PISD Under Fire for Bullying Incident
Two Murphy Middle School teens are facing assault charges after a disturbing video surfaced online last week. Parents within the community have been up in arms demanding Plano Independent School District provide answers as to how the incident was handled. Outrage intensified upon realizing one of the students in the video is the son of a MMS teacher. Originally posted to the Snapchat app on Mar. 5, the video begins with a smart phone camera being positioned toward the victim for what appears to be a planned assault. The two eighth grade students in question then proceed to hit the victim while he is resting his head on a desk during class. The assault occurred while the teacher was not present and was later shared on social media by a female student.
Following the assault, the victim’s mother was shocked to see text messages, from one of the students being charged with assault, threatening her son with gun violence. She explained, “We already changed his schedule before due to bullying at MMS. The bullying started when he was on the football team in seventh grade. When I finally watched the video, I knew the assault was premeditated and was livid that they were barely being punished. PISD’s bullying policies are not strict enough and they need to change. I was told the kids were signing a ‘Stay Away’ agreement and would also be removed from my son’s classes. When my son came home he said the boys were still in second and third period together after I was assured their schedules were changed. How can they enforce a ‘Stay Away’ agreement when they are sitting in the same class together? I called to find out who dropped the ball and didn’t follow up. MMS’s counselor took accountability and apologized for not changing the schedule before Spring Break.”
The names of the students have not been released, but MMS Principal Matt Conrad sent an email to parents in response to the community’s concern for the safety of their children while attending school. Conrad explained that while he cannot openly discuss “intervention or disciplinary measures as it relates to a specific student or students,” the school’s response follows the guidelines within the Plano ISD Student Code of Conduct. Conrad stated, “Students are required to treat each other with respect and civility and we will continue to reinforce this expectation. Thank you for your partnership in providing a safe and caring learning environment for our students.”
The Plano ISD Board Policy Manual lists expected school-wide behavioral rules and expectations stating in part, “Expectations for high standards of behavior and teaching of respectful behaviors will be reinforced continually throughout the year. To promote a safe and respectful school environment, students will be taught how and encouraged to speak up on behalf of other students who are targets of bullying, harassment or otherwise harmful behavior by telling the bully/harasser to stop when it is safe to do so or by getting help from school personnel.” The policy also concludes school principals within the district are to “provide appropriate consequences” for misbehaviors that include bullying.
A call to action came immediately as parents planned their first protest on the front lawn of MMS. Armed with picket signs and anti-bullying posters, advocates for change arrived before school started on Mar. 22. NBC5’s news crew was also on-hand filming a segment for their five o’clock broadcast. NBC5 news anchor, Meredith Land, posted a picture from the protest praising attendees stating, “This is what courage looks like.” Her post was met with mixed responses as the comment section blew up with aggressive opinions regarding the facts surrounding the incident. Many concluded the district wasn’t doing enough to protect the children, while others accused the victim of being a bully himself. One facebook user posted a video of the victim hitting a student on a school bus.
When asked about the video, the victim’s mother explained, “The video is from last year when they were playing a game called ‘slap box.” My son said the boy in the video had been picking on people all year long on the bus. When he hit his good friend really hard during the game, he said he had enough and played the game harder. He said the boy was randomly hitting and slapping people on the bus all the time, calling them names and acting out.” Social media continues to be conflicted with tensions running high on both ends.
A close friend of the victim’s mother, Becky Gervers Pennartz remains outraged stating, “Enough is enough. There are too many kids hurting themselves. Too many are depressed, sad and not living their lives because of being bullied. It’s got to stop. Other kids have to step up. They have to have a voice to say this is not OK when they see it happen. There have been too many stories about things happening at MMS. This is an ongoing problem.”
The victim’s mother explained her position stating, “PISD’s bullying policy is very gray. There’s no black and white. All of this has been addressed with Principal Conrad and he has been wonderful. He’s been very supportive in making me feel he’s on top of it. I reached out to the superintendent twice and was told I would get a return phone call. I haven’t heard from PISD at all since this happened.
She went on to say, “Kids are scared to come forward when they are being bullied because they feel nothing is going to be done about it and there will be retaliation on top of it. This has become broader than my son. It’s about all of the people who have shared stories of bullying that have occurred within PISD. Most people have said the district didn’t do enough. There has to be a change in PISD’s bullying policy to keep our children safe.”
If you or someone you know has become a victim of bullying or any other form of harassment at school, contact the Plano ISD SchoolMessenger Quick Tip at https://www.pisd.edu/domain/9587. The website allows students to submit an anonymous tip for school and district officials to see.
At the time of print, PISD had not responded to requests for comment on this incident.