The 11-year-old charged in three bullying incidents at a Waltham elementary school is suspected of other bullying attempts, say school officials, who added that they were stunned by the level of intimidation involved.
Peter Azar, Waltham schools superintendent, said an interview today that children felt threatened by the bully to the point that they wouldn’t talk until prodded by adults to open up.
“They were scared to talk,” he said. “They weren’t saying anything to anybody. They just did not go to an adult and tell them what was going on.”
The child, who is not being identified, was charged by police Jan. 25, with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, using a foot and a locker door, and one count of assault with a dangerous weapon using scissors. Police have said there were two victims in those three incidents.
WHDH-TV reported the suspect was a girl and that at least one of the victims was a 10-year-old boy.
Asked if there were any injuries, Azar said, “Yes there was some punching and scratching and kicking that had gone on. That was the event that triggered all this for us.”
He was referring to an incident Friday, January 22. On Monday, January 25, Mayor Jeannette McCarthy started receiving calls from unhappy parents.
“I was contacted by a parent who felt the situation was not being treated seriously enough by the administration,” said McCarthy.
The alleged bully has been removed from the Fitzgerald Elementary School, said Azar.
If the allegations prove to be true, the level of bullying could lead to a long-term suspension, he said, without getting into the specifics of this case.
McCarthy said the superintendent is looking at whether the school's reaction to the alleged bullying was slow.
Azar said he is looking not only at the incident itself but also “how our staff responded to the incident.”
The policy in place is fine, he said, but he is reviewing implementation.
“What goes along with [the policy] though is handbook statements and specific practices in individual schools, and what I’m doing is looking at that to see if it was effectively handled.”
He said he is reminding principals to be vigilant in any reported instances of bullying. Azar said there are also ongoing programs in place to educate students about bullying.
Azar said he would not respond to the criticism that the reaction was slow because he does not want to argue the matter with the mayor in the newspaper. But he did say that as soon as the district learned about the severity of the incident, administrators immediately took “some very appropriate and very serious steps” to address what was going on.
McCarthy said all children must feel safe at school.
“They have to send a clear message to students whether they be victims or perpetrators that bullying is not going to be tolerated,” she said.
Earlier this month, another Waltham school held an anti-bullying event, as school officials there try to step up efforts to curb bullying.
Lisa Kocian can be reached at 508-820-4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.