A Millcreek Township mom says she plans to pull her son from school because of repeated bullying.
Alyssa McCullum said that her son, a 12-year-old mixed-race student in sixth grade at Westlake Middle School, has been kicked, subjected to racial slurs, threatened and told to kill himself, and that the Millcreek Township School District has done nothing substantive to stop the abuse.
“It’s been going on all school year,” McCullum said. “The first week of school he was kicked in the back walking into school and was called (slurs concerning race and sexual orientation). It’s been nonstop since, and I feel like nothing is being done.”
Millcreek school officials said the claims have been investigated and are unfounded.
McCullum stands by the claims, including her claim that her son was told on his birthday that he would be shot and would not live to see another day. McCullum reported the incident to Millcreek Township Police on May 11.
“It’s sad to me that on my son’s birthday I had to have the police come,” McCullum said. “But I’m not playing around with this. The Erie School District just had a shooting by a kid who is 14 years old. And my son’s grandmother was murdered six years ago.”
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A 14-year-old Erie High School student has been charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault and other offenses in the shooting of another student in a hallway at the school on April 5.
McCullum’s son is the grandson of Sandbar restaurant owner Kum Miller, who was killed in her home by a Cleveland fugitive in April 2016.
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McCullum said that she has reported the incidents and has talked with school and district officials, but the bullying continues.
“I was told that investigations found that four recent incidents were not bullying or had not found evidence of bullying and that my son should now go straight to the office whenever he gets bullied,” McCullum said. “That’s going to make it worse. The bullying just needs to stop. These kids should be talked to and made to understand that there are consequences for their behavior.”
McCullum said that she recently asked the district to provide virtual instruction for her son for the remainder of the school year but was told that they couldn’t be done with so few school days remaining.
“They wouldn’t let him go virtual for what’s left of the year. If he had COVID, he could, but if he doesn’t feel safe at school, he can’t,” she said.
The final day of school for Millcreek students is Thursday.
McCullum said she has kept her son out of school numerous times, has taken him home from school early because he does not feel safe there, and has been warned that she could face action for truancy.
McCullum said she’s now looking at virtual learning options for the next school year.
“My son wants to do virtual, but I haven’t decided which route to go. It’s all brand-new to me, and it’s a little difficult, especially being a single parent. I would just have to adjust my work schedule and probably would have to have a tutor again, as we did during COVID remote learning,” she said.
McCullum is a home health care provider.
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Millcreek schools Superintendent Ian Roberts said that school and district officials have taken the boy’s claims seriously, investigated and found no evidence of bullying.
“Every allegation of bullying, and the other thing alleged was racism, we have treated with the utmost seriousness once they were brought to our attention,” Roberts said. “We had not only our school team but members of our district team investigate, interview the victim and all students apparently involved, and found the allegations were unfounded.”
All bullying allegations reported at school are taken seriously, Roberts said.
“They are absolutely, 100% taken seriously, especially in light of everything happening across the country,” Roberts said. “We will never be in the business of ignoring an allegation. We want to make sure we are incredibly responsive, not just to cover the school and the district, but to make sure students are receiving the supports that they need.”
McCullum earlier this year apologized to the Millcreek School Board for a claim that she later said was not true, Roberts said.
McCullum in January apologized for previously claiming that her son had not received all of the classwork he needed during remote learning.
“She apologized because her son had not told the truth and brought her son to the meeting as well. We appreciated her relating that,” Roberts said.
McCullum said her son was wrong and apologized.
“He said he didn’t have all of his math homework, when he had it and didn’t want to do it,” McCullum said. “He was wrong to say that, and that is why we apologized to the School Board, so that he understands that it was wrong and there are consequences.”
Mother stands by bullying claims
McCullum said she stands by her son’s bullying claims and has not been told how the claims were investigated or determined to be unfounded.
McCullum posted about the bullying on social media and says she’s heard from other parents whose children are bullied.
“The stories I’ve heard from other parents going through the same thing are absolutely heartbreaking,” she said.
In October 2016, Millcreek students and a parent told the Millcreek School Board about bullying in schools and said the district’s “zero tolerance” for bullying had not stopped it.
In 2016:Millcreek students, parents share stories of bullying in and on the way to school
Nationwide, bullying in schools and on social media is a major problem. One in five high school students reports they have been bullied at school, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Bullying is more common in middle schools, with 28% of student reports, according to CDC.
The US Department of Health and Human Services operates a website aimed at reducing or eliminating bullying, at StopBullying.gov.
Roberts said the Millcreek Township School District will continue to take action as warranted on bullying claims.
“We will continue to investigate. It doesn’t matter how many times this parent or any parent comes to us with allegations,” Roberts said. “We will make sure they are taken seriously. We are committed to the safety of our students.”