ANDERSON — Dawna McCloud’s son’s bullying began in the classroom and elevated to the school bus after discipline was given at Anderson High School last year. At the bus stop, the bully broke her son’s jaw.
“Kids don’t realize they’re on school grounds and think they can get away with it,” she said.
While the student was expelled from Anderson High, McCloud said her son is still afraid of being attacked and that victims often share a fear of retaliation if they report the incidents.
School leaders, students, parents and law enforcement met at Anderson High School last week to discuss not only how to get kids comfortable with reporting incidents of bullying, but also to intervene when they see other students in trouble.
The Indiana General Assembly passed legislation this year that changes the definition of bullying, and requires school districts to compile data and create new reporting and training programs for students and staff by Oct. 15.
Anderson High School Principal Terry Thompson said educators would have to have their “heads in the sand” not to know what’s going on. He gets, on average, two reports of bullying a day. And that’s just the kids who come forward.
“Clearly we have a problem,” Thompson said. “It’d be nice to say ‘yeah, we don’t,’ but I think we do.”
During the first first full week of classes there was an incident where a special needs student was intimidated, he said.
Some students chased him from the bus stop to his house and tried to get in, upsetting the teen who “felt backed into a corner,” Thompson said. Anderson police said the autistic teen fired a shot into the air and was arrested.
The youths were not expelled because administrators want to keep kids in school, Thompson said, but he added that incidents like it won’t be tolerated as AHS needs to make sure all students feel safe.