Cartersville High tackles report of student bullying
by Brande Poulnot
Aug 16, 2010 | 5059 views | 0 0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Several cars parked Thursday at Cartersville High School display messages, such as “Bow Down,” which was also allegedly printed on stickers and passed out to underclassmen at the school. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Several cars parked Thursday at Cartersville High School display messages, such as “Bow Down,” which was also allegedly printed on stickers and passed out to underclassmen at the school. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Bullying in schools and among students has garnered national attention since a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl hanged herself in January after enduring what prosecutors called "unrelenting bullying." Nine teens were charged in connection with case, including a group of girls accused of stalking, criminal harassment and violating Phoebe Prince's civil rights.

Prosecutors say Prince was mostly harassed at school with verbal assaults and threats, but also on social media websites and in other electronic forms. Prince's case and a New York probe involving a gay teen who won a $50,000 settlement in which the school district agreed to do more to protect students from harassment, are far removed from Cartersville and other Bartow County towns, but could bullying be a problem in local schools?

One local mother says the answer to that question is yes. Three days before school started, Sandra Turk called police to report a threatening sign had been left for her child on the porch of the family's Cartersville home.

The miscellaneous complaint Turk filed with Cartersville police was later obtained by The Daily Tribune News, and alleges the sign said, "Be ready for next week [expletive]."

A CPD official confirmed the timing of that incident coincided with a well-known tradition in Cartersville -- teepeeing, or the strewing of toilet paper around the lawns of unsuspecting homeowners.

Cartersville High School Principal Jay Floyd said he is aware of the tradition, but does not know if CHS students were involved.

"Other people from other schools go around, too, because they're aware of this tradition and we have graduates from other years that go around," Floyd said, adding that freshmen's homes are often targeted. "But that is not organized by the school. It never has been.

"Leaving signs is the part I'm looking into to."

The sign Turk reported would not be the last time she called police. School began Thursday, Aug. 5, and two days later, Turk reported an alleged assault against her 14-year-old freshman. According to the CPD incident report, the girl told police that around 1:40 p.m. the first day of school, three people confronted her on school grounds, cursing at her, grabbing her and pushing her against the wall.

She said one person placed a sign on her back that said, "Have fun on the floor." Citing she was afraid for her daughter's well-being, Turk withdrew the child from CHS.

Now a school resource officer, employed by CPD, is investigating Turk's report and Floyd said Thursday he is conducting his own investigation, which includes interviewing students who may have been involved.

Floyd said he learned of the allegations Turk's daughter made regarding the incident at school from police, indicating the child nor Turk made school officials aware of the alleged assault. He said Turk had previously told him about the sign she said she found on her doorstep.

"We don't put up with any type of hazing or bullying at school. I'm not going to tolerate that. We're currently looking into the allegations," Floyd said Thursday. "We understand that someone has filed a police report and my job as principal is to investigate that based on the facts and that's exactly what I am trying to do. I do understand there are things that occurred off campus. Those things we do not promote.

"I'm trying to protect our students and investigate the facts as best as I can to determine what occurred but it's almost like it was taken out of my hands to begin with in the fact that [the alleged assault] was reported to police and it was never reported to us. It was reported to me after the student had withdrawn."

Floyd confirmed reports of other allegations -- that older students gave younger students what Turk called "demeaning" stickers to wear with messages such as, "Bow down."

"We're going to put an end to that. I do understand there were some that had stickers because that came out in my investigation. I have some of those on my desk right now," Floyd said Thursday.

CHS policy indicates the punishment for a first bullying offense is at the discretion of school administrators, and parents are notified. For a second offense, a student could be suspended, and a third offense could bring a 10-day suspension or recommendation for expulsion. Assault or battery at CHS carries a 10-day suspension with possible recommendation for expulsion.

Capt. Jason DiPrima, who supervises CPD's resource officer at CHS, said criminal charges could result from the department's probe of the alleged assault against Turk's daughter. He said Thursday the officer is in the process of gathering witness statements and reviewing evidence in the case.

DiPrima added he is aware of Cartersville residences being strewn with toilet paper the week before school started, but said the department has not classified the practice as a problem.

"If there's a threatening remark on [a sign], then we would consider the possibility a crime has been committed as opposed to just being toilet paper in the yard. We're definitely looking into it," DiPrima said.

-- Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.