A Tale Of Bullying At Southern High School

| May 14, 2012
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After our last article on bullying, several parents have contacted us to relay their experiences with bullying in our schools. We will be highlighting their stories periodically over the next few weeks. Hopefully, parents and school administrators can finally come together and address this ever growing problem.  One thing that has become clear from the emails we have received is that bullying in Anne Arundel County knows no boundaries–we have heard stories of bullying in elementary, middle and high schools. Male and female. Black and white.

The following is one parent’s story of her daughter being bullied over a period of 4 years.

Today, we highlight a long (and still ongoing) saga of bullying at Southern High School which has gone unresolved for many years despite the pleas by the involved girl’s mother–and it started nearly 4 years ago at Southern Middle School.

Eye On Annapolis will not publish the names of the bully (BBBB) nor the victim (VVVV). The quoted excerpts are from the parent’s email to AACPS Regional Assistant Superintendent Christopher Truffer sent in September 2010(timeline has been added by Eye On Annapolis for clarity).

2008/2009 Bullying In Middle School

In the spring of 2009 a report was filed for bullying and Harassment against student – BBBB.  This report was turned in to Ms. Arkin at Southern Middle School.  This was filed after multiple attempts to stop the young man from making sexual innuendos and slapping my child in the back of the head during classes.  As well as sticking gum in her books and in her hair.  Her hair had to be cut as a result of these incidents.

2009/2010 Bullying In Southern High School

Early school year of 2009/2010, it was brought to my attention that BBBB was in VVVV’s 9th grade English Class where he proceeded to terrorize her by smacking her in the back of the head, calling her very crude names and making sexual innuendos.

This was immediately brought to the attention of the office staff at Southern High School.  The result was that my child had to sacrifice her selected classes to be moved out of the same class as this boy.

2010/2011 Bullying In Southern High School

On September 15th – I had a 504 meeting with the Student Advisor at Southern High School.  During our conversation, I advised Mr. Procaccini (who was familiar with the last school year incident) that I had found out that BBBB was in VVVV’s English Class again this year.  I asked Mr. Procaccini if he could please monitor the situation to hopefully avoid any issues.  VVVV indicated that so far other than some comments, he didn’t bother her too much as they were seated well away from one another.

On Monday September 20th @ 8:17 am, I was notified by my daughter that the English teacher had moved their seats and she was seated right behind BBBB.  At this time, BBBB began making very sexually crude remarks (which are documented at the High School) as well as telling her that she needed to go home and look in the mirror and shoot the first thing she saw.

At 8:47 am, I placed a call to the school to find out what action was going to be taken. No one was available at that time to speak with me.

At 10:01 am I received a return phone call from Mr. Procaccini.  He stated that VVVV actually spoke with another student administrator (Ms. Stacy Smith) and that he was going to speak with Ms. Smith, VVVV and anyone else that may have been witness to this incident and that he would get back to me.

At 2:03 PM a fellow student and friend of my daughter’s called me to let me know that she was going to call her mother to see if she could pick both [friend] and VVVV (my daughter) up from Marching Band practice right away.  Marching band practice is from 2:15 – 4:30.  [Friend's Mother] was unable at that time to go get them, so I left work, called Mr. Procaccini on my way and went directly to the High School where upon my arrival, VVVV was already in the office with Mr. Procaccini as she had an emotional breakdown during her band class.

I arrived at the school at 3:20 pm.  We discussed what exactly took place during this incident and VVVV had to repeat all of the ‘horrible, nasty’ things that BBBB had said to her in front of the whole class.  I was appalled to hear all of it.

I was informed that the school would handle this issue (as it was not the first incident) to ensure the safety of the students.  It was my understanding from [Friend], that this boy also approached their lunch table (my daughter did not have lunch with them that day) and made some very crude comments to the young ladies at that table as well.

On September 22nd, I received a call from my daughter at 7:06 am – she was panicked because she saw BBBB get off his bus.  At this point she was afraid to even go to class.

I understand that on Sept. 22nd, BBBB was given an In School Suspension – this is what the student told everyone.  I also understand that he was told he was to stay away from VVVV – completely.

I was informed that during my daughter’s lunch, BBBB attempted to approach her, but a student advisor immediately intervened.

I called the High School to speak with Mrs. Plitt at 7:15 am September 24th.  I advised the office this was of an important nature and was told that Mrs. Plitt would get back to me as soon as the kids were settled in their first period class.  I am unaware of how long it takes these students to get settled and how long the first period class is, but 4 hours is a bit long.

I am getting no co-operation from this High School.  As the parent of the child that was the victim during this incident, I feel I have a right to know what actions are being taken.  I also feel that if there was any action taken, and it was short term that I have a right to know as well since I need to make sure my child is protected.

The school’s response in this has left me very disappointed.  I feel that the entire school district (starting with the Middle School) has completely failed to handle this situation in a timely manner or in a manner that was acceptable and effective.   If these incidents had been handled properly from the start, there may not have been further incidents going forward.  But to date this problem continues.

I hold Southern High School and it’s staff responsible for any incident that puts my child in jeopardy during the remaining time she is attending school, this is to include classrooms, school functions or anything that pertains to her education.  I do not feel that any of this was handled properly.

The response was to set up a meeting between the parent and the school level administrators. This happened on September 27th and a plan was devised to protect her child.  By September 30th, the plan had fallen apart with another incident and a teacher penalizing the victim for reporting it. In a letter to Mr. Truffer:

I am very disappointed to have to inform you that the plan that was supposed to have been worked out on Monday has already failed.  I understand that an incident had occurred yesterday morning and the items in the plan that have failed are:  1.  The teacher for I&I refused to allow VVVV to go to the office immediately after the incident occurred.  2.  The I&I teacher (Ms. Larney) proceeded to penalize VVVV by giving her a lunch detention that is to be served today.  3.  VVVV spoke with Mrs. Sullivan (Guidance Counselor), and the agreement was that I was to be notified immediately of any further incidents, which I was not notified until I got a very frustrating call from my daughter when she arrived home.

I attempted to contact the school at 2:48 pm and was told that Mrs. Plitt had already left for the day.  I asked if I could speak with one of the Administrators and was told they were in a meeting.  I tried to call back numerous times starting at 3:10 pm and got no answer at the school.

What is the use in putting a plan together, if the rules don’t really apply?  VVVV did what she was told to do if this situation occurred, and was penalized unfairly for it.

I’m very disappointed, but not surprised.  It has been a struggle to force her to school today and this continuing has been disruptive to my entire household as well as taken a toll on my employment.

Within 10 minutes Mr. Truffer responded that he was meeting in the school later that day and would discuss the issue with the Principal. The bullying abated for a period.

Current Year Bullying (2011/2012)

However, in the 2011/2012 year it resurfaced again this year involving a different bully and gradually progressed throughout the year. This time, the parent wrote a more strongly worded letter to Mr. Truffer and Mrs. Plitt.

Mr. Truffer/Ms. Plitt,I am trying to find out what the formal process is to address situations that occur on school property?  The bullying situation at Southern High School is spiraling out of control.  It is my personal opinion that this could have been avoided had serious issues been addressed properly in the very beginning.

My child as you both know has been dealing with these situations on an ongoing basis.  The most recent – another student (male) told her that he would pay her $40 if she would kill herself.  This is very serious in my book.  Will it be addressed in as serious of a way as what it calls for?  Well, I have my doubts about this.

I’m appalled that a Blue Ribbon School even tolerates such behavior, but I am not surprised, especially since I have seen and heard how some of the employees in this school talk about students without regard as to who is in the office at the time.  Yes – I am talking about office personnel that I have heard with my own ear’s put students down when other students were present in the office.  How do you discourage bullying, when your own employees are promoting it?  I have been to the school recently for meetings that were scheduled and had office personnel there that got extremely rude with me.  As I said, this is the kind of environment that Southern is teaching kids is okay and acceptable – reality check – it’s not acceptable in the ‘real world’.

I keep myself aware of everything that goes on if it concerns my children’s education or their well being.  I’m aware of other members of staff that have made very derogatory statements to other students including very recently that caused another family undue distress.

My concern is with the issues that concern my family – it seems that the lack of effort to put an end to what goes on there everyday is becoming the normal.  When is someone going to stand up and put a No Tolerance policy in place – when a student is dead?  At that time, its too late.  I hope someone starts to put some thought and effort into addressing these situations harshly, instead of just a phone call to parents (many of which don’t really care).

I have seriously been considering contacting one of the News stations or papers and let them investigate what goes on and what is allowed to take place.  If that is my only option left, or if I feel things are getting too far out of control, then this is what I will do.  I am trying to give you the opportunity to address this first.

I’m tired of having to worry daily about what trashy, inappropriate comments are made to my child and what the outcome may be because of it.  As it is, my own child has some serious scars that will remain visible possibly for the rest of her life due to being picked on and dealing with it the only way she knew how.

There are other parents with children in this school who have similar concerns – I believe its time that these things be addressed.

NO TOLERANCE FOR BULLIES

To his credit, once again, Mr. Truffer responded very quickly and agreed to personally meet with the parent and the Principal to discuss her concerns. This was the first time since the bullying began in 2009 that an administrator agreed to discuss the issue with this parent in a face to face meeting.

After the meeting, the victim’s mother is cautiously optimistic. “I am trying to find some positives in what has been a negative 3 years.  As long as they work on trying to make a difference, then I still support them in all ways that I can.  But if I see things just slipping through the cracks, then I have to determine how I can move forward to keep these children safe.” She said she also pointed out to Mr. Truffer that often, the issues begin in Elementary School and the manner in which teachers treat the children often becomes the model for other students in their treatment of the victims.

Situation Worsens, Bullied By Teachers

On May 1, 2012, the parent spoke with Mr. Truffer to relay the latest information. The student who offered her money to kill herself was not reassigned and remains in her class making her uncomfortable with non-verbal looks and stares. The school would not disclose any punishment implemented against the bully, but apparently it was not severe enough as the bully’s friends began to give her difficulties. The parent received a phone call around 11:40am on May 1st  from Mrs. Plitt to inform her that Ms. Smith (the administrator that worked hard to gain VVVV’s trust and with whom VVVV was very comfortable) no longer wanted to be VVVV’s Administrator.  “So I asked Mr. Truffer, are we now just throwing away kids because we don’t want to deal with the bullying?” asked the her mother. She was assured that someone would be in contact with her tomorrow.  The parent also advised that a teacher made the situation worse, “On top of this, her 4th period teacher told her in front of the entire class that if she wouldn’t go to the office when incidents occur, it wouldn’t be a crisis and that her going to the office is making things worse.  Her view on this was that if she kept silent in his class and took the abuse,  it would eventually stop.  So now we have teachers making a bad situation worse.” These details were also relayed to Mr. Truffer when he returned her call later that afternoon. It seems that this multi year bullying issue is still going unresolved in Southern High School.

Do you have a story to share? We encourage you to share any experience with bullies in our schools–public or private. You an leave an anonymous comment or contact us with your story by email.

In our next article, we will highlight an incident where the parent of a third grader spoke with a teacher about an unresolved bullying incident only to be told that the teacher “hated teaching kids” but had to go where they told her.

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About the Author ()

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news--and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009. John's background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.
  • a mom

    Southern Middle is much worse than Southern High.   Both of my boys, who are not tiny kids, were bullied.  Once someone threw a huge trash can into the bathroom stall my son was using.   Even though someone told on the person who did it, he was not punished.

    My sons were always tracked in the honors classes, but I asked that my one son be put into a “regular” pre-algebra class.   The kids in the class were like animals.   They gave my son such a hard time that he didn’t want to go to class on math days.    I called every administrator there.   The teacher simply couldn’t control the class, and the administrators just sent the guidance folks in to talk to the class.  Eventually the teacher went on “indefinite sick leave” and they had a substitute teacher for about 4 months.   Needless to say, my son still is struggling in math because of a lost year.

    He didn’t want to complain because one of his friends got beaten up on a regular basis.  Since this is not my story, I won’t go into it, but the irony is that the administrators often suspended the person who was beaten as well as the perpetrator.

    Luckily both of my sons are in high school now and both weigh more than 220 pounds.  People leave them alone now.    Maybe you just need a bodyguard to get through high school in this county.

  • FreedomWriter

    I am a student at Southern High School currently, sophomore class of 2014, and I am appalled that they did nothing to stop this bullying. There are so many people who are bullied day in and day out and the school does nothing to ensure our students safety. How can they say that bullying is being fully taken care of when they do nothing to stop it? Instances such as these are reported and put at the bottom of their to do lists and they really don’t care if they get to it. It’s up to us as the students to put a stop to this. We have to use the voices that our parents have taught us to use, we have to use the strength that our friends who stand by us give us, and we have to use the heart that I know each and everyone of us has. Don’t be a sideliner, be a defender. Fight for what you know is right.  

  • AVID Student

    I have witnessed bullying in this school unlike any school that I have attended before. While the students are bullying eachother I have also seen students bullying teachers and substitues. I am in the AVID program at Southern High School and we had a substitute in class one day. She gave us our work, let us work in groups, played music for us over the computer speakers and was really nice. A group of girls in the back of the room kept passing around a cell phone, talking loudly, and not doing their work. The sub told them to put the phone away and do the work several times. Eventually she took the phone away from the girls to be turned into the office. One of the girls threatened her and the others joined in by calling her horrible names. The sub told them to stop and do their work but they wouldn’t. She had to call an administrator to come down and remove the students. The AVID program is for students who have an invested interest in their education but students like this are allowed in our classes. I think the sub quit because I haven’t seen her since this incident and I don’t blame her.

  • student

    I read this and came up with one person in mind. If it is who most people are thinking it is then she’s not so innocent herself, I’ve heard her make fun of other people before. I mean yeah everyone has before but you get what you give. I might be thinking of the wrong person and if so, then disregard this but if not, just saying.

    • anonamous

      really? who do you think it is?

      • student

        why would i put the name out there? obviously it’s not wanted to be stated.

        • anonamous

          sarcasm hun

          • student

            ps: it’s spelled anonymous. Yay education. 

          • unknown

            i like how you comment on a bullying thing when your one yourself:D

  • Parent

    As a parent, I think most people know these are issues that this student is not the only student in this school dealing with bullying.  No child is completely innocent in the bullying that takes place, however, I do address it when I hear anything that is said negative about another person.  Since no child likes to be bullied, maybe they need to use the old phrase – ‘Treat others as you want to be treated’.  And there are situations when the student should just walk away and ignore things, however, when someone asks another to stop and it continues, then it becomes a bully issue.  And it isn’t just verbal, but physical as well.  I find it ironic though that this school has attempted to put together and anti-bullying group and many of the participants are some of the biggest bullies in the school.  I call this hypocritical.  I have had the opportunity to speak to some students and their parents and found that many would never even think to join something that is being run by bullies.  Their words – ‘that club is a joke’.  I believe very strong policies need to be implimented to include first offense suspension, 2nd offense – expelled.  If there were stricter penalties, maybe these students could actually be educated and we wouldn’t be putting kids out in the big bad world that can’t spell and can’t do simple math without a calculator.  School is a place to learn not a place to bully others. 

  • anonamous

    whod you come up with then? hm

  • Guest

    If you want an example of bullying go to Benfield Elementary School during lunch. Mrs. Smith is a bully and my child is afraid to talk to her friends during lunch. It’s not worth talking to Mrs. Sacchetti about it. She’s afraid of Mrs. Smith too.