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Local mother raises alarm about bullying at Lexington One school

Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 6:41 AM EDT
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PELION, S.C. – (WIS) The mother of a Pelion High School student in Lexington School District One worried that if she didn’t speak up in light of the bullying her son has experienced in recent days, the problems would persist.

“If this is happening to him, I know it’s happening to other people,” Victoria Veintimilla said. “And it’s not fair for our kids, it’s not fair for parents, and I feel like problems are only going to get worse if they don’t put a serious end to it.”

Veintimilla said her son has been physically assaulted multiple times in the last week, but that the school took no action and did not notify her until a fourth incident occurred on Monday of this week. Lexington One disputes this.

The District released a statement that reads in part, “The November 1 incident is the only documented case of a physical altercation on campus reported by [Veintimilla’s son]. He did not report any other physical altercations to administrators. There is no evidence to suggest that there were multiple physical altercations.”

The district added that the other student involved was punished following Lexington One’s disciplinary protocols.

Veintimilla said the bullying is an ongoing problem.

“There’s parents who have posted on my Facebook that their children have been bullied, but they were scared to reach out or scared to ruffle feathers, to bring attention to it,” she said. “It’s not going to stop, the school districts are not going to get serious about it until we stick together and show them that it is serious and they do need to take it seriously and put an end to it.”

Incidents like this occurred 41 times in Lexington One schools during the 2020-2021 school year, according to data from the South Carolina Department of Education’s report cards. For comparison, there were 28 such incidents in Richland School District Two, the state’s fifth-largest school district.

Out of 5,807 responses for Lexington One’s 2020-2021 report cards, 91 of parents said that their child feels safe at school, but only 57 percent agreed or strongly agreed that “my child’s teachers and school staff prevent or stop bullying at school.”

83 percent of Richland 2 parents said that their child feels safe at school, while 56 percent said that the school prevents bullying. This was out of 3351 responses.

Veintamilla said she’s waiting for Pelion High School leadership to provide a safety plan for her son, and until that happens she won’t be sending him back to the classroom.

“Their actions are showing me they don’t care,” she said. “They can say that they care but what they’re doing shows different. It’s frustrating because my child spends most of the day with them. And I trust them to keep him safe, you know at any age. I trust the high school to keep my kid safe just as much as I trust the elementary school to keep my kid safe.”

Lexington One’s statement also said that Pelion High School administrators continue to work with Veintamilla’s son to ensure his safety at school.

“He deserves to feel safe while learning at school, as do his classmates,” the District said.

Lexington One said it “prioritizes the safety of its students,” and will not tolerate violence, threats against students and staff, or bullying. The District encourages students to report bullying to the administration or anonymously by calling or texting the Lexington District One Tip Line.

The South Carolina Department of Education has a regulation that was written in 2015 to set levels of behavior misconduct and provide suggested disciplinary measures. According to the agency, school districts must base their discipline policies on this regulation.

The state Department of Education also provides ongoing technical assistance to support educators with best practices for student discipline. This includes addressing student behavioral health and providing anti-bullying resources and ways to reduce violence.

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