Cyberbullying? East Tennessee mother says son attacked, video posted online

Mother wants answers after Instagram video shows boy, 13, punched at Clinton Middle School


CLINTON (WATE) – A mother wants answers from her son’s school and school district after what she calls an attack on her son.

Leslie Byrge shared a video posted to Instagram with WATE 6 On Your Side that appears to shows her 13-year-old son getting punched repeatedly in the cafeteria of Clinton Middle School. Along with the video, there’s an image appearing to show a student saying the beating would happen in exchange for 10 “likes” from their followers.

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“It’s really hard to explain how it feels to watch your child be hurt physically like that,” said Byrge. “It’s so hard to describe just that outrage, and that initial something has to be done, something has to stop, something has to give.”

From her standpoint, the video and picture, which have since been deleted, are an example of cyberbullying. Byrge wants to know what the school is doing to prevent cyberbullying from happening in the future.

WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to the Anderson County school system. Director of Schools Dr. Tim Parrot said that while he cannot talk specifics about whether it was a fight or bullying, school policies were followed to a ‘T.’

More: Tennessee’s law on bullying and cyberbullying

Dr. Parrot said the incident is being investigated. He says that while he is satisfied with the outcome, it’s unfortunate it happened.

“Their answers were vague and that’s not okay with me when my son is getting physically assaulted and wailed in the head,” said Byrge.

Because those involved in the incident are minors, Byrge doesn’t know how the boys were disciplined, but she’s encouraging her son to stand up for what is right, along with every parent, teacher and student in Anderson County.

“I feel like we need to come together and really focus on protecting our kids,” said Byrge. “There has got to be stricter rules in place. There’s got to be something put in place, whether it’s more supervision… whether it’s the school board taking accountability and stepping up saying ‘okay, enough is enough.'”

Tennessee Code Ann. § 49-6-4503 requires that every school district have a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment as well as procedures for investigating reports of bullying and harassment. Call 1-800-824-3463 to reach Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s violence hotline.

Report cyberbullying when it happens

The United States Department of Health and Human Services said when adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying they send the message that it is not acceptable. They recommend taking simple steps to stop bullying on the spot.

Do:

  • Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.
  • Separate the kids involved.
  • Make sure everyone is safe.
  • Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
  • Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders.
  • Model respectful behavior when you intervene.

Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Don’t ignore it. Don’t think kids can work it out without adult help.
  • Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts.
  • Don’t force other kids to say publicly what they saw.
  • Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.
  • Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.
  • Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.

Get police help or medical attention immediately if:

  • A weapon is involved.
  • There are threats of serious physical injury.
  • There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.
  • There is serious bodily harm.
  • There is sexual abuse.
  • Anyone is accused of an illegal act, such as robbery or extortion—using force to get money, property, or services.

How to respond to bullying situations

The Tennessee Department of Education says that while every child must learn how to interact with others and deal with difficult situations they do not have to tolerate being bullied or harassed. They say addressing bullying is important to all students involved.

Here are their recommendations for parents:

When your child is the victim…

  • Encourage your child to report any problems
  • Keep documentation of instances — this will help you communicate the extent of the problem to school officials, etc.
  • Talk with the teacher, counselor, or principal about the problem
  • Do not try to fix the problem by confronting the bully or the bully’s parents
  • Guide your child through the process of addressing the problem, alongside them, empowering them to take appropriate steps to address the issue
  • Notify the school administration immediately if your child is physically threatened

When your child is the bully…

  • Be a positive role model
  • Reinforce positive and kind behavior
  • Teach your child how to be respectful and show anger appropriately
  • Seek professional assistance, if necessary

When your child is a bystander…

  • Encourage your child to report the incident immediately to school officials
  • Have your child support the victim by including him or her in social activities

When cyberbullying is the problem…

  • Document messages or posts
  • Avoid interaction online – block future messages or emails, avoid any problem websites
  • Discuss the situation with your child’s school. Problems may extend from school to home, or home to school.

When bullying doesn’t stop…

  • When you are not satisfied with the response from the school contact the school district office and take the appropriate steps to file a grievance
  • When the issue goes beyond bullying and appears to be harassment contact the Office of Civil Rights for more information and to file a complaint.

Additional resources

  • The Unsafe School Policy – Provides any student who attends a persistently dangerous school, or any student who has been the victim of a violent crime while at school, the opportunity to attend a safe school.
  • Stop Bullying Now – Provides information on how kids, teens, young adults, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying.

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