(ABC 6 News) – A family is speaking out against the Wabasha-Kellogg school district after saying their son was bullied and harassed.
“It’s supposed to be a safe place for kids,” Angie said.
On December 5, a classmate airdropped an explicit photo of the 14-year-old victim to several students in the cafeteria while she was at school, and this victim had no idea the photo had been taken.
“I came home from school and he told me what happened and I thought how could this happen at school,” Angie said.
After that incident, the family says the bullying continued.
District Superintendent Jim Freihammer did not speak with us, but did send us this statement that reads, in part:
“The district has created numerous policies and procedures to investigate student concerns and complaints…”
“…That policy provides a fair and impartial process, as well as numerous options for parents or guardians to appeal and/or provide additional information if they disagree with the district’s disciplinary determination or recommendation…”
On January 10, the district decided to suspend the accused student for five days, which the victim’s mother, Angie, believes is not long enough.
“Where is your justice? This is telling kids that it’s okay to go take a picture and it’s okay to airdrop photos at school. It’s okay to bully someone for two weeks, bully someone for years, and you’ll get a couple days of vacation because that’s exactly what Jim gave this kid five days of vacation,” Angie said.
She says many students feel that speaking out against bullying hasn’t stopped it.
“These students are at the point of why, why go tell a staff member because they don’t feel like anything will ever get done, it’s just the story there, it all feels like it’s been swept under the rug, the how the students feel
This case is currently with the Wabasha County District Attorney’s Office pending a decision on potential charges.
Jack Rice is not directly connected to this case, but is an attorney and former prosecutor who handles these types of cases. He says a case like this could even lead to child pornography charges, even though the suspect is a minor.
“There is no distinction between those minors and adults,” said former prosecutor Jack Rice.
And Rice says that if convicted, the penalties can be severe.
“If you are convicted of something like this, you will be required to register as a sex offender and that is extraordinarily onerous, especially if you are a child,” Rice explained.
Angie decided that for the sake of her son’s mental health, unless the accused child is expelled, her son will not return to school.
“He doesn’t feel safe. School is supposed to be a safe place to go and it is not. He’s not down here,” Angie said.
Now, five other concerned parents have reached out to share similar stories about their children.
All wanted to remain anonymous, but all said they were disappointed with what they call the district’s inaction.
The school district issued the following statement:
We are writing to provide you with information and request your assistance regarding a serious incident that occurred at our school last month. I know there continues to be a lot of discussion about this situation in our community, particularly on social media.
As we communicated to our secondary families at the time of the incident, in December we learned that a student shared an image on social media that included nudity. Although this type of behavior is not acceptable wherever and whenever it occurs, the photo was not taken at school and was not taken during the school year. As such, the District had no control over those initial actions. However, it wasn’t until several months later that the image was shared at school, making it a school issue.
As a result of this incident, Officer Venz and Officer Wagoner went to the affected grade level classrooms to discuss appropriate and inappropriate use of social media.
After being informed of the incident, the District followed Board Policy 522 (Title IX Sex Nondiscrimination Policy) in investigating the incident and issuing appropriate disciplinary action. This policy provides for a fair and impartial process, with options for parents and guardians to appeal and/or provide additional information if they disagree with the District’s findings.
While we understand that you may want to know more details, due to state and federal privacy laws, the District is unable to provide more information about the students involved or the discipline issued. However, we want our families to know that we have taken this situation very seriously and have closely followed both board policy and all applicable state and federal laws.
We will continue to reinforce with our students the importance of proper behavior at school and responsible use of social media and personal electronic devices. We urge everyone to be careful what they share online. Even with platforms like Snapchat, which delete photos after a set amount of time, it is still possible for users to take screenshots and share images with others.
We need your help as we teach our children that everything on social media is public and permanent. Please discuss appropriate uses of social media and technology with your children. We value your collaboration in reinforcing this message at home.
The safety and well-being of our students remains our number one priority. Thank you for your attention to this important update.
Wabasha-Kellogg School District #811