Perry Elementary School Struggles With Widespread Bullying

Photo Parent Kaitlin Scribner reads her statement the school board about the bullying problems happening at the school. (Photo by Amy Jeanroy).

By Amy Jeanroy

 It's a bully or be bullied school. At least that is what the students say of the Perry Elementary School. At last week's school budget meeting,  Principal Dan Morang and Superintendent Kenneth Johnson were asked directly about what was going to be done about the widespread bullying that is happening in the school. 

“He said he was going to stab my son with a knife!” says Kaitlyn Scribner, recounting her son's experience with being bullied. “My son is 8. He is in second grade! He should not be afraid to come to school. And YOU have failed him. You all have.”  

When asked what was happening internally, Principal Morang replied:

“Anytime there is a bullying complaint there is a process that we have to follow. There are hard and fast policy procedures that we have to follow.”

Superintendent Johnson could not give a timeline on these procedures, saying there has to be a due process, “We can't take action on any student based on an accusation. There would need to be an investigation.”

This was not the answer that parents were hoping to hear.  

“It's the same kids doing the bullying. If you put the kids that are being bullied in a room together and asked them their stories, you would hear about the same kids over and over again. There are your facts.”

“So, the child who put the sanitizer in the water bottle would continue to go to school, until you have enough proof?” Asked a parent of a special needs child, who had her water contaminated with hand sanitizer by another student. 

“The policy doesn't define how much corroborating evidence is needed. That falls to the discretion of the principal and superintendent,” replied Johnson. 

The Perry School uses what is called a graduated discipline system, but this system does not seem to be working efficiently. Currently, a reprimand comes in the form of a check mark. After a number of check marks, the student is given a detention. One parent explained that her son had gotten check marks for reporting bullying in his classroom, but the alleged bully has not been reprimanded. 

“You did everything in your power to discredit me and discredit my son's story and did nothing to protect him. That’s not ok.” To which the Principal responded by saying he was sorry that the parent felt that way.  

These stories are not just the upper levels. Parents recounted second graders being threatened by classmates, scissors being thrown at a student, knife threats, girls being threatened with rape and being grabbed in the genitals, punching, kicking and bullying, seemingly without recourse in the classroom, the playground, and on the bus. 

What is going to be done about the bullies? Asked another parent. 

Principal Morang responded, “I  will continue to address bullying in the classrooms, seek professional development for the staff so we can better handle these situations, and I will do everything in my power to keep your kids safe.” 

“My kids do not go here anymore, but I am not going away.” said Ms. Scribner. “There is a school in Calais for children with behavioral problems. The children who are physically hurting our children should be removed from the situation, not the parents being forced to take their kids out of a school because they do not feel safe.”