Tulsa Public Schools To Develop, Implement Anti-Bullying Program
By Ashli Sims, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- A Texas teenager says he has been saddled with guilt after a classmate he picked on committed suicide.
"I did bully him, but it was just both of us messing around. I didn't do it because I hated him," said Chris Montelongo.
Thirteen-year-old Jon Carmichael was buried this week. Teachers say he was stuffed in trash and constantly teased for being small.
"You know, I wish I could take it back, but now that he's gone, I can't do anything about it," said Montelongo.
Tulsa Public Schools admits it doesn't have a district wide strategy to deal with bullying -- an issue that affects millions of children every year. TPS has a policy on the books, but isn't always practicing what it preaches.
Earlier this week, The News On 6 told you about a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who hanged herself, after months of being tormented by her classmates.
Since that story aired, Green Country parents have e-mailed and called with their own bullying horror stories. Parents say TPS isn't doing enough to keep bullies at bay.
Eleven-year-old Carl Joseph Walker Hoover, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince and 13-year-old Jon Carmichael all committed suicide this year. All are said to be victims of bullying.
In Tulsa, an e-mailer writes that bullying led to a Tulsa middle school student being beaten until "both eyes were swollen shut, a big knot [rose] on his temple, [and] his tooth was broken." He goes on to say, "the school has been virtually no help."
"It's not to be tolerated," said Kevin Burr, TPS Assistant Superintendent.
Burr says there are strict rules against bullying, but the guidelines for preventing it aren't as clear.
What is the protocol? Because you can have a policy on the books, you can even have a punishment on the books. That doesn't necessarily mean it's taken care of.
"Well, the interesting thing about that question is that a protocol assumes that everything can be handled in exactly the same way," said Burr.
Burr says strategies need to be tailored to the particular situation and bully-proofing materials are available to each school.
Ashli Sims, The News on 6: Do they get some training?
Kevin Burr, TPS Assistant Superintendent: Oh, yes.
Ashli Sims: How often?
Kevin Burr: Regularly.
A TPS newsletter from last March talked about how to combat bullying and even advertised training teams of teachers from each school.
Ashli Sims: How many of these teams are trained?
Kevin Burr: I don't know the answer to that.
"To be honest, at this point we've got a series of things that are going on throughout the district, but nothing that has been coordinated to this point," said Burr.
After The News On 6 started asking questions, TPS launched a taskforce to change that.
"I'm checking back with you guys in 90 days. In 90 days, I want to hear that these policies are more firmed up. That this taskforce has met and they're moving forward on this. Can we commit to that," asked News On 6 reporter Ashli Sims.
"Certainly," said Burr.
Dr. Keith Ballard sent a message to TPS staff that talked about signs that a child is a bully or the victim of one. He says that message is just the beginning of a comprehensive anti-bullying program the district intends to develop and implement.