Despite decline in reported cases, mom, daughter question school district's efforts to curb bullying

Published: Mar. 21, 2018 at 6:46 PM AKDT
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Since she was in the second grade, 11-year-old Rayce says she has been bullied. She said she's been punched, kicked, and called names for no apparent reason. And she’s far from the only one.

Around a third of all students in the United States have been bullied before, according to federal data, and another third have been the bullies. Three of every four students surveyed has witnessed at least one bullying incident in their lifetimes.

Being bullied or harassed is no longer an every day occurrence for Rayce, but she still shares the same sentiment as most kids when it comes to reporting such incidents: “It’s scary to come forward.”

"There needs to be some bigger changes," said Rus’sel Sampson, Rayce's mom. "Let's have outreach, better training."

Rayce's elementary school is located in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District. Her school's principal was unwilling to comment, citing district policy. Channel 2 also reached out to school district leaders for on-camera interviews, but they declined.

MSBSD Asst. Superintendent of Instruction Amy Spargo, however, told Channel 2 in a written statement that the district takes all reports of bullying seriously.

"When an adult is told about a situation, an adult will respond and take action to stop any bullying," she wrote. "When a parent has a concern about their student or a situation at a school, there is a process for resolution. This process is available to all families and district leadership will work together with parents and guardians to find a path forward and seek resolution."

Sampson, however, isn't buying it. In a letter detailing graphic events that she claims happened at the school, she wrote of how Rayce ended up feeling bad for reporting the incidents to on-site staff and leadership.

"My daughter sobbed over [her principal's] response," she wrote. "The school neglected to notify me of these events and I have yet to receive any kind of incident report."

The bullying goes far beyond hurt feelings, however. Rayce claims one of her friends was being choked on school grounds by another student before some of her peers stepped in to help.

However, she said, "I wasn't so much scared of him. I was scared of them not believing me."

Still, a survey from MSBSD showed a 37 percent decrease in bullying and harassment incidents reported in SchoolMax, the district's portal and database for accessing student data such as grades, attendance and discipline.

Sampson said, though, that out of everything, she found the response by Rayce's school the most horrifying.

"When we address it by making a kid feel like they're tattling," she said, "I don't know, but it's obviously not effective."

District officials said they advise specific preventative measures and reporting methods in each and every school. The former might be switching classes, locker changes, contract agreements and different lunch schedules; the latter can include informing trusted friends and adults, using incident investigation forms located in the front offices of schools, filling out a

>, and utilizing

by Google, which is meant to help improve student safety and detect issues early, according to the school district.