Despite awareness campaigns and serious consequences, bullying -- unfortunately -- still happens. Usually, it gets resolved with a parent-teacher conference or a trip to the principal’s office.
But this week in Polk County, a judge took the unusual step of issuing a restraining order against a sixth grader.
So, why would the case require such drastic measures?
Several parents and students agree they’ve never heard of anything like it: A case of bullying so severe it ended up in court.
A Polk County judge ordered the sixth-grader at Sleepy Hill Middle School in Lakeland to stay at least 50 feet away from one of his schoolmates.
“I’ve never heard of that. Yeah, that’s crazy,” said Vanessa Herrera, whose niece attends the same school.
The court order follows several incidents of bullying leading up to a Nov. 13 beating that was so severe it left the young victim with a concussion. The fight, they say, was over popcorn being sold for a school fundraiser.
The victim weighs about 120 pounds. His alleged attacker, while young, is said to be about 6 feet tall and weighs over 200 pounds.
The first two people we spoke with who were at the school to pick up students said they were surprised to hear about a bullying incident ending with the court order. But they were not surprised about it happening at Sleepy Hill Middle School.
“I actually just picked her up because of problems with other students as well,” said Herrera.
Herrera says her niece has been bullied to the point of missing classes at Sleepy Hill.
When we asked Liliane Wolameck about it, she said the teachers don’t always witness the bullying first-hand.
“Sometimes they don’t catch it. Sometimes they really don’t. The bullies make sure that they don’t see it. They do it when no one is looking,” she said.
Beth Jackson says one of her two daughters at Sleepy Hill has been struck repeatedly by a boy in her classes.
“He hits her, pushes her. That kind of stuff,” said Jackson.
They report it, she says, but nothing gets done. “She still comes home and says he still doing it.”
We asked Polk school officials for more information about the case, but they declined, citing student privacy. In general, a restraining order, they say, happens occasionally. And, “When it does, we abide by the court’s order in the injunction.”
“Well, I have heard that the school has an issue of not wanting to deal with bullies,” said Jackson.
As for the students involved in this case, the alleged offender has reportedly been transferred to a different school. The victim will be offered counseling.
In an email to the Lakeland Ledger, the victim’s mother says the boy who bullied her child still has not apologized for his actions. She commended her son for having enough courage stand in court and tell his story and was planning for him to return to school sometime this week.
“Like the parents of the kid that got beaten up, if I have to deal with that I’m going to call the law,” said Jackson, “Because I’m not going to tolerate it. If they are going to stand by and do nothing, I’m going to do something.”
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