PCHS Parents Angry Over Continuing Bully Problem At High School
Marlinton, WV – The Pocahontas County Board of Education faced a small but vocal group of parents and their high school aged kids Monday night in a discussion about alleged bullying at the high school. The parents and students say a group of senior girls from all the county are bullying other students both in school and in the community. They say they’ve taken their complaints to high school Principal Tom Sanders and Dean of Students Mike Knisley, but feel their concerns are falling on deaf ears. Parent Andy Landis says the level of harassment has only increased.
“It got very difficult; Jennifer, she don’t even want to go to school,” he says. “These kids are ones that are trying to get prepared for college, they’re wanting to go to college, they’re working for their scholarships; but they’re saying they are going to quit because they can’t put up with this, it’s getting bad.”
County school attendance director Susan Borror says she attended a meeting with Landis and school Superintendent CC Lester to discuss the situation. She says out of the meeting she and Lester developed a survey sent out to all students.
“Mr. Lester is aware of what’s going on and the thing is that’s why we went ahead and put the survey together, we did it together, he okayed it, it went out last Monday; we got them all back by last Friday,” says Borror. “It was done from the grade school level to the high school level.”
Borror says she hasn’t had a chance to compile and analyze the results yet, but will report them to the board as soon as possible. Superintendent Lester was not at the board meeting Monday night, nor was Sanders or Knisley.
Melanie Gibson says her son Dillon is one of those on the receiving end of the abuse. She’s clearly upset by the lack of progress made regarding the bullying that the kids say has been going on since the beginning of the school year.
“I’m sorry Mr. Sanders isn’t here and Mr. Knisley’s not here, but what they have said to these kids, lied to them, told them that Jennifer that got elbowed in the chest and assaulted; nothing was done, the police wasn’t called,” says Gibson. “And was told he talked to the Sheriff, and no charges could be brought.”
Board President Kenny Vance asked Alice Irvine to schedule a meeting with all parties and Lester as soon as possible to further discuss the problem.
In a related topic, Chris Campbell spoke to the Board about the Respect and Protect program in all county schools. Right now they have three options for intervention when kids get in trouble – afterschool detention, in school suspension, and out of school suspension. She says there is money to pay for a teacher for in school suspension, but only for 25 days for the whole year, and they have to have a minimum of five kids in the classroom.
“But we need to have some kind of alternative consequences that aren’t out of school suspension,” says Campbell. “When you cut back on that funding, then we don’t have any alternative except to put them out of school, and that’s not always the best situation for the child. The student code of conduct policy that’s out on public comment right now for the state board of education is looking for alternative other than suspension. If that policy passes, or when it passes it’s going to be so informed that’s going to look for alternative methods as opposed to kicking kids out of school.”
She urged the board to support the Respect and Protect program by giving them the funding they need to keep the program going, especially in the middle schools. In anticipation of the possibility of receiving an unfunded mandate from the state, Board President Kenny Vance urged teachers to work with Lester to develop a plan for the Respect and Protect program.