Concerned parent says HCCSC bullying policy doesn’t address self-defense situation

The Huntington County Community School Corporation’s Board of School Trustees took care of some housekeeping items in an abbreviated meeting Monday, April 8.

But it was a comment from a concerned parent that left members taking thought.

Christina Hosler, whose son had previously attended Huntington North High School, recently withdrew him after he was involved in an altercation she says was the result of him being bullied.

“I found out this year, that if a child protects themselves from a bully then they are actually committing a crime,” she told the board. “I don’t know if you realize that all of the students that are in any kind of altercation in the school are all sent to probation. I don’t know where this rule started exactly, but we have spent the last three months going to court to try and prove my son innocent of protecting himself from a bully.”

Hosler said there has been an ongoing problem with bullying at the high school. The board listened intently as she described how her son was picked on by another student and tried to avoid the fight, as he had been brought up, she said.

The incident took place the first week of school, when the student pushed her son, she said. Her son told the kid to leave him alone, but outside the classroom the student pushed him again. Her son left the area and went to his locker to avoid the confrontation. But the student followed him to his locker and pushed him down to the floor, she said.

“I’m a little confused with where you draw a line in the sand with how you can protect yourself. I’ve always told my kids, ‘Don’t ever start a fight, but if somebody starts a fight with you, protect yourself,’” Hosler told the board. “And I’m sure most of you have probably told your kids that. … How is my kid the bad guy?”

Hosler said her son’s probation officer told her the other student was in trouble all the time and nothing would happen to her son. Then the officer told them their only alternative was to go to Teen Court, where he would have to plead guilty to the charges.

“My kid is not pleading guilty for sticking up for himself,” she said. “Then they want you to pay $50 bucks on top of that. So we decided we’re not going to go the Teen Court route.”

At the end of the year, she said, Youth Services Bureau, which administers Teen Court, must report back to probation and tell them the Hosler boy did not go to Teen Court.

“I get a text message saying to appear in court on a Monday,” she added.

Since that time the Hoslers have consulted an attorney on the matter. She said she wanted to bring the policy to the board’s attention, calling it ridiculous.

“If your child is not allowed to protect themselves, who is supposed to be protecting them?” she asked. “I know there’s a resource officer; they weren’t around when he was pushed the first time. The teacher didn’t do anything. When he was pushed the second time nobody was around to help him then. When he was being pushed a third time at his locker, nobody was there to help him then.”

Hosler also cited some statistics, saying 60 percent of middle school students say they’ve been bullied – while only 16 percent of staff actually believes they are being bullied. Bullying was a factor in two-thirds of 37 school shootings, reported by the U.S. Secret Service, she said.

Following her address, Board President Mathew Roth said the public comment portion of the meeting does not allow a back-and-forth discussion. However, he welcomed her to stay and talk directly to board members after the meeting.

Board member Kevin Yarger also weighed in, asking administrators to provide the board with an update on policy and procedures regarding bullying in school.

In action items on the board’s agenda:

• Changes to the classified employee handbook were unanimously approved on second reading.

• Changes to the employee handbook were also approved 7-0 on its second reading.

• Technology policies regarding Phase I, II and III were presented on their first reading.

• An update to the agreement for administrators was also approved 7-0.

• Retiring employees were also approved by the board. They include certified employees Jill Brumbaugh, Cynthia Burchell, Nadine DeSanto, Lawrence Eckert, Teresa Fuller-O’Brien, Connie Holzheuer, Lisa Leising, Susan Schownir, Luann Sederlund and Cindy Town. Classified employees are Pam Grube, Linda Jennings, Nancy McLaughlin and David Tilden.