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Anderson parents push for school bullying accountability

Posted: 11:16 PM, Mar 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-08 15:16:14-05

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story omitted Carson Jace Hankins' first name. RTV6 regrets the omission.

ANDERSON — Anderson is a community very much in mourning after a 12-year-old decided to end his own life just over two weeks ago. The child's mother told RTV6 that her son was bullied. This served as an awakening for those parents who are concerned that bullying has not been addressed by the district.

"I’ve been coming back to them over and over and over saying this is what’s going on," Heather Muench said.

Muench shared emails she sent to administrators at her daughter's school asking them to do something about the bullying she says her daughter experienced on the school bus from an older student.

"I think because they couldn’t – they said they couldn’t prove she was being physically threatened or physically harmed, that they kind of ignored what was happening to my daughter mentally," Muench said.

"It was emotionally just hurting her feelings, but I think it was causing some depression and she wasn’t wanting to go to school. She wasn’t wanting to ride the bus anymore," she said. "After the loss of the student at Highland it was just scary to think it could have been anyone of our kids – anyone of our kids."

Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith hosted a community meeting at Anderson High School to discuss bullying and emphasized the importance of students and parents reporting bullying incidents to the school.

The meeting came after 12-year-old Carson Jace Hankins took his own life last month.

"I don’t think they’re doing an effective job getting the information out there, how to report it," Whitney Knight, Carson's mother, said.

After her son's death, Knight said other students have told her they didn't know how to report bullying.

Superintendent Dr. Smith said Anderson Community School Corporation had reported five total bullying incidents to the department of education since August; ten additional bullying accusations logged into their system. The Superintendent also defined state statutes about how the district determines what bullying is.

"He was bullied and arguing over terminology at this point is ridiculous to me – whether it was repeated or one time or twelve times," Knight said.

RTV6 asked Superintendent Dr. Smith why the district couldn't set it's own stronger standard for what bullying is that goes beyond state statute.

"Whatever would be involved in making sure the kids are safe we have the ability to do on our own. That’s just kind of the guideline we use that’s sent out by the state department," Dr. Smith said. "Indiana doesn’t have a bullying law so the school doesn’t really have to step up their game much."

Indiana law does require districts to report bullying, but Knight wants something more comprehensive.

"I miss him every day for the rest of my life," Knight said.

Because for her, the bullying has only begun.

"Since he's passed, he's still being bullied online," Carson's mother said. "I’ve had adults contacting me saying it was my fault because I let him have green hair and make a spectacle of himself. Now Carson’s friends are being bullied for being his friends."

RTV6 spoke to an expert on bullying prevention and asked what signs to look for in your child that indicates s/he may be the victim of bullies.

"Lots of times when young people are being victimized by a bully they will tend to want to stay away from something that before they loved to do," John Brandon McCoy, with Marion County Commission on Youth, said.

An official website of the U.S. government, stopbullying.gov, recommends that if you think your child is being bullied, you contact their teacher first and - if necessary - their counselor, the school principal, school superintendent, and state department of education.