Bullying incident at Sioux City North High has a mom worried for her son's well-being
A recent Facebook post about a North High School student being bullied has gone viral.
Spencer Rice is a Sophomore at Sioux City North High School, he suffers from cerebral palsy and has autism.
Around Christmas Eve an online cyber bullying poll was posted.
Spencer's mom Kristi Rice describes what that online poll stated, "I believe the online survey whether or not to kill him and that is the word, let me be clear because they are saying they didn't threaten, well should we kill Spencer yes or no thumbs or thumbs down that is a direct threat in my mind."
Rice was not made aware of the online threat against her son until January 3rd. Spencer is normally accompanied by a school aide but on that day she was not there and was not assigned to anyone else. One of the students accused of bullying Spencer saw he was alone and charged at him as if he were going to assault him and was being verbally abusive.
Following the incident Rice went to the school to request more information about the incident and to request the police report and discovered no report was filed.
"I don't have any reason to think things will get better. There's 800 comments on one post that is screaming that so many kids and so many families are hurting from the bullying specific to our district and in some cases specific to our school," said Rice.
Rice was led to believe the students involved in bullying her son were suspended from school but she said as of Monday they were spotted on the North High campus.
A former student heard about the bullying incident and decided to write a letter to State Senator Rick Bertrand and State Representative Chris Hall urging them to take action for Spencer.
Hello, Senator Bertrand and Representative Hall, I'll take a moment to preface with telling you why this is coming from me at all: I am a Graduate of the school I am about to lodge a complaint about (class of 2016), and a life-long citizen of the City therein. I learned of this situation just this evening, and am absolutely appalled by it. I feel that either something must be wrong, legally, for this all to have legally transpired, or that some individuals have broken the law and are currently getting away with it: I write you in regards to what seems to me to be unlawful mishandling of a situation within North High School, in the Sioux City Community School District in Sioux City. As I understand, not long ago (I've not been informed of the exact date, but I suspect within the past week) a friend of mine's child was both cyberbullied and then physically bullied on account of mental disorders he has. The cyberbullying that occurred was an online poll about whether or not to kill the student, which was supplemented by whether to do it directly, or drive him to suicide. Following that, the student was approached and assaulted by one of the involved students while he was without his 1:1 aide, who was unable to be with him and had no substitute provided. As I understand, these events fall soundly under Iowa's legislation regarding bullying, which while I'm sure you are familiar with, I will cite: S.F. 61, 2007 Code §280.28 Harassment and Bullying Prohibited. After this event, my friend, to reiterate: the child's mother, went to the school to followup about the incident as I imagine any parent would - at which point, she was lied to about whether a police report was filed by the school's officer(one had not been filed, and she was only informed this was the case when she said she was going to the Police Dept. to pick up a copy for herself when no copy was provided), and administrators told her, with a direct quote from my friend here: "Per Asst Principals Swenson and Bemus - online threats and assault do NOT meet level for Violation of Code of Conduct" While I know you gentlemen are not directly responsible for what occurs in a constituent area's school districts, I feel you have the power to look into this matter, or at least point the situation in the correct direction. I feel if you are unaware, you should look into the history of North High School's trouble with handling troublesome situations and making appropriate hiring decisions, including multiple (at least 3 to my recollection) teachers either resigning or being fired for theft or sexual misconduct during just my 4 years there. I do not know precisely what you are capable of doing, but I intend to make noise about this situation as loudly as I can to everyone I can, as no student deserves to be treated the way this student was, nor should any parent have to worry for their child's safety at school. While I am living away from my hometown for college and have intended to move back for my career, this kind of school district and administrative behavior makes me fear for my future family's safety if I should decide to remain in this state; I imagine there is a similar fear for a great many others that are aware of the situation. It is in the state's, and indeed, the NW Iowa area's, interest to handle this situation properly and quickly to make sure that people actually see the area as a good place to raise a family. The trouble in this school district and especially this high school has been ongoing for so long that it almost feels like it's become acceptable. It isn't. The people that have mishandled this situation should not be in charge of student safety, and this is not the first time these very administrators have handled a situation this way. I encourage you to do some sort of administrative and incident audit of this place, and fix some of the troubles that are driving so many current students there away for their futures. Best regards from a very concerned citizen and constituent,The trouble in this school district and especially this high school has been ongoing for so long that it almost feels like it's become acceptable. It isn't. The people that have mishandled this situation should not be in charge of student safety, and this is not the first time these very administrators have handled a situation this way. I encourage you to do some sort of administrative and incident audit of this place, and fix some of the troubles that are driving so many current students there away for their futures.
Best regards from a very concerned citizen and constituent,
We reached out to Senator Bertrand for comment regarding the letter and he told us that Superintendent Gausman and he had a conversation involving the incident.
Stating that the parties involved were notified of the bullying and that the students were handed out some form of disciplinary action, along with that discipline he said the students issued an apology to Spencer.
We also reached out to Representative Chris Hall who sent us the following statement.
There is no place for bullying in our schools. I have spoken to Superintendent Gausman about the incident, and am available to any parent or student if they wish to reach out directly.
We reached out to the Sioux City Community School District to ask about the incident and they sent us a written statement saying,
The Sioux City Community School District is committed to providing an environment where students and staff members are treated with dignity and respect. Instances of bullying are investigated and acted upon immediately when we are made aware of any challenges. We recognize that we are not unique, in that we experience the challenges of school and community-based bullying, yet we want to be unique in serving as a District that works to make a significant and positive difference in this arena. The District has a board policy regarding anti-bullying http://www.siouxcityschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/504_4.pdf. The District also has a Student Services and Equity Education office to assist in matters that are brought forward. As you are probably aware, Federal Law (FERPA) prevents District officials from discussing specific student cases publicly, but I assure you that student and staff member safety is always our highest priority.
They couldn't confirm if the students involved in the bullying were punished due to Federal Laws prohibiting officials from talking specific student's cases publicly.
Spencer is not back at school and his mother says at this point she does not know if he will return.