Mom speaks out about bullying in New Hanover County Schools

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — Some parents of students in New Hanover County Schools are worried administration is not doing enough to shield students from bullying.

Rhoda Hayes’ daughter attends Laney High School. She says her daughter went through all the proper channels to get help, but was still bullied and beaten up in a video circulating on social media.

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“When I send my child to school, I expect for my child to be protected,” said Hayes. “Today was not a safe place for my child.”

When Hayes’ daughter told her and her husband that two girls at Laney High had threatened her, Hayes encouraged her daughter to report it. According to Hayes, the family and daughter spoke with administration and the principal about the bullying and threats.

“My child took every effort to get help from administrators,” she said, “and she still got beat up.”

Hayes said watching the video, her child was threatened and then beaten up by several girls not far from the school office.

“The administrative office,” she continued, “the office right down the hall where she had just left, asking for help.”

While New Hanover County Schools couldn’t address specific bullying investigations, Assistant Superintendent Julie Varnam said the school system does train staff, teachers, and students how to report bullying.

Varnam said when immediate threats are reported and identified, they spring into action.

“Report of a threat gets involvement from support staff in the building such as a counselor or social worker, administrator, 911 dispatch, and a crisis counselor as needed,” Varnam explained.

Watching the video of Tuesday’s fight at Laney High School, Hayes said she couldn’t help but imagine how different things would have gone if her daughter was more immediately protected.

“If a student told me that they were being bullied,” said Hayes, “and they knew someone was coming to hurt them, either I would have walked that child to class, or I would have told an officer to walk her to class, and so forth. But that was not done.”

Varnum said the school system works proactively and reactively to keep kids safe, encouraging anonymous reporting of bullying using their website or Ethics 360 app, and keeping students safe while bullying is under investigation.

“If we are concerned that there might be threatening behavior of a student, additional active supervision, to keep students apart, monitored transitions,” said Varnum. “There are many different layers of safety supports.”

“But what good was all that if they still didn’t protect her,” Hayes responded.

If parents feel they aren’t getting the help they need speaking with school administration, Varnum says they can call district officials at 910-254-4200 to have their issues addressed.