GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — Hundreds of students fall victim to bullying in our local schools, but we hear from one parent who claims School District 51 isn’t protecting her son. Jami is a parent of a D51 middle school student, “We have to be able to be the voice for our kids right now,” Jami says.
A voice speaking out against bullying, “I think its a valley wide problem and that’s more my focus is that this needs to be addressed as a district, not just a school.” Jami says.
For Jami’s middle school student the bullying started in sixth grade, this year things escalated, “He was placed in a headlock in the classroom, the kid had put his head into the desk and was pushing his head into the desk and had his cell phone and was pushing it into his temple and told him that he had metal to his head and was going to shoot up our street,” Jami says.
That’s where Jami drew the line, she reported the pattern of behavior to school administrators and District Superintendent Diana Sirko.
Last year, School District 51 unveiled its new bully investigation tool, a program that determines if an incident is peer conflict or bullying that deserves a full investigation. During the March 15th school board meeting, District head of Security Tim Leon told the board how it works, “And when we look into it and we come back and say its peer conflict, we will sit down and try and resolve it, that’s not what mom and dad want to hear, they want to hear yeah your son or daughter was bullied, but in reality its peer conflict,” Leon says.
For Jami that wasn’t the case, “They never addressed any of those bullying terms with me ever, I am the one that addressed it as a bullying situation,” Jami says.
Whether an incident, is ongoing or isolated the District records data, through tips received from the Safe2tell program, but administrators were not fully trained, “Because the pandemic and we didn’t have the opportunity to get in front of the school administrators to really train them in this protocol,” Leon says.
During that same meeting, District B representative, Leon told Kari Sholtes 90% of safe to tell tips are credible and the district acts on them, “Oh wow 90% have actionable data so yeah it seems like in there we could start creating our own data base about where those are occurring,” Sholtes says.
While the data is compared, the Districts Mental Health coordinator, Jason Talley says, “At seven, 14, 30 and 60 days they are checking in to make sure the bullying isn’t continuing.”
But for Jami’s son that never happened, “I have basically been told the investigation has been exhausted, basically I’ve been told that the other option that we have is to find my son a school, they will place him somewhere else,” Jami says.
The District sent the student bullying Jami’s son home for an afternoon following the physical violence that occurred in the classroom — then Spring Break hit, “But he returned to school Monday following Spring Break, and he was issued a harassment ticket by the police as well for the incident that took place in the classroom,” Jami said.
Jami says the bullying continues and like the District’s Safety Director, she worries about future violence, “I wake up every morning and worry about is today the day that its going to happen and after the end of the day after all of the Safe2tell tips come in at midnight then I can go back to sleep and say we made it through another day and can start over again,” Leon says.
Besides preparing for the worst, Board President Andrea Haitz called on the District to focus on the larger problem, “I can tell you that its concerning at the middle school level because when we look at the expulsion rates, there’s probably some correlations,” Haitz says.
Jami says District 51 needs to address concerns when they happen in the classroom, “We think of our kids as resilient and they are but they also need guidance,” Nelson says.
KREX 5 reached out to D51 as well, they provided us with the following statement: “District 51 and its 47 schools and programs are disheartened by acts of bullying, peer conflict, and mean behavior in all forms, and we endeavor to provide a safe, welcoming learning environment where all students belong. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the behavior above, please report it immediately to the school so that they can investigate and follow protocol. The District is establishing a working committee to align our efforts to the CDE Model Policy for Bully Prevention and Education that was adopted this February to provide better support for students.”