18 year old Stormy Rich of Umatilla, Florida became popular among bloggers and numerous media outlets recently when she told her story about defending a mentally challenged middle school teen-ager to The Daily Commercial:
“Caution: This campus is 100 percent against bullying. Speak out,” reads a sign outside Umatilla High School, and one senior said she did speak out and has been punished for doing so. Stormy Rich, 18, thought she was doing the right thing in reporting bullying incidents she witnessed against a mentally-challenged middle school girl by a group of girls on morning bus rides to school.
“I’m a very outspoken person,” Rich said. “I stick up for what I feel is right. In the school code of conduct handbook, it is clearly stated that bullying is a non-tolerable offense.” Rich was riding that middle school bus because she earned enough credits to avoid having to take a first-period high school class and an earlier high school bus. The two schools are only a few blocks away.
Rich — who said she felt compelled to speak out because the girl couldn’t even comprehend she was being pick on — first complained to the bus driver but the bullying continued. She then complained to a high school official, who said he would contact the middle school, but nothing changed. “I would sit on the bus every single day and see the bullying was still going on and nothing was being done,” Rich said. “It was aggravating.”
The senior demanded the bullies stop, which worked for a while. She said they then began threatening her, even though she complained about this to school personnel on almost a daily basis for about two weeks. The mother and daughter even contacted police.
Umatilla High School officials, however, according to Miss Rich did not remedy the situation on the bus and ended up kicking Miss Rich off the bus, instead, after the middle school teens complained about Miss Rich.
“Enough is enough,” Rich said in her written complaint. “Something should be done.” That something was a letter sent to Rich’s mother, Brenda, on May 4, saying her daughter was kicked off the middle school bus. A district school official said Rich displayed bullying behavior in her comments.
Christopher Patton, communications officer for Lake County Schools, told the Daily Commercial, “Due to circumstances on the bus, the privileges were revoked.” However, Mr. Patton appeared to fumble a bit when pressed about defending the school’s actions against Miss Rich: (bolding is mine)
“I can’t comment about student discipline, unfortunately,” Patton said. “I think you’re heading down a dangerous path because you’ve got one side of the story. … There are other parents that are involved in this.”Asked if the district had additional complaints on the issue, Patton replied: “Just this one parent.”
So there is just one parent…Miss Rich’s mother. Otherwise, is there something else Mr. Patton does not want to bring up? Anyhow, according to the school’s anti-bullying policy:
BULLYING / CYBER BULLYING / HARASSMENTBullying, cyber bullying, and harassment are major distractions from learning. Both the victim and the perpetrator suffer significant negative consequences when engaged in this type of anti- social behavior.
Bullying is defined as the act of one or more individuals intimidating one or more person through verbal, physical, mental, electronic or written interactions. Bullying can take many forms and occur in virtually any setting. It can create unnecessary and unwarranted anxiety for the student.
Examples of bullying include, but are not exclusive to:Intimidation, either physical or psychological Threats of any kind, stated or implied, towards either students or staff Cyber and text messagingBullying of any type has no place in a school setting. Umatilla High School endeavors to maintain a learning and working environment free of bullying.
Umatilla High School Principal Mike Elchenko responded to my e-mail inquiry on this story:
Please note the student was not removed from the high school bus.
It does amaze me that many people form opinions without having all the information. Please allow me to reply. The reporter has apparently failed to report the facts needed for someone to form an opinion.
The incident(s) occurred on a middle school bus.The middle school bus picks up and delivers students separately from high school students.My assistant principal notified middle school authorities of the information that the high school student provided him.
The middle school authorities completed their investigation because it happened on a middle school bus. My assistant principal notified the student of the request for her not to ride the bus at the request of middle school authorities.
I hope you can appreciate the fact people are forming opinions without having enough facts to do so accurately. I do not appreciate my reputation being called into question. I will forward this message to the appropriate authorities. Thank you for alerting me to this.
The school’s other defense, Miss Rich told local Florida outlets, is that the mentally challenged teen never complained about being bullied, so the school never had an obligation to help her. Really? According to Miss Rich, the girl did not comprehend the circumstances she was in. She was given food to eat that had already been eaten by others, Rich told the Daily Commercial. According to Umatilla School officials’ logic, as long as one cannot understand that a misdeed is being committed against another person, committing that wrong is okay.
In a previous Water Cooler post, I wrote about the uselessness of the Obama administration’s anti-bullying campaign. Stormy Rich, in fact, did exactly what the Obama White House suggests to any student who witnesses a bullying incident:(bolding is mine)
Stand Up for Others
When you see bullying, there are safe things you can do to make it stop.
Talk to a parent, teacher, or another adult you trust. Adults need to know when bad things happen so they can help.
Be kind to the kid being bullied. Show them that you care by trying to include them. Sit with them at lunch or on the bus, talk to them at school, or invite them to do something. Just hanging out with them will help them know they aren’t alone.
Not saying anything could make it worse for everyone. The kid who is bullying will think it is ok to keep treating others that way.
Once again, the official government school anti-bullying protocol failed. It is no surprise that this Florida school reacted in a harsh manner towards Miss Rich and her mother when they decided to stand up for the weak and fight back against a public school administration looking for excuses to protect themselves.