Bullying forces Gilbert Junior High student to change schools

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

GILBERT, Ariz. -- Lena Smith is a Gilbert mother who feels she failed her daughter.

"I feel like after the first incident, I should have done something right then to where it didn't escalate to this," said Smith.

For the past month, Smith's 13-year-old daughter has allegedly been bait for a pack of mean girls at Gilbert Junior High. Smith started her 7th grader at the school in January, but she said problems began two days later.

"She says 'Mom, I'm hiding in the bathroom. Can you come get me?' And I said 'What happened?' And she said 'Mom, there's girls that are after me and I'm afraid to come out'" said Smith.

Smith contacted the school to check on her daughter and ask staff at Gilbert Junior High what they would do to stop the harassment. She said they never called back. And the bullying didn't stop.

"Same group of girls, one of them had tried to befriend her, try to get to know her, try to get her guard down, and my daughter let her guard down and that's when the girls stabbed her in the side with the pencil," she said.

Again she called, and again, she heard nothing. Then this past Thursday the girls allegedly grabbed and pulled at her daughter, leaving bruises. Smith had enough, and transferred her to another school.

Susan Cadena works on bullying prevention for Gilbert Public Schools, and shared the district's definition of bullying.

"Bullying is defined as an intentional act of physical harm or physiological distress," she said.

Her description of what schools are expected to do sounds very different from the Smith's experience.

"If the student reports then whoever they report it to, whether it's another staff member or to their parent, we ask that they contact an administrator," Cadena said.

She said communicating with parents is key.

"We'll make sure there's initial contact, if there's contact during the investigation and if there's follow up if there are consequences that need to be doled out or just to let them know the investigation is over," said Cadena.

But Smith said it didn't happen with Gilbert Junior High.

"The staff, the faculty is supposed to be there to protect her, and everybody let her down," said Smith.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, staff at Gilbert Junior contacted the Smith's and asked that they return to the school to file a formal bullying complaint. Smith said her daughter is happily settling into her new school.