Fayette parent charges cyber bullying – in the 4th grade
The parent of a 9-year-old girl at a Fayette County elementary school told The Citizen last week that his daughter had been the victim of cyber-bullying through a website put online by one of her classmates in the fourth grade.
Jerome Lewis maintains that the school and school system have not adequately addressed the issue. The school system said the issue has been investigated, saying that the situation is outside their jurisdiction.
Lewis maintains that his daughter’s male classmate posted a message on a blog site that had derogatory comments about her, then told some of their classmates at school. Lewis said he found out about the website from his daughter on Wednesday, March 2, but was subsequently told by school officials that the school found out about the site two days earlier, on Monday.
The site, which was posted on Feb. 25 and taken down by March 4, contained several sentences Lewis insisted had targeted his daughter in a patently derogatory way. Those comments read:
“(Lewis’ daughter) yells, she is a firkin idiot, she pulls on your shirt, and she hits and kicks. She is a beeeeeeeeep which means bad words. This is all true. Do not be her friend. Do not be around her,” the posting said.
“I should never have to hear about something like this from my child when the school knew about it for days,” Lewis said. “This is bullying and harassment. For me, this is the beginning of what these kids commit suicide for. Nobody knows my daughter’s tolerance level. Who is making a judgment that she won’t harm herself?”
Admittedly frustrated, Lewis said he contacted the elementary school principal and school system discipline director C.W. Campbell about what he maintains is a clear case of cyber-bullying.
“The principal said she did a preliminary investigation with central office. She said they can’t do anything about it because the website was created at the boy’s home,” Lewis said. “How do we know it was created at home and what difference does it make?”
Lewis said he told Campbell that the situation is unmistakably an issue of cyber-bullying that was initiated on the Internet and was brought into the school setting when the boy who allegedly created the website told other children about it while at school.
“The kid was using some of the same language at school,” Lewis said. “If it isn’t bullying, it’s a step away from it and I’m not going to let it rest.”
Commenting on the situation, school system spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach said the school system determined that the website was created outside of school property and it “was out of our jurisdiction since it wasn’t created at school.”
Pertaining to any conversation at school about the website, Berry-Dreisbach said the teachers did not hear any of the other children talking about it, adding that Lewis’ daughter did go to a teacher after she was told about the website.
“When we found out, we looked into it. We didn’t drag our heels. We determined that it was created off of the school campus,” Berry-Dreisbach said. “There’s nothing more that could be done. Whenever things are brought to our attention, as soon as they are brought to our attention, there is an investigation done no matter what kind of rumor it may be.”
Lewis on March 4 took his concerns to Peachtree City police. Lewis laid out the scenario for officers and expressed interest in obtaining a restraining order, according to information included in a Georgia Open Records Law request by The Citizen. Lewis was given information to put him in touch with a local organization that assists residents seeking to obtain legal instruments such as restraining orders.
The police report also noted that Lewis was told that officers could not require the boy’s parents to contact or meet with him. Officers also told Lewis that Georgia has no current law on cyber-bullying.
The report also included a record of the officer’s contact with the boy’s father.
The boy’s father said that, “throughout the school year, (Lewis’ daughter) has yelled at his son, pulled his clothes, hit him, and that his son created the blog in response to these issues. He further stated that he has tried to have his son moved to another class but that the school would not,” the report said.
It should be noted that, beyond the allegations stated above, the existence of bullying and cyber-bullying is a growing issue faced across Georgia and the United States. The Fayette County School System less than a year ago held yet another a community workshop on the issues surrounding bullying.
Conducted by consultant Dr. Michael Carpenter, the May 2010 community workshop at Sams Auditorium was attended by only 75 people, most of whom were employees of the school system.
“Why is this place not filled up today?” Carpenter asked rhetorically. ”I’m not surprised. The people who need to be here aren’t.”