A recent incident at Intermediate School 117 in the Bronx has New York City parents up in arms over the state of bullying in schools.
A 14-year-old student, Noel Estevez, was charged last week in the fatal stabbing of fellow 14-year-old Timothy Crump, who had spent the past few months bullying Estevez over the loss of a cell phone.
According to reports, Crump had bullied Estevez, claiming he was going to kill him. The bullying had reached the point where Estevez tried to commit suicide. He was taken Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center and diagnosed with multiple mental disorders and prescribed medication. He did not return to school for three months.
Estevez' father went to the school principal, Delise Jones, asking for a safety transfer for his son. Citing the nearing end of the school year, his request was denied. Jones did promise that a careful eye would be kept on Crump, reports John Del Signore for The Gothamist. Estevez returned to school this past Wednesday. Estevez's attorney Eric Poulos states:
"Yesterday was his first day back [in school]," Poulos said in court yesterday. "They didn't even give him a chance to breathe. They went after him right away like a pack of wolves."
In 2010, IS 117 was part of a state audit that found that leadership within the school needed help. It was recommended that either a new principal be hired, or that a mentor principal come show Jones how to lead.
According to Ben Chapman of The New York Daily News, these instances are happening at other schools as well. At Williamsburg Charter High School, a student with autism was repeatedly bullied. So much so that his father complained to school administrators about it, only to have nothing done.
"I feel very helpless. You send your child to get an education — they should be in a safe environment," he said.
School officials reported the bullying took place off school grounds, and involved children who did not attend the school.
Parents complained at a meeting on Friday, stating that incidents of bullying at the school are an every day occurrence, with students posting videos of the fighting to Worldstarhiphop.com and Youtube.com, according to Georgett Roberts of The New York Post.
"They kept asking the same thing: How are they going to prevent this?" said one attendee, adding that a parent complained that her child had been put in the hospital by a school bully.
The Dignity for All Students Act of 2010 requires all New York City schools to report all incidents of bullying to an online database. However, fewer than one in five schools actually reported using the system. 1,378 schools reported zero incidents.
"They don't take it seriously when parents come to administrators and teachers saying their child is being bullied," said Mona Davids, president of the New York City Parents Union. "They're not taking down the reports. They're just not."
Opportunity Charter School in Harlem is the only school to report more than 100 incidents of bullying. The school's principal, Allison Mutzel, sees this not as a problem, but as staff doing their jobs.
"I am very disturbed by the lack of reporting going on in this city," Mutzel said. "I have worked in many schools in the city and the state over the past decade and I can say with confidence that bullying has occurred at every one in much larger numbers than I see it here."