Teen suing school district over bullying

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — WFTV Channel 9

A middle school student is suing the Volusia County School District. Dondre Jones, 13, says he was bullied at three different Volusia County schools for more than two years, and that the school district didn’t do enough to protect him.

On Monday, Jones’ attorneys announced the filing of a lawsuit accusing the school district of negligence.

His attorneys said the first time Jones was bullied, it happened at Holly Hill Middle School in 2010. They said students attacked him, pulled his pants down and took pictures of him threatening to post them online.

“I was yelling, ‘Please stop’ and ‘Leave me alone’ as loud as I could,” Jones said.

The two students were suspended and charged with battery for attacking Jones.

The lawsuit names a teacher, who resigned after shrugging the incident off as boys just playing around.

Jones moved to Campbell Middle School, where he was bullied again, by a child who attacked another student earlier in the same day. Jones’ attorneys and his mother said the school district should have done more to protect him after the first incident, that nothing was done to make sure Jones would be safe.

At a Monday morning press conference Jones himself had something to say to his bullies.

“I want the boys to know that did this to me, although you hurt me and humiliated me; I am still standing,” Jones said.

Since the bullying incidents Jones has been homeschooled. His mother says he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he takes medication, and receives therapy.

His attorneys said they’re not sure of damages, but his medical costs exceed $50,000 dollars.

The school district is closed for the holidays, but Nancy Wait of the school board said the district cannot comment on the pending lawsuit.

SSAC Takes part in National Discussion

I’m honored to be in our Nation’s Capitol today for a very important discussion centering on the role of law enforcement in schools across the country.  Other agencies involved in this discussion are the United States Dept of Justice, Education and Homeland Security and many more…..  As I have posted before, there are those that are critical of the SRO concept and as such have published skewed reports, however the School Safety Advocacy Council will continue to support such programs and quality training that is a MUST.

Virginia Tech in Lockdown-1 Police Officer & 1 Civilian Killed by Gunman

In another tragic incident, Virginia Tech University, the site of the country’s worst massacre, is on lockdown after two people, including a police officer, were shot and killed on the campus.

The school said the suspect is at large and students are being told, “Stay indoors. Secure in place” and the school’s website said: “There is an active campus alert in Blacksburg. Everyone should seek shelter or stay where you are. Blacksburg Transit service is suspended until the alert is lifted.”

Virginia Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski said a campus police officer stopped a vehicle shortly after noon today in the school’s Coliseum parking lot and that during that stop the police officer was shot and killed. The suspect then fled on foot to a parking lot where a civilian was found dead. At this time the campus is in lockdown and there is an extensive search for the gunman. The school is saying that the suspect is a while male wearing a gray sweatpants, a gray hat with a neon green brim, a maroon hoodie and a backpack, according to the Associated Press.

The Virginia Tech Campus was the site of the deadliest mass shooting in the United States in 2007 when Seung-Hui Cho killed 33 students, faculty members and himself during a shooting rampage on the campus. Cho was a senior in English at the school. After that tragic shooting the university instituted tighter security and emergency management proceedures. On Wednesday, Virginia Tech was in court to attempt to block $55,000 in fines connected to the 2007 shooting. The Education Department claims that the school violated the law by waiting over two hours before notifying students via email that a students had been shot. Virgina Tech has argued that it acted appropriately and should not be held to todays standards for an incident that happened in 2007.

The recent tragic incident will be a true test of the improved safety proceedures at Virginia Tech and should serve as a reminder to all educational ins

 

Also Read

High School Hazing/Bulling Incident Investigated by Grand Jury

It is time that school districts take preventative actions to educate its faculty and students on the repercussions of bullying and hazing. This incident is a severe case that has thrown a whole town into turmoil and potentially ruined careers and educational futures. As I have stated numerous times prior to this posting, school districts must do more to protect students from bullying and their faculty from potential legal and civil liabilities. The answer is simple-TRAIN YOUR STAFF AND STUDENTS. This is just another case of districts putting their checkbooks before the well being of the students and faculty.

 

The Bristol County District Attorney’s office has convened a grand jury to investigate the alleged hazing of Andover High School basketball players who attended a summer camp at Stonehill College in Easton, sources confirmed.

School employees, including David Fazio, Andover High basketball coach and a physical education teacher, have been issued subpoenas to testify so far, the sources said yesterday.

Fazio was placed on paid administrative leave Friday while police investigate allegations that two students were forced by upperclassmen to play a humiliating sex game while attending the summer camp in July.

Meanwhile, an Andover High basketball player accused of leading the hazing of the two younger students was suspended for 10 days and his lawyer now expects school officials to expel him.

Attorney Arthur Broadhurst said the student was suspended from both academics and the basketball team for 10 days, a decision he will not fight.

The district intends to expel Broadhurst’s client and a fellow ringleader, as well as suspend five other Andover High students who attended Hoop Mountain basketball camp in July.

At Hoop Mountain, held on the Stonehill College campus, two underclassmen were allegedly pressured into playing a sex game, “wet biscuit,” where the loser had to eat a semen-covered cookie.

Broadhurst would not say if his client will fight the expulsion, citing ongoing criminal investigations by the Easton Police Department and Bristol County District Attorney’s office.

Attorneys for other students involved could not be reached for comment yesterday.

On Friday, during disciplinary hearings at Andover High, students pleaded their cases with school officials for their roles in the hazing scandal. School officials would not disclose the outcome of the hearings for the seven students involved. Attempts to reach Superintendent Marinel McGrath for comment were unsuccessful yesterday.

Broadhurt’s client is also the administrator of a secret Facebook page called “Andover Basketball,” where he and others complained about the police investigation, planned a meeting and vowed to “fix” the situation.

The Eagle-Tribune anonymously received a screenshot of the secret Facebook page last week, which Easton police then asked for.

At Andover High, students facing expulsion or suspension are entitled to hearings where they can question witnesses and present evidence in their defense, according to the schools’ disciplinary policy. The can also appeal the disciplinary action of the superintendent.

If any of the students are criminally charged with hazing, they could face up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Anyone who witnesses hazing but does not report it faces a $1,000 fine if convicted under state law.

As a result of the hazing, Stonehill College terminated its agreement with Hoop Mountain, which will no longer be allowed on campus.

Fazio still holds the title of head coach of the basketball team, Chris Bergeron, Andover High athletic director, said Monday night.

School Safety Officer charged with punching student

The article below is a prime example of why school districts must train their non-sworn security personnel. In the current economic times, school districts are cutting what they consider “non-essential” programs such as safety personnel and programs as well as  staff safety training. All districts must remember that any cuts in safety will only result in harm to students and staff or payment of lawsuit settlements for failure to protect them.

 

LAWRENCE — School safety officer Richard Rivera is facing felony assault charges for allegedly punching a teenager who went to Lawrence High School last month to inquire about GED testing.

Rivera, 42, of 98 Andover St., Lawrence, is expected to be arraigned on assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon charges Wednesday in Lawrence District Court.

Rivera is also a member of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, appointed by Mayor William Lantigua.

According to police reports, Rivera, while working as a school safety officer, punched an 18-year-old man in the face during an altercation at the Higher Learning Center, an annex of Lawrence High School, at 183 Haverhill St.

Rivera is now on unpaid leave from his job. A school department hearing is expected to be held this week, and depending on the outcome, Rivera could be stripped of his pay, according to Acting Superintendent Mary Lou Bergeron.

According to police reports, Rivera punched John Hartley III, 18, of 304 Howard St., Nov. 17 after he went to the Higher Learning Center to inquire about the school’s GED program. Hartley left the school with a friend and then they both returned a short time later. When they came back, the altercation with Rivera occurred.

Rivera first said Hartley did not assault him before he punched him. Later, when interviewed by police Officer Jonathan Armano, a school resource officer, Rivera said Hartley swore at him and “took a swing” at him when he approached him on school grounds.

But Hartley told police Rivera “punched him in the face and began to struggle with him for no reason.” Rivera also yelled and swore at him for trespassing, said Hartley, adding he felt “dazed” and “knocked out” after the assault.

Other school workers also saw Rivera punch Hartley, according to the reports.

Hartley was treated at Lawrence General Hospital for pain and a deep bruise to his jaw.

Rivera also complained to a co-worker, who called 911 and notified police of the assault. “You shouldn’t have called the cops, now I’m in a lot of trouble,” Rivera told the co-worker, according to Armano’s report.

“I wouldn’t want to make him mad. He’s a big guy,” the worker told Armano.

Rivera was also involved in a police-related incident at the high school in March 2010. He was one of three school safety officers charged with misleading police during an underage drinking investigation.

He, Jesus Hernandez, 33, and Johnny Paredes, 46, were accused of lying to police about whether surveillance videos captured images of students drinking rum in the Lawrence High School cafeteria. All three were found not guilty by a District Court judge in August 2010.

SRO’s and Principals must be aware of claims of “Schools to Prison Pipeline”

Please read the following article and be aware that SRO’s and school principals are under attack from certain groups using the guise of “School to Prison Pipeline”.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A 13-year-old was handcuffed and hauled off to a juvenile detention for burping in class, according to a lawsuit filed against an Albuquerque school principal, a teacher and school police officer.

The boy was transported without his parents being notified in May after he “burped audibly” in PE class and his teacher called a school resource officer to complain he was disrupting her class. The lawsuit also details a separate Nov. 8 incident when the same student was forced to strip down to his underwear while five adults watched as he was accused of selling pot to another student; the boy was never charged.

The suit was one of two filed Wednesday by civil rights attorney Shannon Kennedy, who says she has been fighting the district and police for years over the use of force with problem children.  She says a review of school and Bernalillo County records shows more than 200 school kids have been handcuffed and arrested in the last three years for non-violent misdemeanors.

In the second lawsuit filed Wednesday, the parents of a 7-year-old boy with autism accuse a school officer of unlawful arrest for handcuffing the boy to a chair after he became agitated in class. New Mexico law prohibits officers and school officials from restraining children under 11.

The suits come one year after the same attorney settled a class action lawsuit against the district that was prompted by the arrest of a girl who Kennedy said “didn’t want to sit by the stinky boy in class.” And Kennedy says she has a number of other cases she is preparing over treatment of students in Albuquerque by school officials, school police, city police and sheriff’s officers.

“I am trying to get all the stake holders in a room to get people properly trained to prevent this from happening,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said the problem lies with the schools more than with the law enforcement agencies.

“It lands in the lap of the principal. There are good schools and bad schools. The principals … who are handling their schools properly don’t need to have children arrested. It’s ridiculous.”

A spokesman for Albuquerque Public Schools did not immediately return calls and emails seeking comment on Thursday. A police spokeswoman said the department does not comment on litigation.

One school board member, Lorenzo Garcia, said he had not seen and could not comment on the lawsuits, but he did say he was concerned about what appeared to be schools getting stuck on a “zero tolerance policy.”

“Really, in my opinion, this really increases the whole idea of the schools-to-prison pipeline,” he said.

REPORT IS CRITICAL OF SCHOOL BASED OFFICERS

I read with great interest a report dated November 15th, 2011 by the Justice Policy Institute entitled “Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools” I’m not sure how many School Based Officers are aware of this extremely misleading and factually inaccurate report, but I recommend that those in the school safety arena read it and feel free to post comments here or on other blogs. 

While many of you know me, I’ll be brief in that my comments stem from my extensive background in School Based Policing, and youth related school violence and bullying.  Having served as a School Resource Officer and SRO Supervisor in both Broward and Palm Beach County’s for over 18+ years as well as the founder of, and Executive Director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) and currently the Executive Director of the School Safety Advocacy Council (SSAC) for the past 6 years.  I continue to serve on the Juvenile Justice Committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), have spoken extensively across the globe on school based policing and school violence, and have appeared on every television networking discussing school violence and bullying trends.  All this said, so that I can say I find this report published by Amanda Petteruti of the Justice Policy Institute to be so very troubling, although I feel parents and the youth themselves will not side with this reports inaccurate conclusions and school districts will equally find the information to be flat wrong.

The report can be found at http://www.justicepolicy.org/research/3177 and again, I truly recommend you take the time to read the report in its entirety including the recommendations made by a person who has never walked in the shoes of a school based officer or has any real understanding of school based violence or victimization.  I’ll make a couple of points, but I hope to commission a panel to discuss this further at the NATIONAL SCHOOL SAFETY CONFERENCE, scheduled for July 23-27, 2011 at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando.

Let me first start by saying this is not the first report of its kind where some non-school based person takes a shot at the school based policing profession and nor do I think it will be the last.  Our society has established this trend that I saw coming years ago, when I fought and lobbied hard for the United States Department of Education refused to ever listen to me or my colleagues when we urged them to CONSIDER the implementation of a school crime reporting mandate that would provide a clearer, more accurate picture of school crime and violence.  Similar to the Cleary Act at the College level.  Those calls to this day fall on deaf ears and have done so in the Clinton, Bush and now Obama administration.  But instead, we got something called “No Child Left Behind”, and buried deep in that legislation was the creation of the “Persistently Dangerous School” section, whereby schools that met a certain criteria (developed by each state) could be labled as “Persistantly Dangerous” and that title can trigger a series of events that can be quite costly for the school, not to mention the reputation of what may have been an excellent school Principal not stuck with the title of “Administrator of the Dangerous School”, a title that can shorten his/her career.  Again, its always been the age old question of “Is the school with higher stats just better at reporting their crime and violence”??

Anyway, back to Ms. Petteruti’s report. 

She states, >>Fueled by increasingly punitive approaches to student behavior such as “zero
tolerance policies,” the past 20 years have seen an expansion in the presence of law
enforcement, including school resource officers (SROs), in schools.<<

The SRO Concept which dates as far back as the 1950′s was not created (or fueled) by “Punitive” approaches to zero tolerance. I would challenge the author to cite factual bases to that statement. The early roots to placing officers in schools was nothing more than early attempts to bridge the gaps between police officers and kids. Perhaps the author confused the SRO concept with that of the DARE Officers that went into schools as a result of growing drug trends and the zero tolerance to drugs that schools addressed. However even the early DARE Officers usually had guidelines prohibiting them from actually making arrests and many were unarmed (which is a foolish thing itself, but that’s another article). The SRO Program continued to receive praise among parents and the program was really looked upon as an extension of the “Officer Friendly” programs that were also increasing. Along that time, we also saw increases in PAL (Police Athletic Leagues) and the start of officers teaching “Stranger Danger” programs. Many schools saw the potential of these programs as students were more responsive and agencies during these early years (1950s to 1980s) typically did a good job of selecting the right officer to work the schools. I often said early on, the SRO’s concept was the best example of “Community Oriented Policing” that existed as the school often had the same issues of any other part of the community but in many cases had serious issues that were not reported to police. We continue to see that today.
 
Now the one issue I will agree with is that many communities and school districts have become “Zero Tolerance” crazy in that it is such a popular terms to run politically on that one does have to scratch their head and wonder “how tolerant were we on GUNS before were went to zero tolerance”?? However, we saw zero tolerance policies on drugs, fighting, bullying, firearms and more. And in many cases these laws and policies removed “police discretion” from the equation as well as common sense. And although the actual number of ill applied policies may be relatively small, it was those ill applied cases that often made news.  Its the age old story, I’m sure we can find cases where SRO’s in schools could have made better decisions, but the vast majority are caring, dedicated man and woman who truly enjoy working with young people and in most cases look for every opportunity to DEFER a student from the criminal justice system rather then rush them into it.   Fact be known, as a working SRO myself I would use arrest as the last possible course of action, because one the arrest was executed it was a real opportunity for the student to find out what a joke our criminal justice system can be and the fear of a future arrest for criminal activity did’t quite have the same impact.
 
>>>With reported rates of school violence and theft
are at the lowest levels since data were first
collected by the National Center for Education
Statistics in 1992,4<<<
 
Again, this has long been a issue as you know, that we truly have no accurate crime reporting stats for schools. The best we have may be the “Indicators of school crime” or similar non-mandated surveys which are a random sampling of school administrators. 
 
>>>>POLICE INTERROGATE A STUDENT FOR
FIRING SPIT BALLS
In winter of 2011, police interrogated a 14-year-old
Spotsylvania County, Virginia student for shooting plastic
“spitwads” at other students in the hallway. The student
was ultimately given suspension for the remainder of the
school year (approximately 6 months), which the student
and the family were challenging at the time of the news
broadcast about the incident.
The father of the student told Fox News: “It takes four state
agencies to go after someone with a spitwad: It takes the
sheriff’s department, the commonwealth attorney, the
school board on various levels and the department of
juvenile justice … what a fine use of taxpayer resources.”
Source: Diane Macedo, “Virginia Teen Suspended, Facing
Criminal Charges for Shooting Plastic Spitballs in School”, Fox
News, February, 3, 2011.
www.foxnews.com/us/2011/02/03/virginia-teen-expelled-facingcriminal-
charges-shooting-plastic-spitballs/#ixzz1ZLlwq9io<<<<<<
 
Again, I too know of cases where zero tolerance has been ill applied however citing cases like the above, with links to the case that cite the “News Reported” version of the story, rather then the police report version are to me poor examples for making your case.
 
Naturally a kid throwing a pencil at another kid, or a kid shooting a spit ball at another kid would seem like a rather small issue to bring to an officers attention, yet in many cases these and other cases are driven by the victim’s parents who know that regardless of how minor, it “could” still constitute an assault and/or battery and demand a criminal investigation. Perhaps the parent would not have driven to the police station and reported same, and they are familiar with the SRO so they ask for a case number and that starts the process. The SRO is hardly to blame for that. Likewise, we see countless silly cases filed neighbor on neighbor that were investigated and in some cases led to criminal charges yet that doesn’t mean we should remove officers from our streets??
 
Its sounds as though the author is trying to say that in some way the officer at the school is to blame for the “law” that is being either applied or enforced? Now I will give in that there has been a shift in school based policing over the years. What I DO see as troubling were the number of school district police departments created over the past 10 years to replace city/county officers. In many cases the school district hires officers that have NO police experience outside the schoolyard and thus have their learning and training ground be that of the school. I think we can point to a few studies that show that rookie officers apply the letter of the law and use discretion less then that of seasoned officers.
 
>>>>Perhaps more importantly,
the involvement of SROs in schools precludes
the option for teachers and faculty to use conflict
to teach students how to resolve differences
peacefully.<<<<
 
Maybe I am missing something here but the SRO is merely a “resource” to the school, not a replacement for years of other effective programs or strategies that may still be the better option? Often times this can be seen as a communication flaw between the law enforcement agency and the school administration for not having discussed the SRO’s role and acknowledging a clear understanding of it prior to implementation.  The SRO should not be viewed as just an officer at a school, but rather a concept whereby the school and community become stakeholders for the benefit of keeping young people safe.  Many SRO’s assist the school in the development of the critical incident plans, school evacuations and a much faster response to injured or sick students.  Over the year’s since Columbine, one can point to a number of planned Columbine style attacks that were halted simply due to the relationship between students and the individual officer.
 
>>>>>>>SCHOOL GUARDS BREAK CHILD’S ARM AND ARREST HER FOR DROPPING
CAKE
School security guards in Palmdale, CA have been caught on camera assaulting a 16-year-old girl
and breaking her arm. The incident started when the girl dropped some cake after being bumped in a
lunch line. She was ordered to clean and re-clean the spot several times. After being told to re-clean
the spot for a fourth time, she tried to leave the area, but was stopped by a security officer. The girl
said that the officer forced her onto a table, yelled, “hold still nappy-head”, and broke her wrist in the
process. The altercation was caught on camera.<<<<<<
 
Not sure why the author included a news report that was not about an SRO, but rather a security officer?  As a matter of fact, since the popularity of SRO’s grew in the 90′s, we have even seen private security companies provide non-sworn guards at schools, calling them “School Resource Officers”. 
I would further argue the salary comparisons as MOST SRO’s are not “Detectives” and the author is not factoring in they are working 12 months employees compared to those listed working 10-11 month jobs.  Aagain, you have to factor in that most agencies do try to place a more senior officer at a school, thus the higher salary, compared to the salaries of newer teachers that are being factored in her report.
 
Again, I could go on and on about this skewed report, but do hope to have some feedback posted.
 
Curtis S. Lavarello
Executive Director
School Safety Advocacy Council
Direct: 941-232-4633
 
 

National Conference on Bullying

The National Conference on Bullying is scheduled for February 15-17, 2011 at the Doubletree Resort at Seaworld in Orlando.  Conference will feature keynote national experts, breakout workshops, exhibit hall and excellent networking receptions.

We welcome our newest sponsor, Talk About it as they will host the “Talk About it” reception on Wednesday, February 15th from 5pm-7pm at the Resort.

To register, go to http://www.schoolsafety911.org

Welcome to the SSAC Blog

The School Safety Advocacy Council is a team of dedicated individuals who work closely with your agency, district and or organization to help you achieve the results you need. The School Safety Advocacy Council advocates public policy in legislative and regulatory arenas and works to promote safe and secure school and community environments. We have learned that there are five primary reasons communities, schools and law enforcement choose to work with us:

1. We are passionate about our clients and their causes.
We want to make a difference in the nation, and all of our staff and advisory board are volunteers in the community and school safety sector. Consequently, we have an unusually fine-tuned understanding of the issues and challenges facing our clients.

2. We understand school and community safety sector.
We view ourselves as leaders in the school and community safety industry. While others may boast on the fact that they are a not-for-profit organization, the fact remains there are no other individuls in the nation have the reputation and experience as those who serve for the School Safety Advocacy Council.

3. There are no junior consultants at the School Safety Advocacy Council.
The members of our team have acquired an average of 20 years of hands-on, professional school and community safety experience. Collectively, we possess intimate knowledge not just of school based policing, but the much more broad topic of school and community safety. We are not a group of individuals who turned school safety expert overnight, our team has been in the field with actual experience longer than any other school safety team in the nation.

4. The School Safety Advocacy Council in a multi-discipline approach to school and community safety.
The talent and breadth of experience of our team ensure that, collectively, we are able to help you meet any special challenge or issues that may arise. In addition, we collaborate with law enforcement agencies, school districts and towns/communties to provide ancillary services so you can benefit from our integrated training and consulting programs.

5. We are fully accountable for and update our work/service on a continual basis.
We have built a system that ensures accountability to our partners and have a reputation to prove it! The School Safety Advocacy Council continually updates its work product and curriculum to maintain its standing as the #1 training provider for school safety professionals in the nation.