Bullying can be devastating to children, studies show it can have short and long lasting effects, including depression and suicide.Many school districts in our area say they have adopted a zero tolerance towards bullying. But have they?
It is a nationwide problem that plagues the hallway; creeps inside the classroom and eventually makes its way onto the school bus.
"He pulled the hoodie over my face where I couldn't see, I was wearing a big jacket and he was hitting me on the head and I had knots on my head," said a Caldwell teen whose identity remains anonymous.
"He came home beat up on the bus and the school never even called me," said his mother. "I had to take him to the ER to make sure he didn't have a concussion."
These are the memories this teen will always remember about attending a local middle school. For two years, he claims he was chronically bullied.
"A lot of kids make fun of you for your last name, how you dressed, how many times you wore your clothes, how much muscle you have, how short you are," he said. "In 7th grade these kids shoved me in the bathroom and tried to stick my head in the toilet and they didn't get in trouble, I did for trying to shove them away."
In recent years, a series of bullying-related suicides, both nationally and internationally, have drawn attention to the connection between bullying and suicide. While some see bullying as "just part of being a kid," it is a serious problem that leads to many negative effects for victims, including suicide. Texas A&M Professor and Educational Psychologist Dr. Jan Hughes, says the mental effects of bullying can last into adulthood.
"That can have a serious impact on the child's self concept, on the child's feeling about being accepted at school, sense of belong to school, therefore the child's engagement in school and learning," Hughes said. "It's not only a social and peer problem, it's also an Academic problem."
These dangerous implications have forced legislators to implement federal laws to combat bullying inside schools. In Texas, school districts are required to adopt a discipline management program that includes the prevention of and education concerning unwanted physical or verbal aggression, sexual harassment and other forms of bullying in school, on school grounds, and in school vehicles.
This is the code the Caldwell Independent School District says it lives by.
But this teen claims even after perpetually filling out what the district calls a "bully report," the problem persisted.
" I just stopped because they never called in the kids and they just left it," said the teen. "I tried and tried and sometimes, when you would fill out a bully report, they would bring you and the kid that's bullying you into the office together and talk to us both at the same time. After that, it just got worse."
And evidently, he's not the only one.
"He's so scared of what's going on at school," said Greg Fiedler, a father who is speaking out for his son."He would be an emotional wreck before school and then when we picked him up after school he would be an emotional wreck. I mean we had no idea what was going on, we had no clue."
I've got one A/B student who comes home crying all the time," said Kathryn Wylie, a parent whose has a teen attending Caldwell Middle School. "She is being physically inured. A boy is stabbing her with pencils and she fills out a bully report and nothing's done, then when she fills out too many bully reports, she gets in trouble."
These two families are speaking out after having to pull their teens out of Caldwell Middle School for the same problem -- it's a problem they say they can't fix.
"I had a guy tell me the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results... and we've gone to that school and we've gone to that school and parents have gone to that school and parents have gone to that school and we are getting the same results, so we are moving away. We are moving because of this."
"To know a problem that exists and not have a solution for it can be very frustrating for parents," said Hughes.
"I would try having meetings and they conveniently aren't there and I try popping in and surprising them and then they get really tacky with you," Wylie explained.
"Mr. Stout's exact words were quote, 'We cannot put the children in handcuffs,' I'm not asking to put the children in handcuffs, I'm asking for protection," said mother, Susan Fiedler.
"Teachers are supposed to protect our kids," added Greg. "They're supposed to watch for signs of bullying and they are not doing it and then when the report is made, there is nothing there to protect our kids....this is not only teaching them about failure, it's teaching them they can't trust the people who they're supposed to trust."
After trying to do their homework with administrators, these parents say they felt the district was turning a blind eye to their concerns. So we wanted to find out for ourselves by trying to contact Principal Gary Stout and Superintendent Janet Cummings.
On our seventh phone call, we finally reached Mr. Stout. We asked him about Caldwell Middle School's bullying policy. He directed News 3 to a 40 page Code of Conduct on the district's website; furthermore, he said he couldn't comment on the students who were withdrawn from school due to bullying and told us to contact Superintendent Cummings.
After two weeks of making daily phone calls with no response from Dr. Cummings we decided to try a face to face meeting. When our camera arrived, Dr. Cummings wasn't available.
It has been three weeks and Dr. Cummings at Caldwell ISD has yet to return any of our phone calls.
Hearing word of this is something that sounds all too familiar to these parents.
"You're destroying not just the child but the whole family," said Wylie. "These kids are hurting inside and as a parent, I'm trying to do something about it, but the administrators aren't listening to us."
"I don't want my kid to be thrown away; it makes me feel powerless because I'm trying to stick up for my son and I'm not getting anywhere," said Greg Fiedler. "I just keep running into a brick wall and I don't know what to do."
Without answers and without help from administrators, the Fiedler family has packed up and moved across the state in an effort to enroll their son in a school where he can learn rather than fear.
"A parent sees his son lying on the ground, he's going to pick him up and carry him as far as he needs to go," said Greg Fiedler. "Apparently the teachers don't feel that same way with their kids."
VICTIM OF BULLYING WARNING SIGNS
-Comes home with damaged or missing clothing or other belongings
-Reports losing items such as books, electronics, clothing, or jewelry
-Has unexplained injuries
-Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
-Has changes in eating habits
-Runs away from home
-Loses interest in visiting or talking with friends
-Is afraid of going to school or other activities with peers
-Loses interest in school work or begins to do poorly in school
-Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed when they come home
-Talks about suicide
-Becomes violent with others
-Gets into physical or verbal fights with others
-Gets sent to the principal’s office or detention a lot
-Has extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained
-Is quick to blame others
-Will not accept responsibility for their actions
-Has friends who bully others