Bismarck mother speaks out about the lack of response to bullying in district

Published: Oct. 9, 2019 at 9:07 PM CDT
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Sending your child off to school should be an easy task.

But for one Bismarck mother, every day comes with concern and worry.

Every morning, when Michelle gets her son, who we're calling Tay, ready for school, she reminds him to stand-up for himself.

However, she knows it's easier said than done, and that his story of harassment and sexual assault is one with many dead ends.

A mother's worse nightmare.

"Sometimes when I send my son off on a bus I cry because I don't know what he's going to go through for that day," said Michelle, Tay’s mother.

Two months into the school year, Michelle says her 5-year-old son has already experienced bullying on the bus, in the classroom, and on the playground.

She says Tay has come home with bruises, and horror stories. His mother says he was even sexually assaulted on the bus.

"Why didn't the bus driver stop any of this? Why hasn't he stopped any of it? I've even said something to the bus driver," said Michelle.

Michelle says she's contacted the school principal, social worker, and superintendent.

"I was told that the principal would ride the bus with my son, I was told there would be an adult supervisor on the bus with my child, and that something will be done. I've been told multiple times that something would be done," says Michelle.

Michelle has talked with the principal multiple times, and has met with him once. She has another scheduled meeting on Thursday.

Your News Leader reached out to the Bismarck Public School District for a comment.

The Superintendent said BPS addresses the needs of parents and their children personally and privately. However, the District says they adopt 30-minute Second Step curriculum into K-8 classrooms.

"It's a program that teaches social and emotional learning, but really what it does is it lays the foundation to build skills so that we know how to treat each other with respect," said Tracy Famias, BPS School Social Worker.

Which is expected to help students learn coping mechanisms related to bullying.

"That's what Second Step does, it gives students the skills to be able to get along and to deal with difficult moments and strong feelings," said Famias.

When Michelle didn't get answers from the school, she turned to the police.

"There's nothing they can do, because as of August 1, the law changed that a child under 10 years old cannot be charged criminally and that I need to seek help from the community," said Michelle.

We reached out to the Bismarck Police Department. They referred us to Century Code 12.1-04-01. It states that an individual under the age of 10 is deemed incapable of commission of an offense, therefore they cannot be charged with a crime.

"If the kid can't be charged with it, well maybe the parent should be," said Michelle.

Michelle tells us she is being ignored by the bus company, pushed aside by police, and placed on hold by school administration. Now, she's taking matters into her own hands.

"The first action I did was follow the bus, to the find out where one of the bullies lived. The one that sexually assaulted my son," said Michelle.

She says she felt like she had no other option.

"I approached one of the bullies, and I yelled at him, and I told him to go get his mother. But I yelled at him, and I asked him why? Why my son? Why do you keep picking on him? You pretended to be his friend the first day," said Michelle.

For now, Michelle says her son is back on the bus, after being temporarily removed, but he continues to fight battles every day.

"I want my son to be able to go to school every day without having to fight. I want him to go to school and have a good day. I want him to come home happy and tell me that he had a great day," said Michelle.

Battles that she knows she isn't facing alone, as other families are stepping forward with their own bullying experiences.

Michelle posted her story on a public Facebook page, it a drew many comments about other bullying incidents in the district, but it has since been taken down.