UPDATE: Concord parents say their son was bullied; claim the school department’s response is not adequate – news – the concord journal
Parents of a student at Concord Middle School said the school department had failed to take appropriate action to end the bullying of their son.
Francis and Linda McGovern told regional school committees in Concord and Concord-Carlisle on April 11 that their eighth-grade son was bullied by several students in the gymnasium of the Ripley School building in February.
According to Francis McGovern, their son attended a Concord Recreation Department activity at the gym, where he was hit by shoes, basketballs and toilet paper. He was also sprayed with Clorox bleach in his eyes and mouth.
McGovern said in an email that there was no adult surveillance on the night the alleged attack happened. He wrote that the recreation department was supposed to make sure an adult was there, but the program was run by ninth grade students.
Director of Recreation, Ryan Kane, declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation, and directed all questions to General Manager Chris Whelan’s office.
Whelan said in an email: “It would be better if I did not comment on this matter as it concerns minors.”
McGovern said the alleged attack was investigated by Concord police and resulted in criminal charges against several minors, including one charge of assault.
Concord Police Captain Tom Mulcahy said via text message his department does not comment on issues relating to minors.
Francis McGovern said the incident is a continuation of the bullying that began last year when his son was in seventh grade. McGovern said one of the students who participated in Ripley’s alleged attack bullied his son last year, when both were in seventh grade.
McGovern said eight students – four at Concord Middle School and four at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School – were involved in the February incident. He said middle school kids were “punished”, but high school kids were not.
McGovern said Superintendent Diana Rigby said sanctions against high school students were not likely because the alleged attack did not take place on high school property and the school department feared a lawsuit.
“For the superintendent, it’s more important the reputation of schools, rather than taking appropriate action,” McGovern said.
Rigby did not attend the April 11 school committee meeting.
Superintendent issues statement
Ripley issued a statement which said, in part, “We are deeply disturbed that their son was the victim of horrific behavior and we are outraged that teenagers at Concord were involved in this incident where there was no adult supervision. “
The statement said the school department investigated and three middle school students were sanctioned under the school’s policy on bullying and prevention and intervention.
The school department, the statement said, worked with the McGoverns to develop a “safety plan” to ensure a safe learning environment for their son. The statement added that senior college officials are checking their son and that there have been no other incidents with the students.
The statement said the incident did not occur on school property and did not occur at any Concord school sponsored event.
According to the statement, the school district legal adviser believes the district cannot discipline high school students and will defer to the decision made by the criminal justice system.
“Our deference to the justice system should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the outrageous behavior, and letters have been sent to families expressing our concerns,” the statement read in part. “We sincerely apologize for what their son has gone through and are committed to continuing to provide a supervised, safe and supportive learning environment for their son.”
Francis McGovern said the bullying affected his son emotionally, gave up his activities and told his parents he didn’t want to go to CCHS next year.
He said Laurie Hunter, who succeeds Rigby, who is retiring July 1, is expected to form a committee to examine why bullying continues to occur in Concord public schools. He also asked school committees to form a subcommittee to study bullying.
“It’s important to see why something so big could happen,” McGovern said.
Linda McGovern called the bullying a “horrible experience” for her son.
“It should be stopped. The school department needs to do more, ”she said.
Follow Henry Schwan on Twitter @henrycojo.