Teen Punished for Stopping Bullies From Harassing a Special Needs Girl

Bullying incident raises the question: Why are schools slow to respond to harassment complaints?
Stormy Rich was punished for stopping bullies from harassing a special needs girl on her bus. (Photo: WOFL-TV)
May 29, 2012
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

A Florida high school student made a stand against bullying and is now in the hot seat with school officials. For months, 18-year-old Stormy Rich witnessed a girl with special needs being bullied by her peers on the way to school. "They would be mean to her, tell her she couldn't sit on certain spots on the bus...just because she doesn't understand doesn't mean that should be happening to her," Rich told WOFL-TV.

Rich says she reported the incidents to the bus driver and school officials. When they didn't take action, she stepped in and confronted the bullies; but instead of being praised for her efforts, Rich ended up being labeled as a bully, and her bus-riding privileges were revoked. A spokesperson for the school district said, "Two wrongs don't make a right" and that the girl with special needs never complained about being bullied.

MORE: Parents of Bullied Special Needs Girl Want Private School Paid for by NYC—And They May Get It

Stormy's mother, Brenda, told The Daily Commercial, "My daughter was punished incorrectly. Stormy was standing up for a child with emotionally challenged disabilities that should not have been bullied. The district's policy clearly states that anybody in good faith files a report on bullying will not face any repercussions and she is."

What exactly was said on the bus is unclear; however, if a student says bullies are harassing another child, why does it take so long for schools to take action? We live in a country where 13 million kids are bullied each year and more often than not, the behavior occurs on the bus.

This is far from the first report of a teacher or bus driver turning a blind eye to bullying. ABC reports, "In one taped incident, two girls took turns punching another girl in the head and pulling out clumps of her hair. The driver, the only adult on the bus, continued driving the vehicle during the attack."

The bottom line is something more needs to be done to combat bullying in our schools. Three million students will be absent from school this month because of the emotional and physical toll of bullying, and according to the organization Ability Path, children with disabilities are significantly more likely than their peers to be the victims of this mistreatment.

Do you feel it is inexcusable for schools not to take immediate action when a student reports a bullying incident? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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