Parent has bullying concerns


JERRY CITY – An Elmwood Local Schools parent is unhappy about anti-bullying efforts as well as lack of mental health support for her daughter.

Brianne Perez attended the April 11 school board meeting to share her grievances on both subjects.

Perez said the bullying of her daughter started in fourth grade “very hot and heavy.” As a result, her daughter, who self-harms, spent 30 days in a residential unit.

It was reported to the teacher when this started, she said.

Per the student handbook, district policy prohibits harassment, intimidation and bullying. There is supposed to be fact finding, written reports and a compliance officer, and as a parent she was supposed to be contacted, Perez said.

“I have never been notified,” she said. “Why wasn’t I notified? Why isn’t this being reported?”

There also is supposed to be a semi-annual report on bullying prepared by administrators, sorted by grade level, that is supposed to be posted on the district website for parental access.

“I scoured the website. I could not find it,” Perez said.

Superintendent Tony Borton said the report is updated every year in December and he will check to see if that has been done.

The list of compliance officers is found under the District tab on the website, as is the bullying report, which is in Forms under the same tab.

Per the midterm report for 2021-22, there was one incident of bullying reported in the high school, one in the elementary and seven in the middle school.

Only incidents reported are counted, Borton said after the meeting. He added that middle school numbers tend to be higher.

“As soon as we hear a kid is bullying, our principals are on it,” he said. “Are we going to stop it? No. No school can stop it.”

PBIS programs, which contain prevention and intervention practices, are in place in each building to promote a positive culture, Borton said.

Union contracts also outline the procedures for student bullying, but they have not been revised since 2013, Perez said.

That is not contract language, Borton later explained. That is Neola policy, which is updated only when the law changes.

“If a policy is a day old or 15 years old, that means nothing. It’s the last time the rule has changed,” he said.

The anti-harassment policy was revised in 2021 to include gender identify and the need for compliance officers, Perez said. She added that reports of harassment also are to appear on the district website but are nowhere to be found.

Those numbers are combined with the bullying report, Borton said.

This year while in sixth grade, her daughter has reported to five administrators about being bullied. Not one time has there been an investigation and she as a parent has never been informed, Perez said.

Her daughter has never met with a compliance officer about any issue, she added.

“When my administrators hear a kid is being bullied, we immediately address it,” Borton said.

He declined to comment on Perez’s specific allegations.

“It’s been handled,” Borton said.

“I want to have a school district I’m proud of and right now I’m not,” Perez said, and added she pays taxes that helps fund the district.

She said her next step is to consult an attorney and the media.

“This is my child’s mental health and well-being. What do you want her to do? Do you want her to go hang herself before something gets done?”

Perez also questioned the district’s relationship with the Children’s Resource Center, which has worked with her son and daughter.

Her daughter was referred to CRC when she was in kindergarten due to a past traumatic event, but Perez said she was never notified when the relationship with the therapist ended.

She said the district went eight months without a therapist on staff.

When one “therapist” was hired, she hadn’t passed state licensing tests and parents were not notified, Perez said. That person is now fully licensed as a licensed professional clinical counselor and is working with her son on his IEP.

A CRC licensed counselor was brought in but was not a qualified mental health specialist, Perez said.

“My daughter wasn’t seeing the mental health professionals I thought she was,” she said.

Borton said that was a CRC issue and he would not comment on the accusation.

He later explained that CRC is contracted to provide mental health services in the school and he has little control over who they send.

The school safety plan also failed her daughter, who began self-harming herself, Perez said.

As soon as that was brought to administrator’s attention, a stringent school safety plan was back in place, she added.

Anytime a child returns to Elmwood from CRC, they return with a school safety plan, Borton said, adding that he can’t address the details to which Perez spoke.

Federal funds are used to pay for counselor at no expense to parents, Borton said. The alternative is to not offer the on-site service, which will force parents to travel to the CRC in Bowling Green.

Also, at the meeting, the board: 

• Heard comments from exchange students from the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands about their experience at Elmwood.

• Heard a presentation from the Elementary PTO; the group could always use more volunteers.

• Approved a trip to Costa Rica in July 2023. The cost per student will be $3,105; the cost per adult will be $3,605. The hope was for 12 students but within 24 hours, 31 people had shown interest.

“I love they’re going to get out and see the world,” said board President Debbie Reynolds.

• Approved a trip by the middle school and high school boys basketball teams to Sherrodsville in June for the Eastern Ohio Basketball Camp.

• Decided to start videotaping its meetings. Borton will attach the video to his Wednesday messages.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Reynolds said, noting the meetings now start at 5:30 p.m.

• Enrolled in the Ohio School Board Association 2023 worker’s compensation program with a targeted refund of 41% and an enrollment fee of $920.

• Accepted a donation of $8,520 from Royal Summer Baseball to the baseball program for its spring trip.

• Entered into a contract with Wood County Hospital Rehabilitation Services for athletic training services for the 2022-23 school year for $22,000.

• Approved the purchase of seven copiers with a five-year service agreement from Applied Imaging for $55,623.84.

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