James Blair bullying fixes not fast enough

Your recent report on bullying at James Blair Middle School made clear that months after complaints about rampant bullying were first made public, Superintendent Olwen Herron and Blair Principal Ty Harris have yet to address the problem in an effective way. The stories shared by concerned parents of threats and assaults experienced by or witnessed by their children, and the claims that 11- to 13-year-old girls are being routinely harassed and groped in the halls are cause for immediate action by the School Board.

As principal, Mr. Harris is responsible for ensuring that every child feels safe, every day within the walls of his school. He’s failed to meet that basic job requirement. Despite the public testimony of numerous parents to the board, he seems to deny that bullying is a significant problem at his school.

According to your story, Harris’ response to the complaints was, “bullying refers to repeated targeted behavior tied to an imbalance of power. What we see more often is bad behavior and poor decision making. And when we drill down on who is doing this, we are finding this is the same small group of kids over and over. We suspend students that need to be suspended, we change schedules, limit opportunities for disruption and adjust supervision as needed. We take this very seriously.”

Really? Why then is a “small group of kids behaving badly and making poor decisions” ruining school for so many others? In one instance, a female student felt so unsafe her taxpaying parents decided to enroll her in a local private school.

As a first step, the Board should allow any student who feels unsafe at Blair Middle School to transfer to another Williamsburg-James City County middle school campus. Give parents and students the chance to vote on the performance of Blair Middle school administrators with their feet.

Second, replace Mr. Harris. I have never met him. He may be a wonderful man. But he has had his opportunity to address bullying within his school and it is apparent from the heartfelt testimony of Blair Middle School parents that he has failed.

Ronnie Chappell

James City County

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