From the New York Times (requires registration), the story of Billy Wolfe
, a kid from Fayetteville who — for reasons not quite clear — has long been a favorite target of his school's thugs, bullies, no-necks and low-foreheads. This month, Wolfe and his parents sued one of the bullies "and other John Does" and are considering a lawsuit against Fayetteville School District to force administrators to stop the abuse...
... At Woodland Junior High School, some boys in a wood shop class goaded a bigger boy into believing that Billy had been talking trash about his mother. Billy, busy building a miniature house, didn’t see it coming: the boy hit him so hard in the left cheek that he briefly lost consciousness. Ms. Wolfe remembers the family dentist sewing up the inside of Billy’s cheek, and a school official refusing to call the police, saying it looked like Billy got what he deserved. Most of all, she remembers the sight of her son. “He kept spitting blood out,” she says, the memory strong enough still to break her voice...
: The Fayetteville School District has issued a statement in response to the New York Times article about a recent lawsuit filed by bullying victim Billy Wolfe. It's strictly a kill-the-messenger type deal, accusing NYT reporter Dan Barry of ignoring their "long-standing policy of no tolerance for any type of harassment, including bullying." Thereby, the statement says, Barry succeeded in "casting our school in a very bad and undeserved light."
There's a very simple way to keep your school's dirty laundry out of the national living room: rein in the thugs, hold your staff accountable for the safety of every student, and take the steps required to make sure you don't end up with "Lord of the Flies" in your hallways. High flown rhetoric and good intentions don't do much to stop a fist, or -- God forbid -- a bullet.
Full press release on the jump:
FAYETTEVILLLE, Ark--In response to the article on bullying in the March 24, 2008 edition of the New York Times, the Fayetteville School District has issued the following statement:
The Fayetteville School District has a long-standing policy of no tolerance for any type of harassment, including bullying. The district developed policies and staff training in the 1990s to equip staff members with the skills to identify situations where harassment may be taking place and to deal with the situation in accordance with the district’s student discipline policy.
Mr. Barry was provided with this information. Unfortunately, he chose not to use it in the story, casting our school district in a very bad and undeserved light.
As is sometimes the case in a news report, the whole story is not told in Mr. Barry’s article. In fact, the whole story cannot be told, since the Federal Family and Educational Right to Privacy Act prohibits the release of any information from a student’s records to anyone other than the student’s parent or guardian. Mr. Barry mistakenly assumes that the district’s lack of comment on the issue reflects a lack of action on the part of the district.
Mr. Barry’s story would lead the reader to believe that we ignore student discipline and are insensitive to those students who are harassed. In fact, student discipline is our constant focus and EVERY incident in which the school has jurisdiction is investigated and due process is afforded all parties involved. However, it is important to note that incidents of this nature often take place off the school campus or outside the school day where the school district does not have jurisdiction.
We recognize and regret that, unfortunately, from time to time these incidents are going to occur. We work diligently to prevent harassment through education, but when it does happen, we deal with its aftermath, which involves fair treatment of all concerned.
If a student is found to be in violation of the student discipline policy, the prescribed punishment is imposed on the offender, and the victim is provided the necessary services to allow them to return to class.
Our district also utilizes officers from the Fayetteville Police Department, who are on campus every day and work with our staff members to provide a safer, more secure environment. The officers also provide training to teachers and students on bullying.
The small number of student discipline issues we have each year is a reflection of the focused learning environment in our schools. We zealously protect the learning environment, since learning cannot take place if a student is worried about his health or safety.