NEWARK, NY (WROC) A sad letter to Santa written by a Newark middle school student has her family asking schools to do more to combat bullying in the classroom. Grandmother Faith Carney reached out to News 8 with this plea, hoping for some kind of action from the local district.
Carney says since 3rd grade, her 11-year granddaughter Kaitlin Brewster has been subjected to all kinds of bullying in the classroom. According to Carney, Katlin’s hair has been pulled out, she’s been spit upon, her phone has been stolen, and she was threatened to have her throat cut open— Carney said just a sampling of things over the years. The family’s financial means have also been a continued target over the years.
Carney wants more attention paid to kids being bullied in the classroom and for school districts to act, bullying a national problem that only seems to be intensifying.
Katlin goes to Newark Middle School and when Carney asked her to write a letter to Santa Claus, Katlin asked Santa to help stop classmates from bullying her, and for her to make friends for Christmas.
“I sat down and I read it and I just cried for hours,” said Carney.
The family is saying it’s sad that you have a child who should be so excited for the holidays– yet struggles at school seem to be sucking the seasonal spirit away.
Katlin read the letter to News 8 and said, “What I would like for Christmas is to not get bullied no more (sic), and just make friends.”
Carney says Katlin does have a special pass, and if being harassed, she can show that to a teacher, and then go see the principal. Carney says it’s just not enough and has had meetings with staff for years.
Carney added, “It’s caused emotional stress for her– mental stress for her– she can’t focus in school, she can’t focus on her grades, and she’s struggling with that. And it’s not fair. She’s 11, she’s a child. She’s going to school to get educated. She’s not going to school to be bullied and harassed.”
Newark Central Schools did issue a lengthy statement saying in no way do they allow bullying in the classroom.
“At no point does the Newark Central School District tolerate any kind of bullying. The safety and well-being of every one of our students and staff members is priority number one. We have zero tolerance for bullying or any other kind of inappropriate or harmful behavior and take all reports seriously. Beyond following our own policy which states we prohibit all forms of harassment and bullying of students by employees or other students on school property and at school functions, we have gone one step further. On September 7, 2021, the District implemented a 24-hour anonymous, safe school helpline for students and staff to report all types of safety-related concerns, such as, but not limited to threats, harassment or bullying. Additionally, individuals feeling alone, depressed or suicidal can also receive counseling and appropriate intervention services immediately by calling this helpline. The helpline is easily assessed on our website at https://www.safeschoolhelpline.com/ or via text at: 614-426-0240, then type TIPS.”
–Susan M. Hasenauer, Superintendent of Schools
Carney said much of this is news to her. “This safe line, this helpline has never been mentioned. Not once.”
When it comes to bullying in schools, Daniele Lyman-Torres with the Bivona Child Advocacy Center says one in four students has to deal with it in the US.
“That’s abuse. And that is what we focus on when we are helping children to learn that it’s not okay to be bullied,” said Torres.
She says for parents to be on the lookout for changes in their child’s behavior: are they isolating more or losing interest in going to school? Also, look for unexplained cuts or bruises. Torres said to be able to have an honest conversation with your child.
“Sit down with them, ask them about their friends, ask about friends at school, ask about people who might not be their friends,” said Torres.
Torres is referencing a specific curriculum on bullying from the Monique Burr Foundation. Bivona said it’s a comprehensive, evidence-based model used by educators and districts across the US. There is some free training on bullying prevention available here and here.