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January 18, 2014

Neshannock board asked about alleged bullying incidents

NEW CASTLE — A father seeking information following an incident involving his daughter said he has found himself barred from school grounds.

Three parents confronted the Neshannock Township school board this week saying their children had been bullied and school officials failed to protect them or to act after the incidents were brought to their attention.

The father who was barred said his daughter had been the subject of a vile message written in a boys’ restroom. He said two suspects were identified but there was no confession and no punishment. “They got away with it.”

A second incident occurred in the gym Dec. 9, he said, when his daughter was knocked down by one student and kicked in the chest by another. He said his daughter reported this to a teacher who allegedly told her to toughen up. He said the teacher later denied saying this.

He said he tried to contact school officials but received no response.

“I am concerned for my daughter’s safety and lack of action” by the school, he said.

At a school basketball game Dec. 13, the father said, he confronted the student his daughter had identified as the one who had kicked her.

He said the student denied it but later he and his wife were threatened by the student’s parents.

On Dec. 19, he said, superintendent Dr. Mary Todora called him to say nothing would be done because there were no witnesses to the alleged incident.

“Then she got aggressive with me, dressing me down because I had confronted the student. I said ‘Stick to the issue, What happened to my daughter? Who did that?’

“She told me I had yelled at a child and my wife and I were banned from school grounds for the rest of the year.”

He said the “kicker” student continues to harass his daughter in the hallway.

“I am concerned for my daughter’s safety or I would not be here,” the man said. “At what point would the school act? If she’d had a black eye? A broken bone? What does the district do with the harassers and the bullies?”

Board president Karen Houk invited the father to contact the superintendent and said she and Todora will meet with him.

Another parent addressing the board was the mother of a student molested last spring on a bus returning from a field trip. She said although the district had doled out punishments to three of the four students identified as participants in the incident, she is now working with the Lawrence County district attorney’s office to bring criminal charges against all four.

“I feel the district failed my daughter,” she said. “No one from the school district ever questioned my daughter to ask her what happened. She is a firsthand witness.”

The mother also questioned the district about its field trip procedures, saying she never signed a permission slip for her daughter to participate in another field trip this year, but her daughter went. She praised chaperones who looked after her daughter on the recent trip.

“You are re-active, not pro-active,” she said. “You never envision what could happen.”

A man said he and his wife had been barred from school activities after complaints of another parent following an incident involving students.

He said they have since been cleared of any impropriety, but said he believes the district handled the incident unfairly.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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