There was a new element to the morning commute near Hays High School recently — a mom and a few of her supporters holding up signs decrying bullying.
A few passing motorists honked their horns in support but the mother, whose name we will not use, wants something larger — strong action by the Hays Consolidated Independent School District.
“They tell me there’s no bullying,” she said. However, she said her special needs daughter has been assaulted three times since the beginning of this school year and that she has made numerous trips to the school to advocate on her daughter’s behalf.
“She’s been bullied by a specific student who’s told her she’s ugly, that she’s unlovable because of her disability and that she should just kill herself,” the mother said. “The school says nothing was caught on camera; therefore it hasn’t happened.”
The mother said she’s made more than one visit to the principal’s office. “Every time I try to contact the principal it is days before he returns my call. I have to take off work and sit there and refuse to leave until they see me. Even then, they will tell me he’s busy … something is going on, whether they acknowledge it or not.”
The mother said she eventually was able to get the school to put in place a “stay away contract” but even that has not helped. “They still would not remove him from her classroom,” she said, adding that, at other times, her daughter has been sent to an otherwise unoccupied classroom.
Stay away contracts are agreements engaged when students are involved in conflicts and must be signed by the parents as well as the students involved and a school administrator, and are good for a specific period of time.
The district would not comment on that specific case but released a statement that pointed to rules in place designed to discourage bullying.
“Bullying is not tolerated at any school in Hays CISD – a ‘No Place for Hate’ district,” the statement said. “All district administrators, teachers and staff are trained to promptly report all allegations of bullying so those allegations may be thoroughly investigated and action can be taken to protect bullying victims.
“The district welcomes everyone – students, parents, and community members – who join us in denouncing bullying, raising awareness of the issues surrounding bullying and engaging to keep Hays CISD students safe.
“To protect the privacy of possible bullying victims, and other state and federally protected student information, Hays CISD cannot and does not comment on individual student cases or allegations.”
Hays CISD believes in being proactive by addressing bullying, harassment and dating violence. In addition to implementing a Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports System (PBIS) at all campuses, a number of character education programs are taught by the school counselors throughout the year.
“Additionally, the district has resources where bullying can be easily reported, including the Hays Hopeline imbedded in the district’s smartphone app and online at www.hayscisd.net/hope. For more information about reporting bullying in Hays CISD, visit www.hayscisd.net/bullying.”
The district goes on to say that, “Disciplinary, or other action, may be taken even if the conduct did not rise to the level of bullying. Any retaliation against a student who reports an incident of bullying is prohibited.”
The student handbook says remedies include transferring a student found to have engaged in bullying to a different classroom or even another campus in the district. A parent whose child has been found to be a victim of bullying can also request a transfer to another classroom or campus.
Though the district says reports of bullying should be made in a “timely manner,” there is no time limit on when a complaint may be filed.