A bullying incident that was widely shared on social media has renewed calls for the Janesville School District and other community groups to do more about bullying.
Angelia Babcock, president of the anti-bullying group Be a Rooney, said the undated videos show that bullying has not gotten better. She said the incident reinforces the need for a citywide anti-bullying ordinance.
“We need to bring all the entities to the table,” Babcock said. “The school district, the police department, the city council and the community.”
Babcock advocated for an anti-bullying ordinance that was tabled by the Janesville City Council in September 2018. The measure would have applied to both children and adults, including parents. It included a fine that started at $50 and reached $770 if the matter went to court, according to a previous story in The Gazette.
On Monday, Babcock sent the video clips to school, police and city officials. She also sent copies to the media.
The first clip shows a female student accusing another of stealing something from her. The victim denies it. The female student hits the victim in the face twice. When the victim bends down to pick up her belongings off the floor, a second girl hits her in the side of the head.
The second video clip shows the victim kneeling on the floor with her back to the camera. The first female student strikes the victim in the face. When someone off camera tells the female student to “Stop, seriously,” the female student threatens her.
The incident appears to take place in a Parker High School bathroom.
Patrick Gasper, a school district spokesman, confirmed the incident occurred at Parker.
Federal law prohibits the district from revealing information about the victim or perpetrator.
“The school was aware of the situation and handled it according to policy,” Gasper said.
The district’s anti-bullying policy allows “action up to and including behavioral interventions, support, disciplinary action, and/or referral to law enforcement officials or social services.”
Consequences are “unique to the nature of the behavior, the developmental level of the student, and the history of problem behaviors,” the policy states.
In addition to supporting an anti-bullying ordinance, Babcock thinks schools need to do more.
Based on what she saw in the videos, Babcock thinks the victim and perpetrator need access to mental health services.
“She clearly does not know how to handle her anger and aggression,” Babcock said of the perpetrator.
This year, the school district started a new program that allows students at Wilson Elementary School and Craig High School to receive mental health services at or near the schools. Officials hope to expand those services to more schools, Gasper said.
Both high schools and all three middle schools have full-time school resource officers who respond to fights and other incidents, Gasper said.
For Babcock, that’s not enough. Social media allows bullying to extend beyond school walls, and that’s another reason she supports an ordinance.
In her email to school and city officials, Babcock said videos of the Parker incident were posted on Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook, which removed them because of their violent content. The social media sharing will make the victim’s life worse, Babcock wrote.
“You had the opportunity to do something about it, and you failed,” she wrote. “This little girl’s life is forever changed because you failed to do anything to help protect her and kids like her.”
Last year, Assistant City Attorney Tim Wellnitz recommended against adopting an anti-bullying ordinance because it “would not provide any beneficial enhancement” to the city’s existing policies and state statutes.
Gasper stressed that district officials work closely with police when bullying occurs.
He encouraged parents to talk to their children about resources at school. Student who are being bullied can talk to the principal, assistant principal, school counselor or any trusted adult.