Metro-East News

Bullying claims are ‘exaggerated,’ Granite City superintendent says

After a video of a 12-year-old girl being bullied at Granite City’s Coolidge Middle School spread on social media, some parents are demanding a change in the school’s bullying policies.

The video shows a girl shoving another girl to the ground, then punching her. As the second girl attempts to jump up, a third girl tackles her down again, and they scuffle, ending up dangerously close to the street. Screams of “stop” and honking car horns can be heard throughout the video. The video had been viewed 10,000 times as of Monday evening, and was shared more than 200 times.

More than 3,000 people have signed a petition on pushing for changes to be made in the district’s bullying procedures. The petition will be delivered to Granite City Community Unit School District 9 Superintendent Jim Greenwald and Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer.

But Greenwald said parents have taken “negative exaggerated news to the media.” In a Facebook post on Monday morning, Greenwald said he spent the weekend commenting on the actions in the video.

“First of all we do everything we can, and will continue to work on keeping our schools safe,” Greenwald wrote. “We deal with many parent, family, neighborhood issues which come to school. We handle them all, they are all very important to us, based on the issues at hand. I understand there is a survey/ petition out on this. I have also seen many negative statements from the public. We do our best with the resources we have.

“It’s a shame parents take negative exaggerated news to the media. Especially after we spend time problem solving with them. I’m not pleased with the media sensationalizing a case which was prompted by a parent call sight unseen. We are working around the clock on this and always strive to improve. We just need the improvement to take place by all stakeholders. We try to be on the same side of the table with parents, students, grandparents, and guardians. It needs to be a joint effort. As I’m typing this message I was just informed the survey has gone viral. So be it, that type of negativity is beyond my circle of control.”

For parents at Coolidge, especially Jewl Marrs, the mother of the second child in the viral video, Greenwald’s statement was “appalling.” Marrs said she has seen tremendous support from the community, and she was disappointed in the district’s reaction.

“In no way is this exaggerated,” Marrs said. “This could have been fatal — not only to my daughter, but to the other students involved, due to it being on a busy road.”

Marrs said the school office called her and said they could give her daughter a five minute “head start” so she could get out of the school before other students. But she wants more. She wants a harsher punishment for the girls involved in her daughter’s bullying, and she wants to send a message to other bullies, saying behavior like this will not be tolerated.

“I’m not asking to move mountains here,” Marrs said. “I have a straight-A student who has missed more school since Monday than she has in her entire life ... My daughter is scared to death ... I’m not looking for a lawsuit. I’m looking to send my kid to school and not have her be scared.

“If I walk away from this, it’s going to happen to another student, and another one and another one. If it only helps one kid, it’s worth it.”

Granite City Detective Lt. Nick Novacich confirmed there was an arrest related to the incident, which took place Nov. 6.

Local recording artist James Stevanus decided to create the petition to bring awareness to the bullying parents say is going on in the district. Stevanus went to Granite City schools, and said he has heard multiple accounts of bullying at the schools, and has experienced it himself.

Calling the bullying procedures “lackadaisical and lenient,” Stevanus said the zero tolerance policy is not working. He’s hoping that awareness from the petition will bring progress.

Although he wants change, Stevanus said he respects Greenwald’s stance on the situation. Greenwald said everything he could on paper, he said.

“(Bullying) still seems to be somewhat of just another daily occurrence in our schools,” he said. “School should be a place a child should want to go to and be able to thrive and learn, not to feel humiliated or embarrassed.”

Greenwald said Saturday that the district takes any type of student misconduct, especially bullying, seriously, and deals with it on a case-by-case basis. He cited the district’s policy on student behavior, which says the school aims to provide discipline that ensures the safety of students and staff and addresses the cause of a student’s misbehavior while providing opportunities to resolve the incident.

Good morning to everyone. I have spent the entire weekend addressing and commenting on the recent Coolidge situation on...

Posted by Granite City School District 9 on Monday, November 13, 2017

Reporter Lexi Cortes contributed to this story.