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9OYS bullying investigation triggers barrage of viewer feedback

Rebecca and her third grade son.

9OYS bullying investigation triggers barrage of viewer feedback

CREATED Mar 23, 2012

Notes by:  Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director

This week's KGUN9 News investigation into the case of a third grader who told a teacher he wanted to kill himself because of bullying was the top-commented story of the week. In fact, viewers blew our doors off with a flood of feedback.  The report was also the top-clicked item of the day, outpacing the second most popular story on KGUN9.com by a margin of more than six to one.

Clearly, this is a topic in which viewers are very, very interested.

The short version of this latest story is that Rebecca (KGUN9 news is withholding her last name and the name of her son) is not happy with the way Math and Science Success Academy, a Tucson area charter school, is handling her son's bullying complaint.  As has happened with many parents before from all around Tucson, her frustration led her to contact 9 On Your Side.  Her tactics in  handling her complaint have not endeared her to administrators.  The day the KGUN9 News story was to air, school administrators called police and asked officers to remove her from campus.  In doing so, a caller from the school stated that she was refusing to leave, described her behavior as "volatile" and referenced a letter that the school considered threatening.  Rebecca and her husband had sent that letter nine days earlier, but the school had not previously complained about it to police.

Past bullying stories have provoked strong responses from viewers, but this one has drawn the most vigorous reaction to date.  As is typical of past stories, some commenters passionately defend the school in question; others defend the parent and/or press for action on the bullying issue; and some continue the bullying with more personal attacks.   KGUN9 deletes the latter type of comment if and when we see them.  Below is a sample of some of the rest.

"xazothia" -- "The mom needs to get her child to a DOCTOR - a psychologist - regarding the suicidal thoughts, and then send her child to a different school."

"rebbel1973" -- "Getting the student help is one thing, but what about getting a solution to the problem. The bullies just keep on bullying while the victims have to find new schools? I don't think that sounds fair."

"Ohana:" -- "I have 2 children that attend this school. I have to say that I'm a little outraged on how people are attacking the school and it's administrators. I have great respect for the school, its academics, the administrators and faculty.  It takes a lot for them to do what they do, which is educate our kids, our future.  And we all know they don't get paid enough to. Sure, my kids have had some issues at the school, which I am very aware of, and I get involved. That's what it takes."

"actrs02" -- "My DD is in K @ MASSA, & she has had NUMEROUS problems with bullies.  She has had boys pushing her, pulling her hair, & throwing rocks & sand in her face.  I have reported it each time, & all they tell me is that 'It is being dealt with.'"

"Staffmember" -- "As staff at the school, I would like to say that it is unfair the way this is being depicted. We handle all concerns to the best of our abilities and I have never seen a case of bullying being tolerated in any of the classrooms here.  We see that our admin is being grilled, but how about both sides? Is everything alright at the home of the parent? Where are the parents of the children accused of bullying and maybe they have their own story. These questions are never asked."

"chele05" -- "My child also attends MASSA and I'm a little upset with the negativity that this story has brought to a wonderful school. I'm sorry but, bullying is a common thing in schools all over the world. It is not just our school!  You either have a child that has the ability to stand up for themselves or you don’t. Me personally, I would have removed my child from an environment that I felt was abusive to him first, before taking it to the news!"

"Thinkhappythoughts" -- "Life is full of ups and downs, what you focus on is what life brings you. My children attend this school and have also attended other schools, and there are problems in every school. We focused on the good and not the bad and we keep getting 'Good.'  It's what you focus on in life.  NOT the schools fault, nor the teachers'! Now that the NEWS was informed how did that solve the PROBLEM?????"

"thinksmart" -- "You are right, involving the news doesn't solve the problem.  But it forces school to FINALLY do something.  It is easy to 'think happy thoughts' when it is not your kid who is getting bullied.  Let's just close our eyes and pretend everything is great."

"coco1212" -- "I have 2 children and 2 nieces that go to MASSA since it opened its doors. This is an amazing school the staff are like family. They have been there for many families. This is a respectable school."

"Kids09" -- "My kids also attend MASSA, and I love it.  We all think our kids are the best, but to someone else they can be annoying or a spoiled brat. Personalities are bound to clash. Even as adults we all have a mean side for those we can't deal with."

"Say It Proudly" -- "Why oh why, aren’t bullies identified and put on the spot! Warned the first time, sent home second time, then if they continue, expelled and find another school. Unless bullies feel consequence they won’t stop it. Target and weed out the bullies!  I was bullied daily as a child. Understand this is there world they walk, breath and survive in every day. No reaction by a concerned parent is too extreme. And children are reluctant to come forward because they fear it will only get worse."

"Ruth69" -- "This school is absolutely amazing. There is no other description for it. I am a witness that there is no tolerance for questionable behavior and anything that comes up is handled quickly and appropriately, I have absolutely no complaints."

"one [deleted] mama" -- "As a parent of a child who also attends this institution that is called a school, I have to admit that the curriculum here is really great. However, everything else is shockingly below par. My child has been continuously bullied by his teacher and nothing is done. When approached about my concerns, all the school wants to discuss is my child's behavior, when I am clearly there to discuss the abusive teacher, mentally and physically. I would much rather send my child to public school than for my child to have to deal with abusive teachers and staff who could care less!"

"Concerned in USA" -- "He's in third grade and eight years old. Why are you all trying to condone bullying? It's not okay. The parents are challenging the process the administration takes to handle these bullying incidents. Focus on the issue, bullying not academics."

"madamesnickers1" -- "My child goes to this school as well and even though he has never been bullied I still agree with everything that the mother has tried to do in order to help her child. It's unfortunate that the school isn't as supportive as they should be."

"Looking 4 Money" -- "The bullying continues! Except that now its the parents that are being bullied by the school system for freedom of speech! I am sorry that the school systems do not have the gumption to own up to their problems, that won't go away by ignoring them."

"Just Ask" -- "Well first I am grown and glad that the parent is involved and always there, shows she is caring for her child and if she was a threat to the school why is the school doing something about it now, now that she went to the news????????????????????"

Carlotta Alyssa King (via Facebook):  "This is why bullying needs to stop! People need to take this more seriously. I know what it feels like to be bullied and I've also thought about killing myself so I understand how this 5th grader is feeling. I hope bullying stops soon!"

Linda Clark Lazzeroni (via Facebook):  "I think that for every bully there are parents/family/teachers who do not take it seriously. I think the bullying is so bad that those who are on the receiving end are too scared to speak up and, furthermore, many don't know that there are a myriad of ways in which people bully others. It isn't just kids, either."

Cody Blue Garcia (via Facebook):  "Should not take any talk like that lightly.  The 7 year old across the street from my sisters hung himself after a school fight."

Johncarrie Sanchez (via Facebook):  "Well the same was happening to my kids at Cross Middle School and the reply I got from the principal is that this 'bullying' is being used for every little problem, and believes everyone is blowing the 'bullying' stigma way out of portion.  What would you tell her, KGUN9?"

In answer to Johncarrie's question, it's not KGUN9's role to "tell" that principal anything.  But it is our job to ask questions, so we'd ask this one:   Given the fact that police have said four Tucson area students have killed themselves this school year amid bullying, precisely how do you know when it's safe to dismiss a bullying complaint as a "little problem"?

I would suspect that the principal couldn't answer that question.  That doesn't mean the principal is in any way unprofessional.  KGUN9 can't answer the question, either.  Bullying is a thorny issue.  We have found thus far in our ongoing investigation that sorting out the truth from the fiction, and the dangerous cases from the frivolous ones, is not easy.  In fact, it's damned difficult.  Further, practices, procedures and training for accomplishing those tasks vary from district to district, and from school to school within districts. 

Yet no one can deny that some cases are serious.  That is why so many of our viewers have asked 9 On Your Side to continue exploring this issue, and why we have agreed to do so, in the hopes that a better informed community will lead, eventually, to better public policy.

That's our view.  What's yours?  Post your comments here or on our Facebook page.