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October 15, 2012

Bullying brought up at NA-FC School Board meeting

Board hears from mother of victim

FLOYD COUNTY — Though the budget measures were quickly and unanimously approved, the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. board of trustees heard the concerns of a mother whose daughter was severely beaten at New Albany High School prior to fall break.

Madeline Hamby told the board that her daughter, Kayla, has permanent hearing loss in her right ear because of an attack Hamby said was the result of bullying.

She said though the students involved were suspended for five days, she didn’t think the punishment was harsh enough.

“The children were only given five days suspension...” Hamby said. “But five days suspension from school is not good enough. My daughter fears going back to school and I don’t know if I’m going to let her go back.”

After the meeting, Hamby said her daughter  — a 17-year-old junior at the school — told her before the incident she was afraid someone would hurt her at school. She said Kayla told her that someone had set up a fake Facebook account with her name on it and tried to talk to the boyfriend of one of the assailants.

Hamby said her daughter had received threats via text messages. Hamby said she told the school about the threats and was assured her daughter would be watched.

But her daughter told her the attack happened in a classroom while a teacher stepped out. She said students had to break up the fight and take her to the office.

In a phone interview after the meeting, Kayla said the girls who attacked her were bothering her for about three weeks before the incident, but didn’t know the fake Facebook page accusations until two days before she was attacked.

After the meeting, Madeline said she was upset the students involved didn’t get a more severe punishment. She said she was told the school has a variable bullying policy depending on several factors.

“I think bullying is bullying, no matter what,” Madeline said. “I’m not only trying to stand up for my daughter, but every student as well.”

Because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the district can’t make many of the details about the case public.

But Bill Briscoe, assistant superintendent, said the school will continue to investigate the incident as per the district’s policy.

“If there was a situation where there would be an accusation of bullying, then we would take that very seriously and do a thorough, complete investigation of what occurred to determine if in fact bullying took part in any kind of situation,” Briscoe said.

The district’s policy on bullying doesn’t include a tiered scale of punishment, but says a student could face suspension or even expulsion if bullying has been determined in the investigation.

Kayla said she doesn’t feel like the school has done enough at this point and that students also need to be more aware of bullying happening around them.

“The kids in the classrooms are the ones that got the girls off of me,” Kayla said. “I think the New Albany schools should be watched better, then things like this wouldn’t happen. I think the kids need to stick together and stand up to each other.”

In other business at the meeting, the board unanimously passed its 2013 budget, school bus replacement plan, capital projects plan and tax neutrality resolution with the exception of Neal Smith. Smith, a board member, was not present at the meeting.

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