COMBS — A case of cyber bullying at a local school has been resolved with the help of police intervention, and school officials say they are continuing to work to confront the issue of bullying head-on.
Michelle Ritchie is a teacher at A.B. Combs Elementary, and when a student recently came to her saying that she no longer felt safe at school due to some students threatening and bullying her, Ritchie reported the case. That’s when police arrived at the school to talk to the students about bullying and the consequences of their actions.
In this case, Ritchie said she was very happy with how it all played out. While the policy of the school is to call police if the situation continues, they have not had to do this very often.
“I don’t want anything to really happen to them (the students),” Ritchie said. “I just want them to be scared and know that you can’t do that.”
A.B. Combs Principal Neal Feltner noted that while bullying does happen, very rarely does it necessitate police intervention.
“Usually we handle it in-house,” said Feltner. “Honestly, after we talk to them, usually things go very smooth after that.”
The students involved in this particular case were given a wake-up call by seeing the police arrive, and they began to understand the gravity of their actions.
“We didn’t tell them to say they are sorry, but they went out to the girls and said, ‘We are very sorry, we will never do anything like this again,’” said Ritchie.
Perry County Superintendent John Paul Amis said that it is the policy of the schools to report all instances where bullying becomes excessive.
“We do report that to the authorities, we are required to, and obviously this teacher was on the ball and reported it,” said Amis.
All of the students in Ritchie’s class, even those not involved in this particular event, were taught a lesson that bullying has consequences. This has been something that many local schools, including A.B. Combs, have been working on teaching. Feltner said that they also completed a week-long program about bullying to try to educate the students.
In years past, fighting between students was a more common occurrence in schools, yet now with the onslaught of more students at younger ages being exposed to social media, bullying has become less physical and more emotional and terroristic. Studies have shown that a higher number of students than expected have been afraid to come to school due to threats being made online.
Feltner said that most of the situations with bullying they experience start online.
“They get behind that computer screen and they are 10 foot tall and bulletproof,” he remarked, adding that having programs like their anti-bullying program has helped students come forward sooner and report bullying to school officials.
He said that some of the problems that they have with bullying is students that have difficult home lives, who then imitate what they are around at home.
“Fighting, a lot of them see it at home because they don’t have very good home lives and they bring it to school with them,” said Feltner. “It is a crutch, and we kick the crutch out from under them and tell them they have got to be accountable.”
Feltner said that the school has a zero tolerance for bullying, and all cases of bullying that are reported are dealt with. Amis said this is a problem that is reoccurring at many schools, not just in Perry County, and it is difficult for teachers and administrators to catch since the fights don’t always originate in the classroom.
“Because of kids communicating over the Internet, on email or Facebook on the weekend or over the night and things, they bring that in to our schools,” Amis noted. “A lot of our discipline problems are caused by kids communicating with each other through social media. It is a concern that we are going to have to spend more time and resources on this issue.”