by Jessyca Cardinell
The bullying epidemic has made an impact in schools throughout the nation, and it is seemingly become more of a prominent issue.
On the evening of Monday, February 11, the Gouverneur Central School District Board of Education opened up the public comment period of their regular meeting in the high school auditorium.
It was during this time that many parents and grandparents voiced their concerns about how they believe bullying is affecting their children, their safety and ability to attend school.
Rose Marie Allen, a grandmother, was first to step up and speak to the Board of Education and Administration.
“For the last year and a half, we have asked the Gouverneur School District to help my grandkids. Nothing. When an innocent child wants to kill themselves because it keeps going on, I think you all need to do something, besides “we'll take care of it.” I've gone to four other meetings, the next time we go, we're suing. I'm not kidding, it's going to end.
We never get any straight answers and I want to know why. You don't want us to address our child, the adults or the kids, how are we going to solve this if we can't tell you what is going on in these meetings? You want us to respect you guys, you want the kids to respect you? How about you all start doing your jobs and respect us and our kids. There is a lot of good kids out there, but teachers have their pets. I know, I've come after you. I won and I will win again. I'm not kidding, I'm done. You all need to address this, this is something serious and whatever school took our petition and said we were lying about the bullying in this school, I'm putting it on the news and I'm putting it in the paper and we'll see if you can stop that. Thank you for your time.” said Mrs. Allen as she proceeded back to her seat.
Wayne Simmons, local Gouverneur man and father of students at Gouverneur Central, spoke his turn in front of the Board of Education.
He began by stating that a major concern of his with bullying is that the school is “punishing the victim and not the actual bully.”
“Kids are dying every day because of the bullying. Some administration in this school system do not give a crap. They are there to collect that paycheck and not care about our students getting their education in a safe environment,” said Mr. Simmons
“I did what anyone else would do, I stood up for my kid and then I got punished? What is that teaching our students? What is that teaching any of our kids here, punishing a parent for defending their child? The principals at certain schools do not do their job. They do not care. It's just a paycheck for them.” said Mr. Simmons
He then proceeded to question President of the Board of Education, David Fenlong, asking, “Mr. Fenlong, if your child is getting bullied, isn't that going to upset you?”
Mr. Fenlong took in the question, however offered no response at that moment.
“Anyone on this Board, Mrs. French, anyone in this room, is going to defend their child when their child is in the right. When that child is being bullied, that is going to set a parent off. The school time and time again does not do anything. I have e-mails to Albany, e-mails to 7News, I have e-mails to all the local papers going out about all of this. With our petition, I have a feeling I know what Administration complained online to get this petition taken down. It's not going down, you're not going to stop it, too many people know about it. Having me arrested, just made me famous. It pushed this issue even more, so people know what is going on in this Administration. It is not right. You can chastise me, arrest me, put me in jail, I'm going to stand 110% for my child and anybody's kid here when I see them getting bullied. Chastise me, don't mess with my kids, don't mess with anybody's kids. If it was any of your kids getting punished for being the victim, you guys would be in the same position I'm in and so would everybody else over there.
“It is not fair to our kids, it is not fair to the parents that are afraid to stand up and step up against this school. Let it be known, Mrs. French knows this, I do not care. I don't care what type of power anybody has got, I will defend any student, any child that is being bullied. Something needs to be done with the administration, switch them, get them out of here, find someone who is going to do the right thing and protect our students. Because if not, it's going to be on every one of your hands if a kid kills themselves in this school district. Because nobody wants to do anything, nobody wants stand against anybody,” said Mr. Simmons.
“If I have to be the voice of all these kids being bullied, here I am. I will be at every meeting I can as long as I'm allowed to and I will voice my opinion, time and time again to protect an innocent child. If you guys can't do that and your jobs, I'm the one that will at any cost for any kid. I don't care if it’s a parent I do not like, I see their kid getting bullied, I'm going to raise hell with the Board, the principals, staff, I don't care. It is your job to make sure our students are safe to learn and be eligible to learn. Not black mail parents to get their kids to go do something before they can come back to school. Yes, that did come from Albany.
“Please, figure something out, figure out how to get the administration to do their job properly and fix the problem, not make it worse and punish the victims.” pleaded Mr. Simmons.
Renita Hess, a mother of students who attend Gouverneur Central, spoke before the Board about her concerns of bullying.
“My daughter is scared to walk out her own door now because of the bullying. To be very honest with you, I am scared for my son to go through the same thing. My oldest daughter quit school because of bullying and it's not right. Something needs to be done. I've gone to school one thousand times about this, I've gone to the bus garage one thousand times and I've gone to the school board meeting at the middle school one thousand times, no one is doing anything about it. Our kids don't feel safe and it's wrong. Like that gentleman said, yes we all signed that petition online and it got taken down, because they are scared for parents to tell the truth. Our kids are not safe anymore, no one cares about our kids no more.
“If kids don't feel safe, how do you think that makes us parents feel?” inquired Ms. Hess, as she explained the importance of children feeling safe at school.
“Someone needs to do something and do something about it quick or there's going to be big lawsuits on everybody's hands. Our kids do not feel safe. That's all I've got to say, thank you.” said Ms. Hess.
Last to speak about the issue to the Board of Education was Danielle Fabros.
“My daughter is being bullied, not just by students. There are students out there that are very afraid of coming back to school. Some students end up in the Psych Center, some want to be suicidal. You go and talk to who you are supposed to, try to make meetings and things don't work out. No one wants to listen to you anymore.
Every student is important, education, health, safety- that's all we're asking for. My daughter today had a bullying issue, I had to pull her out of school, she's still not okay. My child should not be afraid to go back to school, she needs to learn. Education is very important. I know, I have five kids and soon to be five grandchildren. I have proven to each one, education is important, but you should be able to be safe while you are getting it. That's all we're asking, I'm not threatening lawsuits or anything like that. I'm just begging and pleading you guys to do something about this because nothing is getting done.
“I've actually been thinking about taking my daughter out of this school district and putting her on an online education program. So she doesn't have to be afraid. I don't want to do that! She should have socialization! Have all the memories, prom and sports and all that stuff. I don't want to do this but if you guys don't do anything about this.
“I have seen more children hurting themselves or having to get some kind of help, so please I beg of you help.” said Mrs. Fabros in closing.
President of the Board of Education, David Fenlong extended appreciation to everyone for speaking. The board and administration did not address this issue or any person speaking in this public format.