New Castle News

January 22, 2014

Neshannock superintendent reacts to bullying complaint

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Neshannock Township School District’s superintendent disputes statements made at last week’s school board meeting.

Dr. Mary S. Todora claims she has surveillance tapes as evidence to back her up.

She said surveillance tapes do not depict an alleged bullying situation that a student’s father had described at the school board meeting.

The man told the board his daughter had been knocked down and kicked by two male students during gym class.

Todora said she and principal Dr. Tracy McCalla viewed two to three hours of tapes of the gym class in question.

“We saw nothing to substantiate the claims that were made,” she said.

The tape showed kids running around and the girl putting the ball under her shirt, Todora said. “But no one fell down. What the father presented is not what happened. (The girl) said she had been knocked down, but we did not see that on the tape.”

Todora added that the girl went to see the school nurse after class, “but never mentioned being kicked in the chest. She said she’d cut her finger and asked for a Band-Aid.”

The superintendent said she and school board president Karen Houk have an appointment to meet next week with the father.

She added that the school has security cameras inside and outside the building and reports to the administration are investigated thoroughly.

“We have found nothing — other than one of her friends — to collaborate what the girl said happened,” Todora said, adding that the alleged victim changed the story three times when she talked to the principal to relay what had happened.

Other students from the class also were interviewed and told administrators nothing happened, Todora said, adding that had she seen collaborating evidence, steps would have been taken and offending students would be facing severe consequences.

“We take bullying extremely seriously in the district,” she said.

Saying she always returns calls from parents, Todora defended her action of barring the father from the concession stand for the rest of the year after he confronted a student said to have been involved in the alleged incident.

Administrators and teachers alike “want our kids to feel safe here,” she said.

She added that if a student is to be punished for wrongdoing, “we want to be sure we have evidence and facts.”

 “If something is going on, our kids cough it up and let you know,” Todora continued, especially “if they feel an injustice has been done to another student.”

Regarding comments by other parents at Thursday’s meeting, Todora said no child molested another child within the district, and teachers and administrators who are trained in discipline should be the ones disciplining other people’s children if they act inappropriately.

“Anything brought to us we investigate thoroughly,” Todora said, “but some parents don’t like the outcome and say we are not doing enough.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)