Letter to the editor: When it comes to bullying, parents need to speak up, hold school accountable


To the editor:

With the school year starting Aug. 9, parents, staff and administrators should be reminded of requirements associated with legislation effective July 1 that centers around bullying at schools.

This legislation was the result of prolonged intensive bullying by students and administrators of Terry Badger, a middle-schooler. The excessive bullying led Terry to die via suicide. Terry left a tape that he was being bullied. As a result of his suicide, House Bill 1483 became law.

The bill requires, among other things, that a school corporation prioritize the safety of a bullying victim. Safety is both physical and emotional pain/mental health issues that the school corporation report any act of bullying to the parents of the victim within three days and to the parents of the alleged perpetrator within five days. It requires the school corporation to implement a policy and procedure where instances of bullying allegations are always investigated.

Far too often, cases of bullying have no documentation. It also allows for school transfers depending on the severity of the bullying.

Some lawmakers believe school systems are not reporting all bullying cases brought forward by parents and students. A review of Indiana school reporting reveals approximately 60% of all schools are reporting zero instances of bullying during a school year. Zero instances of bullying by a school is considered suspicious by lawmakers.

A review of the data shows 43% of Seymour schools report no bullying instances. One school (Margaret R. Brown Elementary) for the last four years reports zero instances of bullying, which lawmakers would consider suspicious.

There is a high likelihood reported bullying cases are not being investigated, and asking for information on known cases can result in a response of “no records exist.” The current law along with parental monitoring should reduce the occurrences of undocumented investigations and reporting by Seymour schools.

What can parents do? Talk to their children about continuous bullying they are experiencing, hold the schools responsible for notifying the parent, file a bullying complaint with the school and request a copy of the complaint. If parents or their students do not receive the required documentation, ask for a copy of Seymour school corporation’s policy and procedures to address bullying along with the required notifications.

Parents should bring forward concerns to the school, attend a school board meeting or contact the Indiana Department of Education.

While this law addresses student bullying, it does not include bullying of teachers and other staff. These bullying events should be considered in future legislation.

There is no reason for a student or a teacher to lose their life due to any failure of a school corporation.

My final message for students and parents alike: Speak up and hold your school accountable.

Mary Kidwell, Seymour

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