out being a kid away from another.
— The Albany Herald Editorial Board