Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dunaire Elementary School and a Parent's Worst Nightmare

This is a parent's nightmare. This needs to be the most thorough investigation possible of the Dunaire administration and DCSS Central office staff, and it needs to be done by an outside entity, like the GBI. An investigation by DCSS Internal Affairs won't due.

How does this happen? He was Hispanic, and was taunted about his accent? Race is involved here! The mother alerted staff. Staff "documented" the bullying. Jennifer Errion is the assistant director of student support services, prevention-intervention. What happened Ms. Errion?

People need to be fired for this, and not just the school staff. Any DCSS Central Office administrators who knew about this and enabled it do not deserve one penny of salary from DeKalb parents and taxpayers. Crawford Lewis, we are waiting for a press conference, and an explanation. This is the type of incident that makes parents take their children to private schools, and the system's enrollment is already shrinking fast.

God bless the Herrera/Bermudez family.


Mom: School Bullying Led To 11-Year-Old's Suicide
Bermudez said she had been to Dunaire Elementary School six or seven times to complain about how Jaheem and one of his sisters had been treated, but the problem persisted.

Family says bullying led boy, 11, to hang himself
Dekalb County school officials are mum about allegations that bullying at Dunaire Elementary School may have led 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera to commit suicide last week.

Public information officer Dale Davis said Tuesday morning that officials are legally unable to comment on student-related records, such as whether Herrera’s mother Masika Bermudez had complained to the school about possible bullying.

In an interview with WSB-TV, Bermudez also said her son was being bullied at school. She said she had complained to the school.

77 comments:

Dunwoody Mom said...

When I saw this story on the news last night, my heart just sank. Adults on so many levels failed this child. For those who did nothing to help this child, how do you sleep at night?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely heart breaking. Imagine the amount of pain it takes for an 11 year old to take his life. God bless the family.


Superintendent Crawford Lewis owes the family and the rest of us an explanation. This one really, really hurts.

Jason said...

Tragic. In an interview on the news with the mother, she said after some delay she received her son's notebook / journal and there were pages torn and cut out. Anyone hear more about that part of it?

Dunwoody Mom said...

I can only hope those allegations are untrue. If so, someone can get in serious trouble with regards to tampering.

Cerebration said...

I don't even know what to say. I hadn't heard this and it stopped me in my tracks. How can an 11 year old boy get to this level of despondency?

He and his family were failed. This school has a PhD principal (I would assume that means she knows "something" about educating children), TWO assistant principals, TWO counselors, and an ESOL teacher. In fact these are the stated school goals on the website:

SCHOOL GOALS

To provide educational programs and experiences that will meet the needs of the whole child: physically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially.

To maintain a safe an orderly learning environment.

To increase parent involvement in the educational process of their children.

It looks to me like another case of DeKalb leadership simply "writing" up some goals and then not taking them seriously. This mother tried to be involved - she was ignored. This child wrote about his torment in his journal - which school leaders have apparently covered up. These goals sound so good on paper - however in implementation, obviously, no one really cares.

My heart goes out to the Herrera family in their unnecessary, tragic loss. It's a loss for us all - all who try to believe that these stated goals like caring for the "whole child", encouraging "parental involvement" and maintaining "safe" environments mean something.

Obviously, they do not. We have lost more children this year than I can recall - ever. Something very critical is out of control.

Kim Gokce said...

As a parent, I cannot imagine what Ms. Bermudez is going through. We hand our children over to "the system" but the system can't love them nor mourn them as a parent.

But among its other duties, it should ruthlessly protect them as our agents. The community has failed in this case with unthinkable consequences.

pscexb said...

Well said, Kim! But as we look to find reasons and try to understand how something like this could happen, I began to wonder. Could the NCLB legislation be partially responsible for this?

My point being that attendance is one of the measures for making AYP. There are some children in our schools that 'compromise' the learning of others yet school officials may feel limited with possible remedies for addressing this. Suspending students could impact that measure along with 'possibly' becoming known as a 'dangerous' school. The dangerous label is a stretch but school officials are under immense pressure to make AYP, since that is a measure the nation looks at to determine the success/progress of that school.

As I pray for the Herrera and Bermudez families, I will also do the same for the Dunaire staff and students. I'm sure many will be asking 'Is there anything I could have done to prevent this' tonight...

Cerebration said...

Candlelight vigil to remember deceased student

Child kills himself after he might have been bullied at elementary school

By CHRISTIAN BOONE, KATIE LESLIE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Family and friends will gather Tuesday night at the DeKalb home of Jaheem Herrera to remember the fifth-grader loved ones describe as a “free spirit.”

Herrera’s stepfather, Norman Keene, said the family has received overwhelming support from people in the community about the tragic death of Jaheem.

...DeKalb County schools have programs in place to combat the types of bullying and violence that might have led to Jaheem’s death, but a spokesperson acknowledged Tuesday the prevention program is “not a vaccine.”

Two years ago, DeKalb public schools adopted an anti-bullying program called “No Place for Hate,” said Jennifer Errion, assistant director of student support services, prevention-intervention for DeKalb schools. The program, sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, helps train faculty and students on accepting differences, promoting diversity and inclusion.

...Davis pointed to the county’s code of ethics, which states a no-tolerance stance on bullying and other forms of harassment, including cyberbullying. State law requires a discipline hearing after a third proven incident of bullying, and the DeKalb school system may punish students after the first proven incident, according to the code.

To read the entire article, click here
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/dekalb/stories/2009/04/21/boy_suicide_bullying_decatur.html?cxntlid=homepage_tab_newstab

Anonymous said...

It was the WSBTV coverage that had the quote about the notebooks:
--
Bermudez said she is suspicious about why she didn’t receive her son’s notebooks until Monday afternoon. She said she had been told he documented the bullying.

“When she finally gave me the book, I was looking for these disturbing things -- and it had torn pages and it has pages cut, like with scissors,” said Bermudez.

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/19233010/detail.html

Dunwoody Mom said...

pscexb, I believe you are correct that suspensions, or lackthereof, are a consequence of NCLB. There is a specific attendance rate a school must have as one of the AYP factors. Suspension is most likely the last resort of a principal. There is also the education time the child that is suspended is also missing and with CRCT's upon us, well, you can see the dilemma.

In fact the principal of Dunwoody instituted a Saturday School Detention recently to deal with those students with multiple absences and tardies. Instead of interrupting preparation for EOCT, AP exams and Finals, a Saturday detention was scheduled. I have not heard how it worked out.

Tucker, mom said...

i have not stopped crying all day after i heard of this tragic loss of this child. how lonely he must have felt to think this was his only oulet. i have 3 kids and one just turned 12 the day it was on the news, all i wanted to do was go and get my children and never let them out of my sight again. at first i wanted the children responsible punished and now i want the school investigated and whomever is the one who covered this up his or head should roll... i wish that i could give the parents and siblings a great big hug, my heart physically aches for this family. we sent a birthday balloon of my daughters up to heaven and wished Jaheem a safe journey.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Unfortunately, just reading the comments from Dale Davis and Jennifer Errion leads me to believe DCSS is going to deny any knowledge of this bullying. I hope and pray that I'm wrong, because if they do, then a signal has been sent that bullying will be tolerated in DCSS.

Open+Transparent said...

Crawford Lewis should be having a press conference today or tomorrow, explaining how the school system handles bullying, what the Dunaire staff knew, and what he plans to do to make sure it never happens again, at any DCSS school.

How did this happen??? As Cere stated:
"This school has a PhD principal (I would assume that means she knows "something" about educating children), TWO assistant principals, TWO counselors, and an ESOL teacher."

How in the @#$% does a school with so many administrators look the other way despite the mother coming to them multiple times, with the red flags of the bullies calling the student "gay", and the student being Hispanic in a predominately Africa-American school?

Crawford Lewis, Bob Moseley, Gloria Talley need to be at a podium right now or tomorrow at the latest.

But this DCSS upper administration won't even make a comment about something as banal as school energy efficiency, http://www.wsbtv.com/video/18995777/index.html. Every other local school district went on air to comment, but DCSS Central Office upper management would not, which was disappointing and rather cowardly.

I've talked to a lot of parents today about this, and people are really, really shaken up about the tragedy at Dunaire.

God bless the family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Anonymous said...

This needs to be posted on a
national website. If the investigation's confined to Dekalb, it will go nowhere.
If the word gets out about
evidence tampering then a lot more
pressure will come down on the individuals who miserably failed this child.
Pick your website. My suggestion's Free Republic, but the liberal websites that accept
news postings will work. Ideology
isn't important here.
Bless the family. May justice occur.

Anonymous said...

As a parent, I am totally crushed. For an 11 year old to make that decision...it just breaks your heart. Devastating.

Jaheem Herrera, we will not forget you.

themommy said...

This story was just the focus of a big discussion on CNN Headline News.
The discussion mostly focused on how bad bullying is...

I would love to be able to know if this school has strong administrators who are competent and capable or if like so many schools that are low income, high needs population, someone is just a place holder in many of the admin positions.

Ella Smith said...

I was so sad to see the mother on the news explaining how many times she had been to the school because students were bullying her son or children. Apparently they were calling him "gay".

I thought that this was not tolerated at all. It definitely is not tolerated at the school I currently teach. The students always get consequences the first time it happens and if it happens again they get more serious consequences. To think about a parent going to the school 5 or 6 times and nothing changed is not right. I will say this and I probable should not! Did nothing happen because she was Hispanic? I sincerely hope not. I can not believe this to be true. But, the thought is going through my mind. Why would this bullying continue to happen without the principal removing the students who were bullying from the school.

Lefty said...

We just had a chat with our son telling him that if anyone ever bullies him and won't stop, he should let his teacher and us know. Furthermore, if he knows anyone else who is bullied, he needs to let me know as well. I won't stand for this.

Kcaj said...

So I've looked through the DCCS site and our ES site for something about bullying... Not much there other than something on the DCCS site about an admin program on the issue (I'm probably missing something obvious).

That said, I sent an email asking for specifics from our ES principal. Perhaps that request is inappropriate; but really folks, I think we (YOU) need to do the same to let them know we're watching and concerned: force them to formally acknowledge a problem.

I find it interesting that every year we get letters about our childern's attendance which threaten legal action if our childern miss x numbers of school days; but in this instance the County hasn't a clear, public protocol for what's now become a tragedy. Jack.

Ella Smith said...

No allowed bullying is a state law and it states specifically after the third offense by a student they must be removed from the school and sent to an alternative school. If what the mother said is true then this did not happen and someone is responsible. A state law is way above any guideline or school policy. The reason we have no bullying posters is because of this state law copied below.

Said title is further amended in Subpart 2 of Part 2 of Article 16 of Chapter 2, relating to public school disciplinary tribunals, by adding a new Code Section 20-2-751.4 to read as follows:

"20-2-751.4.

(a) As used in this Code section, the term 'bullying' means:

(1) Any willful attempt or threat to inflict injury on another person, when accompanied by an apparent present ability to do so; or

(2) Any intentional display of force such as would give the victim reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm.

(b) Each local board of education shall adopt policies, applicable to students in grades six through 12, that prohibit bullying of a student by another student and shall require such prohibition to be included in the student code of conduct for middle and high schools in that school system. Local board policies shall require that, upon a finding that a student has committed the offense of bullying for the third time in a school year, such student shall be assigned to an alternative school. Each local board of education shall ensure that students and parents of students are notified of the prohibition against bullying, and the penalties for violating the prohibition, by posting such information at each middle and high school and by including such information in student and parent handbooks.

(c) Any school system which is not in compliance with the requirements of this Code section shall be ineligible to receive state funding pursuant to Code Sections 20-2-161 20-2-260. The requirements of this Code section shall apply notwithstanding any contrary provision of Code Section 20-2-751.3."

One Fed Up Insider said...

But Ella you and I both know that with 99% belief that those kids are going to labeled "Special Ed" and with that label there is very little that you can do with correcting their behavior without jumping through hoops with DCSS. I have seen that as the case many times.

I have written students up but when the AP (Assistant Principal) comes back and states that they are "Special Ed". I just basically throw my hands up and say I give.... There is tooooooo much paper to go through.. Then you have to "physically" talk to the parents. You just can not leave a message before it goes any further. What is a teacher to do? Stop what she is doing to cover for one child when she may have 20, 50, 120, or even 305 in one day. Yes.. I personally know one teacher at our school that see 305 students in one school day.

How do you keep up?

I do feel the pain of the family, but something needs to be done to help the teachers out the report problems.

I am so sorry if this blog sound strange but my contacts and eyes are giving me fits today because grades are due tomorrow and with CRCT my eyes are tired.

Anonymous said...

It is unfathomable that Crawford Lewis has not addressed the public and press on this.

Please, please e-mail and call the AJC, The Champion, the DeKalb Neighbor, The Crier, and www.crossroadsnews.com, and plead them to hound Superintendent Lewis and the Board of Education until Lewis addresses the public and press.

Lord bless the family.

Cerebration said...

You know, Fed Up, there's much truth about your special ed statement, I'm sorry to say. I had a personal experience with this about 10 years ago at Oak Grove. Many of you may remember, we had a kid who was the worst bully I've ever seen. He choked kids, beat up a kid on the bus and punched the kids face to black and blue, he punched kids in class, tossed a paper dye on a para pro's foot and he stomped on my daughters foot so hard it scraped the leather off her shoe, then he stabbed her with an open paper clip.

When I complained to the then principal, knowing that others had complained, he lied and said he hadn't heard a complaint. Knowing for a fact that the teacher sent the child to the principals office every day, I called him on it and he said he wasn't allowed to discuss it. Now, my daughter and others were to spend this day in class with a violent bully, yet we weren't "allowed" to discuss it.

So guess what - the principal got the child labeled special ed and he was taken out of class to a small environment every day - but my daughter was in there 2 hours a day - since she has a learning disability. So, in fear for her safety, I removed her from her time in "Interrelated" as I felt she was not safe, and the principal would not speak to me about it.

In the end - his parents sued the system and got DCSS to pay for a private school education for their child.

Perhaps, the reason no one takes a stand is that we live in far too litigious a society nowadays and it's just easier to not talk about anything.

Open+Transparent said...

Now is the time for DCSS Director of Internal Affairs (and state senator) Ron Ramsey to earn his pay. I'm sure he and his large staff have dropped everything, and have focused their full attention on how and why this happened. I expect that some staff will be moved, some suspended, and some even fired.

And I'm sure all the "bullies" have been identifed by Ron Ramsey and Jennifer Errion, assistant director of student support services, and the "bullies" have been suspended and will be transferred out of Dunaire.

Dunwoody Mom said...

According to this morning's AJC article, several parents have indicated that bullying is an on-going issue at Dunaire. And, yet it seems the administration refused to admit it was a problem and failed to address it. I do not understand how it could be so rampant and no action taken. There are alternative schools for these types of behaviors. USE THEM. Or was the prinicpal too afraid of being seen as "ineffective" if she reported the bullying incidents in her school.

themommy said...

Actually, sometimes getting the label of emotionally/behaviorally disturbed is the only way to get a child out of the school, though more and more the system seems to think that mainstreaming is appropriate for all students with all disabilities.

Today's article is deeply disturbing as it quotes another parent from another DCSS school about serious bullying that went unaddressed.

Keep in mind that this is not just a DeKalb problem, but a national one. However, our focus here is DeKalb and accountability.

I know parents who in order to get action have threatened to or have actually called in the police and pressed charges. I am not necessarily a huge fan of taking legal action against children, but some of these kids are out of control with families unwilling and/or unable to do anything about it. This also tends to get the system's attention that you mean business.

Ella Smith said...

This should not be true about special needs students. Special Needs students must get consequences and taken to tribunal like other students. I got hurt by a special education student badly in Dekalb County at Lakeside High School. HE attached me and tore up my arm and shoulder real bad. The student was back at school the next day. He lived across the street from Dr. Halford. I pressed charges myself and found out the student was under house arrest for doing the same thing to teachers in a private school. I was in shocked that I did not know since the state law require that I did know about the situation. This is one big and main reason I do not teach for the Dekalb County Schools. School safety is a top priority of mine particularly since I wake up and hurt and will everyday of my life because a special education student who was dangerous was given special permission and also not given consequences for his actions though the school system partly because he was special education and I suspect partly because of where he lived and who had given him special permission to be at Lakeside. He could not go back to his home school because of his reputation. So, they cleaned the slate and sent him to another school where I was hurt.

When it comes to hurting other students physically or mentally being special education does not give you a green card to abuse others. In fact, the special education law is very clear. These students should be served in a more restrictive environment. If this situation continues in a more restrictive environment then they need to be served in a more restrictive environment. The courts should also be involved. The school must work with the courts and the courts must work with the schools. If a child is dangerous physically or mentally to others the school sytem does have a responsibility to serve this student in a more restrictive environment whether they are special education or not.

When it comes to hurting others the state law is specific and being special education does not again give you a green card to do this. This is the administrators in the schools situation if this happened and not special education law.

Cerebration said...

I'm sorry about your injury and your experience, Ella. I think much of the problem is that special education is a broad umbrella and many principals and classroom teachers don't understand it -in fact, they separate themselves from it. I think that's why the principal at Oak Grove got Special Services involved, he thought it would remove him from responsibility. They consider themselves separate and don't tend to work together.

Plus - here he was putting a dangerous kid in with very tender kids who simply needed extra time and attention on reading and math, etc. Too broad of a group, IMO.

In fact - several parents did call the police regarding this child but were told that they weren't allowed to get involved since he was under 10 or 12 years old (can't remember the age).

BTW - I read in the paper that Jaheem's mother has a lawyer. I hope she's in good hands.

Cerebration said...

Maybe the county needs to replicate this committee at Peachtree Charter MS -

School Climate Action Team: Responsible for working with grade-level administrators to ensure that consistency in discipline is
maintained. Responsible for enrollment eligibility policies, attendance issues, dress standard, character education, and enforcing
academic / behavioral agreements and related standards for students.

Dekalbparent said...

When I worked at one of our magnet schools for high achievers, I witnessed several incidents of bullying (a student promised me that he would come to my house and kill me and my family), one especially extreme. Although most of the teachers responded appropriately, the administrators did not. Each student or parent complaint was met with "this is the first time I have heard of this".

The most egregious case was a student who verbally and, finally, physically assaulted all of his teachers. When his mother was called in, SHE also verbally assaulted the teachers. It came to the point that no teacher would ever stay in a classroom alone with the student, and the mother was banned from the school.

And, yet, the student remained at the school.

When he moved on to middle school, he physically assaulted a DeKalb administator, and he finally left the system (we thought).

Two years later, I went to register my child for high school and there he was! He had gone to a private school for two years, and then came right back to DCSS...

Cerebration said...

Bad story, DK Parent. Sorry you had to endure that. I think a very similar bullying issue happened last year at Tucker HS - it was pretty rough. Anyone know that story? I vaguely remember something about it being an ISS group and a teacher was outside with them.

BTW - I think the family may have a pretty darn good attorney on their side -- I hope so.
http://www.realpagessites.com/geraldgriggsesq/trial-attorney-griggs.html---------

In addition -

DeKalb has this book called a Code of Conduct. It must be read by students (and parents) every year and everyone has to sign that they have read it. Sometimes, tests are given on the content. Well - I refused to sign it one year, after my daughter and several other children were victims of a bully at a DK elementary school. My reasoning was that the book focused on bullying and other unacceptable behaviors - and there was no mention of processes for reporting, or programs in place to protect VICTIMS of bullying. After several years, they have included reporting methods, however, there is still very little to address victims rights in the "code".

Read it - here's the link (and be prepared - it's scary to think these things need to be "taught" to school children) -
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/administration/safety/files/CF94E23E9CC342C89C35B60EFAAF4546.pdf

At any rate, here's what the "Code" says about bullying
VIOLENCE, WEAPONS, DRUGS HOTLINE
6
Sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education, the HOTLINE provides a 24-hour reporting system for students to report weapons, violence (including bullying), or drugs anonymously by calling 1-877-SAY-STOP. Information is recorded and shared with the local school system and local law enforcement. An investigation is conducted upon receipt of the report.

BULLYING
State law prohibits bullying. State law mandates a discipline hearing after the third incident of bullying with a referral to an alternative school setting upon a finding of guilt (O.C.G.A. 20-2-145). The DeKalb School System will not tolerate bullying and other forms of harassment and, therefore, reserves the right to punish students after the first incident and upon a finding of guilt. Such punishment may include suspension, expulsion, or a referral to an alternative school. Please note: Any form of electronic bullying (cyberbullying) using school equipment, school networks, e-mail systems or committed at school is strictly prohibited.

Cerebration said...

oh there's more -

7. VIOLENCE AGAINST STUDENTS, SCHOOL PERSONNEL, SCHOOL VISITORS
a. ASSAULT/BULLYING
Verbal threatening and/or intimidating teachers, administrators, bus drivers, other school personnel, other students, or persons attending school-related functions without actual physical contact; an attempt to hurt another without physical contact, or actions which cause reasonable fear of immediate bodily harm (including bullying – three bullying violations could result in expulsion, O.C.G.A. 20-2-145). NOTE: Threatening witnesses may result in expulsion.
Penalty may range from in-school suspension to expulsion. A Local Formal Hearing must be held when the verbal threat is a threat to life, when the bullying incident is the third such incident, when the verbal threat is directed to a person expected to testify in a hearing, or when the verbal threat is directed to a school employee. Based on a finding of guilty at the Local Formal Hearing, the student is suspended for up to ten (10) school days and is referred to the Student Evidentiary Hearing Committee, which may result in suspension, a referral to an alternative school, or expulsion.
b. SIMPLE BATTERY/BULLYING
Fighting or making physical contact of an insulting, offensive or provoking nature with teachers, administrators, bus drivers, other school personnel, other students or persons or causing physical harm to another (including bullying or hazing — three bullying violations could result in expulsion (O.C.G.A. 20-2-145). NOTE: if the incident involves intentional physical contact with a school employee, see Offense #4a.
Penalty may range from in-school suspension to short-term suspension, if the incident involved a fight between or among students without injuries and without causing a school disturbance. A Local Formal Hearing must be held when a student physically contacts a school system employee or if the incident caused a major school disturbance. Based on a finding of guilty at the Local Formal Hearing, the student is suspended for ten (10) school days and is referred to the Student Evidentiary Hearing Committee, which may result in suspension, a referral to an alternative school, or expulsion.

Cerebration said...

Apparently, the students are required to read the code of conduct, sign it and pass a test on it, but teachers and administrators are given a pass - and the result is that they ignore it.

Dunwoody Mom said...

All school officials are required by law to report any suspicions of abuse, and not to do so can bring legal action. Are we at the point where the same laws should be applicable to bullying?

Cerebration said...

Someone on the AJC blogs shared this anti-bullying program used by Clemson University as well as many k-12 public school systems. I would hope that someone could pass this along to the county. It seems that whatever "rules" they are implementing at the top, are not being communicated or acted upon in the schools. There's a disconnect. This program could serve as a bridge - it's a program to be implemented in the schools - by a committee composed of staff, teachers, parents and students.

http://www.olweus.org/public/index.page

Anonymous said...

Clearly, the Dunaire administrators knew about the bullying of Jaheem Herrera. They let it continue after pleas from his mother. They clearly DID NOT follow their own DCSS guidelines on bullying.

How long will Superintendent Crawford Lewis remain silent? E-mail your Board of Ed. members and demand that Crawford Lewis addresses the public with answers.


(Let's see how he deflects the blame, because he never, ever admits any DCSS failing, big or small)

Dunwoody Mom said...

This Clayton County judge is taking matters into his own hands.

“Zero tolerance is zero intelligence,” said Teske, a juvenile court judge in Clayton County. “It’s merely a political response, a knee-jerk reaction and often not put much thought is put into it.”

Teske’s way of handling the problems is with subpoena. In the next few months, he will start enforcing a chronic discipline policy, which will require parents to follow the school’s recommendations. That can include everything from court-mandated counseling to intervention from the Division of Family and Children Services.

“Kids bully in schools and cause problems for teachers. It’s my job as a judge to exercise judicial leadership to bring everybody together to address the issues as to why this child is the way he or she is,” Teske said. “I’m trying to capture those bullies in a very common-sense manner without victimizing kids who get caught up in stupid fights.”

Cerebration said...

This is a story that we received via email from Shayna Steinfeld, who ran for District 4 school board and is a mother of 3 children:

My eldest, now 16 year old was kicked or hit in class in 6th grade at Shamrock. He became very difficult to get to school sometime around November. It took me a few days to figure out that something was terriby wrong. I dragged him to school one morning, very "not dressed" (no contacts -- just glasses -- no makeup -- sweats -- etc) just to see what was going on. His non-English speaking English teacher said something along the lines that she was wondering when we were going to follow up with her about what had happened and proceeded to explain that some incident happened earlier in the week and xxxx, the very large bully, had kicked or hit our son in class. She hadn't notified us that our son had been hurt and the bully hadn't been sent to the Asst. Principal for discipline.

The irony is that our son had a black belt and could have taken him down but took the no-bullying policy seriously and didn't want to get into trouble for retaliating (we told him we'd support him if was defending himself). We marched to the Asst. Principal's office and had a nice discussion. The Asst. Principal ultimately worked through the issues with the kids and we discussed pressing charges and decided not to. The kid had a history of bullying and in retrospect we maybe should have pressed charges because I think that by letting kids get away with bullying, you create future criminals.

If the school system were to do a better job addressing bullying issues with the young kiids, the kids might learn that rules have meaning and that breaking rules and laws have consequences. Nipping a youngter's behavior in the bud can be much easier than when they become juvenile delinquents and are actually arrested and suspended from high school or an 11 year old feels the need to commit suicide. In retrospect, I've got chills down my arm and feel lucky that we survived 6th grade. Our son got a "dragon" award for surviving that year -- a teacher told him that "usually you want to be in the gifted classes but that for this year, this was the tough group."

My heart goes out to the grieving family.

Open+Transparent said...

Fox 5 just announced DeKalb District Attorney Gwen Keyes is going to investigate??? Are you F-ing kidding me? She hugs Crawford Lewis when she sees him at various events.

She is incapable of a tough investigation. She knows Crawford Lewis and Ron Ramsey. They're all Leadership DeKalb alumni buddies.
Not only will she not press any charges, she will make sure no one from DCSS Central office is even embarassed by this.

It's clear that the state or GBI needs to handle the investigation. Dunaire Elementary staff and any DCSS Central office who knew about this should be facing criminal and civl charges.

As Cere said before, Dunaire has a principal with a Ph. D., two assistant principals, two counselors and a ESOL teacher. The mother came to the school multiple times. Nothing happened, and 11 year old Jaheem Herrera is gone forever.

Anonymous said...

Shayna Steinfeld is not the only parent who has had a child be the victum of bullying at Shamrock Middle School with Shamrock administration and DCSS Central office doing nothing about it.

Shamrock is one of the worst schools in the system for bullying. Principal Robert Thorpe runs a school with a number of bullies. But if he reports it and the bullies are prosecuted, DCSS Central Office would freak. Crawford Lewis, Ron Ramsey, etc. would rather sweep bullying under the rug.

Bullying in DCSS middle schools happens every single day. And school and Central Office administrator know about it.


P.S. Betcha Jennifer Errion, assistant director of student support services, prevention-intervention for DeKalb schools is one of those Central office administrators making well over $100,000 per year. Wonder how much student contact she even has.

I've never ever seen DeKalb parents so upset with the school system. Yet Crawford Lewis, Bob Moseley, Gloria Talley and Ron Ramsey refuse to hold a press conference and face the public.

Cowards.

Dunwoody Mom said...

You're right about Gwen Keyes - she is a weak DA (criminals have made themselves right at home here in Dekalb, thanks so much, Gwen) and, ultimately, no one will face consequences for this.

Perhaps, the family's lawyer needs to try and get the Feds involved here - maybe some sort of Civil Rights violations???

Ella Smith said...

Respectfully, I disagree regarding Gwen Keys. She is a family friend. Just that she is investigating this incident is a great thing. She is not sweeping it under the rug. Since she is investigating the incident she must be looking at adults in the situation to see if adults in the situation followed state law.

John Evans called me on my way to a Lakeside High School Soccer Game last night and he as a civil rights avocate would like to see the whole county have a rally to stop bullying in our school system and community. This is definitely a situation that every member of Dekalb County can fight to make sure this does not happen to anyone else. I told him to write the details and I would post it on this sight for everyone to see. He said he is from the old school and not up to par on sites like this but he definitely wants to make a difference in bullying in Dekalb County.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Ella, Gwen went out of her way to cover for Vernon Jones, at all times. I'm sorry, you may know her and think highly of her, but her actions, or inactions as they may be, as DA do not give me a good feeling that she will do a thorough job in this case.

Cerebration said...

If John Evans wants to start an anti-bullying program sponsored by the NAACP, I'm sure that would be welcome. He surely must have discussed this with Zepora, since she is also an NAACP officer. I hope they work something up - perhaps even utilize the program I posted here earlier -

http://www.olweus.org/public/index.page

I hope they do collaborate - the NAACP could have a profound effect on anti-bullying in DCSS.

The NAACP

2007- 2009 OFFICERS
President: Vivian Moore
1st Vice Pres: John Evans
2nd Vice Pres: Zepora Roberts
3rd Vice Pres: Yvonne Hawks
Secretary: Brian Woodson
Treas: Louise Thomas, Interim

themommy said...

And then there is this

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2009/04/23/first_grader_arrested.html?cxntlid=homepage_tab_newstab

What do you bet that the school had been working with the parents trying to get help for the child and getting nowhere?

What I hate about these types of stories is how little information can be released. I get not releasing the name but at least be able to say the background.

Anonymous said...

There is no need for new anti-bullying programs. It's about staff enforcing the policies in place, and Central Office covering their backs.

I know for a fact that if a principal who does back up their teachers goes to Central Office for help with "bullies", that principal is considered "weak". And if the parents of the "bully" raise a stink, Central Office does not back up the teachers and principal.

Unfortunately, there are many principals who will not beack up his/her teachers to begin with.

DCSS has a full-time administrator making a large salary who's main job is to address bullying. There is no need for new programs when all the resources are already in place. We just need a superintendent and upper level management who actually get the job done. And a BOE who makes sure the management is performing.

The BOE needs to demand that Crawford holds a press conference.

Dunwoody Mom said...

The ONLY words from the BOE:

On Wednesday evening, DeKalb school board chairman Tom Bowen briefly brought up the incident as he called a public budget hearing to order.

Board members and school officials, he said, wanted “to offer condolences to the family and friends who are dealing with this.”

Dunwoody Mom said...

I hope that arresting an 8 year old child was the "last resort" and not the "first response".

Cerebration said...

Wow, this is apparently a pervasive, difficult issue in all schools. I was very disappointed to read the DCSS response - no wonder they have resorted to legal action. How incredibly sad that this family has met a wall of resistance from school administrators. Apparently, the school system feels that since everyone signed an anti-bullying agreement, their job is done.

I don't know the answer, but coming from a Catholic school background, I am amazed that tiny little nuns were better able to manage bad behavior than anyone in today's public schools. And you'd better believe, we didn't need to sign a "pledge".

DeKalb school officials insist they have taken the necessary steps to rid their schools of bullying, including participating in the Anti-Defamation League’s “No Place for Hate” program, which integrates anti-bullying and anti-harassment lessons into the curriculum.

Through the program, all Dunaire students, teachers and staff signed an anti-bullying pledge, DeKalb schools spokesman Dale Davis said.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, the then co-president of the Shamrock PTA's son was beaten up three times over the course of the year. Principal Robert Thorpe did NOTHING.

She took her son out of the DeKalb school system.

What does it say when you have a mother who is willing to work hard as PTA president then go as far as taking her son out of the school system?!

Middle school bullying happens all over DeKalb. The school principals, asst. principals, and staff know about it, and the Central Office knows about it.

Except for some courageous teachers, they rest of the lot does absolutely nothing. And now a young boy is gone forever.

Enrollment will decrease even more because of this (so Crawford, Turk and Ramsey will look the other way even more when it comes to Clayton County children flooding the system). And when a new family has just moved into the county then hears about it, its one more reason for parents to explore private schools.

This is more than a black eye to the system. It's a systematic defect, it's immoral and it's criminal.

Anonymous said...

More proof that county D.A. Gwen Keyes, a fellow Leadership DeKalb alum and "friend" of Crawford Lewis, is not the person to investigate this tragedy:

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/dekalb/stories/2009/04/23/dekalb_bully_investigation.html?cxntlid=homepage_tab_newstab

The DeKalb District Attorney’s Office will look into the suicide of a fifth grader whose family says the boy took his life because he was being bullied in school.

This would be the first case of its kind during the DA Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming’s tenure, the office’s spokeswoman, Jada Hudspeth, said. Hudspeth stressed, however, that “it is not an active investigation or open case. It’s just to explore.”



JST TO EXPLORE??? What about criminal charges? The GBI and/or the state Attorney General's office needs to investigate this. Gwen Keyes is incapable of a tough investigation that may bring bad press, shame and even criminal charges to DCSS administrators and staff. This will be a sham investigation.

Cerebration said...

Will she investigate this before or after she investigates Pat Pope?

Reaction to the PTA president at Shamrock; I personally know at least 6 former PTA officers (mostly presidents) who pulled their children out and sent them to private school.

Anonymous said...

PTA presidents and officers need to be the system's biggest supporters and cheerleaders.

If DCSS has PTA officers leaving for private school, there is no more telling sign that the system under Crawford Lewis' direction is troubled.


But it seems our Board of Education is happy as long as Lewis brings in Title 1 dollars, and keeps the enrollment from declining too much by not checking residency. Clayton County families, go ahead and live in and pay your taxes to Clayton, but send your kids here to DeKalb for free. Residency doesn't matter. Crawford Lewis needs to keep the enrollment stable or he'll finally have to make some real cuts to his bloated Central Office.

Still no comment about Dunaire. Shameful.

Anonymous said...

Add us to the list of those who have served as PTA chair and are pulling our children from DCSS and going private!

Ella Smith said...

John is actually the CEO of LEAD which is Leaders Against Any Form Discrimination and he is comming to us because he does not want this to be something sponsored by the NAACP or LEAD. He wants concerned citizens to get together a meeting and request Dr. Lewis to come and answer questions. He wants the community to be involved so he does not want a north and south situation. Bullying affects all children in Dekalb and I think he wants it to be an issue addressed by Dekalb citizens at large.

When I get his information I will post it.

Cerebration said...

We'll all be looking forward to whatever John can do to stop the bullying for ALL children in DCSS.

Anonymous said...

Whoa on John Evans. He is a convicted felon. The first elected African-American commissioner in DeKalb brought shame to the county when he was busted by the FBI for receiving a bribe. Yes, people can atone for their mistakes, but taking bribes, $7,000, takes away one's credibility.



Argued December 9, 1991
Decided May 26, 1992
As part of an investigation of allegations of public corruption in Georgia, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent posing as a real estate developer initiated a number of conversations with petitioner Evans, an elected member of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. The agent sought Evans' assistance in an effort to rezone a tract of land and gave him, inter alia, $7,000 in cash, which Evans failed to report on his state campaign-financing disclosure form or his federal income tax return. Evans was convicted in the District Court of, among other things, extortion under the Hobbs Act, which is "the obtaining of property from another, . . . induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right," 18 U.S.C. 1951(b)(2).

The case was appealed, and the Court of Appeals upheld the conviction.

Cerebration said...

how very interesting... did he go to jail? If so - maybe that's where he came up with his anti-bullying ideas.

Ella Smith said...

I am just happy he wants to help stop bullying. I do not want to judge him for his past but for what he currently is doing.

I actually just know him for his compassion for fair and just things. Of, course I see the good in everyone.

Cerebration said...

FYI - this is pasted from the March 24, 2009 Board Minutes. As you can see, DCSS spends quite a lot on attorneys. What this doesn't show is the cost of settlements.

Ms. Alexander noted that the District paid approximately $6million in legal fees and expenses to various law firms and attorneys during 2008. In addition, there is approximately $8million in unbilled legal fees and $4.2 million in unbilled consulting fees related to the Heery Mitchell case. In 2007, the District spent approximately $6.8 million in legal fees and expenses.

Ella Smith said...

Cerbration you need to just post the money spent on attorney fees in a short and sweet entree about the money spent on attorney fees. We should be on retainers for attorneys and not be spending this amount of money.

No Duh said...

Which public official do you think wants to point out that the Dunaire Elementary community is raising children to behave as animals? Because, at the end of the day, when you have an ELEMENTARY school this dysfunctional (reading from today's AJC) and this consistently violent the bullying students are acting out of fear and anger, probably emulating what happens in their homes and living in a cesspool of negativity. I suspect there are so many bullies at Dunaire that removing them would leave only a handful of students who can behave.

Which plays into Ella, et. al.'s discussion about "special ed." I don't think these bullies are capable of behaving. To change these kids, we would have to take them out of their home environments, provide intense counseling and provide them a safe place in which to grow up.

It breaks my heart that we have children in our community who have absolutely no place where they can feel safe. When we have ELEMENTARY schools with this kind of violence, we have a systemic problem that Dr. Lewis, John Evans and certainly not Zepora Roberts or Gene Walker will ever be able to fix.

This isn't the "neighborhood" bully -- this is the neighborhood itself. And if this tragic event doesn't wake up the Dunaire community (or the Shamrock, or "add school name here") then nothing will.

And since most of us can't afford $40K per year per kid for private school (where the bullying is "classier") then we all better stop pointing fingers and start figuring out how to shake up these communities.

No Duh said...

Just couldn't leave this thread without sharing the following link with you.

http://www.ajc.com/news/content/shared-gen/ap/National/US_School_Moose_Death.html

Now that's "bull"ying!

No Duh said...

Link may not work. Here's the story.

Alaska school punishes students for taunting moose
PALMER, Alaska — Eighth-graders at an Alaska school have been disciplined for taunting and frightening a moose so severely it suffered a fatal injury.

School district spokeswoman Catherine Esary says the physical education class at Colony Middle School in Palmer was let outside Monday before teachers realized a moose was on the grounds.

A teacher witnessed the taunts. Esary wouldn't say what the students did.

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters says the moose's panic prompted the animal to throw itself into a wall repeatedly, which caused its death.

Esary cited privacy concerns in not saying how many students were involved or how they were punished.

Cerebration said...

No duh, that is just weird. Do you get a completely different version of the paper than the rest of us?

Poor moose.

Anonymous said...

Enough with the moose stuff.

When Jaheem Herrera's mother went to the school six or seven times to discuss the bullying, how is it possible that multiple administrators knew and did nothing? I can see how it wouldn't have reached the principal if she came once or twice, but for her to reach out so many times.

It seems like Crawford Lewis is relying on the public to forget and move on.

But we won't.

Cerebration said...

" how is it possible that multiple administrators knew and did nothing? "

Obviously, you've never had to deal with a school administrator to try and solve a serious problem. There's a serious disconnect between what is handed down from admin as "policy" and what actions are being taken at the local school level. For some reason, principals are under the impression that they should only report "good" news. Anyone with a problem gets the cold shoulder.

Cerebration said...

"To ignore the facts does not change the facts."

-Andy Rooney

No Duh said...

Jaheem's mother complained six or seven times. We don't know if each complaint was about the same kid(s). So, to reach the "three times and you're out" rule, we'd have to know whom she was complaining about.

I pray she has kept records of her visits. If not, you can be guaranteed no records from Dunaire will turn up.

Anonymous said...

"Obviously, you've never had to deal with a school administrator to try and solve a serious problem."

Cere, I've been lucky to deal with an awesome DCSS elementary school principal, who was fantastically professional, engaging and responsive to good and bad issues. He's worth every penny of his salary.

I've also dealt with a DCSS middle school principal who is arrogant, confrontational, dismissive, overly impressed with himself, and just a miserable person. And he's a principal at one of the middle schools known for bullying. This principal is somehow a principal even though he has no classroom teaching experience.

It is freaking crazy that Gloria Talley and Crawford Lewis allowed someone to be a principal without at least 3-5 years in the classroom.

Gloria Talley is in charge of everything DCSS in the classroom. Ron Ramsey is charge of Internal Affairs.

Both have culpability in the Dunaire suicide.

Cerebration said...

Although most of the teachers responded appropriately, the administrators did not. Each student or parent complaint was met with "this is the first time I have heard of this"..

Dekalbparent - that is exactly the same experience we had at Oak Grove. Exactly. Seems like an unspoken policy almost. Glad to hear you had a good experience Anon - maybe there's hope... but I think this issue should be dealt with starting with our principals. We have too many weak, bureaucratic principals in DCSS.

Cerebration said...

Today's AJC tells us that there is a group called The Georgia Coalition Against Bullying - meeting on August 15 at the Hyatt Regency on Peachtree St to discuss bullying in response to Jaheem's death. Parents, children and interested adults are welcome to attend. The event will feature children speaking about their personal experiences with bullying.

ALSO -- A reporter from WABE Public Radio is writing a report on Dunaire Elementary School and bullying - if anyone who has direct knowledge of the case would like to contact him for the article, send him an email at

jonathan.m.shapiro@gmail.com

Cerebration said...

ATLANTA, GA (WABE) - The county's 3-month long probe into school bullying is coming under fire. Some are saying the investigation hasn't been transparent enough and now lacks credibility.

Sue Heslup is a long-time resident of Dekalb and the mother of two former students.

"There was a lot of information that was never shared, a lot of information withheld, a lot of parents in the dark...That's what I think people are upset about."

She says her main issue is that the county has yet to produce a written report on the suicide of 11 year old, Jaheem Herrera.

Dale Davis, the spokesman for Dekalb schools, says that any findings from the case are technically private. He says it's because the county's lead investigator - Judge Thelma Moore - is actually considered an attorney.

"The facts are these, Judge Moore's report is not public record, it is protected under attorney-client privilege."

But Jim Walls disagrees.

Walls is the editor of the news website, Atlanta Unfiltered, and has followed the investigation since the beginning.

He says Moore wasn't initially hired as an attorney. Originally, she was hired as an independent investigator.

"The superintendent had said he was going to have an independent investigation done, if she's now an attorney representing the school district, then whatever investigation she made is no longer independent."

Walls has been repeatedly turned away in his requests for information. He says Dekalb has only released Judge Moore's invoices, which for June alone totaled 165,000 dollars.

School spokesman Davis says in lieu of a written report, the county is offering a video recording of Judge Moore's May press conference.

"Ultimately when the investigation is concluded that in which we are legally bound to release, we will."

But Walls and others believe that without a written report, it'll appear Dekalb is just trying to cover itself from a potential lawsuit.

Gerald Griggs is the attorney for Herrera's mother and says this is exactly what's happening.

"Basically there's a brick wall being built. It indicates it's the school district's investigation, not some independent arbiter trying to search for truth."

Griggs wants the state to take over the investigation immediately.

Judge Moore could not be reached for comment.

Jonathan Shapiro, WABE News.
© Copyright 2009, WABE

Cerebration said...

Here's a link to the CNN video and more conversation here on bullying.

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2009/04/cnn-reports-on-jaheem-and-bullying.html

Cerebration said...

I'm sorry, but this really sticks in my craw -- paying this judge to "investigate" --

From Atlanta Unfiltered -

Moore will be paid $325 per hour through Oct. 30 under the consulting agreement. The extension was signed June 19.
School officials have repeatedly denied requests filed under the Open Records Act for a copy of Moore’s written report. Her contract requires that she report her findings in writing, but the report is incomplete, Erick Burroughs, a lawyer for the district, said in a letter Friday.
In any event, the letter said, the district will not release Moore’s written findings because they are protected by attorney-client privilege.
Moore’s contract makes no mention of legal representation or other legal services. A school system spokesman has said Moore is not representing the district in the Herrera case.
Moore billed the school district $3,423 in May and $166,995 in June, Burroughs said in the letter. Schools spokesman Dale Davis said the charges reflect the work of a team of attorneys working with Moore.
The school district refused to release copies of Moore’s invoices, which it maintains are protected from disclosure as attorney work product.
Dunaire reported 11 incidents of “threats/intimidation” in the three school years ending in May 2008, according to the state Department of Education. In that same period, the school reported eight incidents of battery, 22 of disorderly conduct, 98 fights and 134 miscellaneous rule violations.


http://www.atlantaunfiltered.com/2009/06/29/dekalb-spends-170k-on-bullying-probe-written-reports-remain-private/

Cerebration said...

The latest news on this story -- from the AJC -

DeKalb school's final report: Bullying not key factor in boy's death

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-124646.html

Cerebration said...

Yet another update --

DeKalb County schools have paid attorney Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore $389,161 to investigate bullying at Dunaire Elementary School.

http://www.atlantaunfiltered.com/2009/09/04/latest-tab-for-dunaire-bullying-investigation-389161/