Friday, May 25, 2018
Education

Students, parents deliver a message to Hernando School Board: Stop bullying

BROOKSVILLE — Taylor Heidt squirmed behind the podium Tuesday evening, tossing her hair in her hands. Her voice quivered.

She had a message for the Hernando County School Board: Make the bullying stop.

"I've been bullied before," the 14-year-old West Hernando Middle School student said. "I am still getting bullied. I hate the bullying. I want it to stop."

Taylor talked about how her friends are bullied. She said they turn to teachers, but very little is done to help them. As a result, she said, some have resorted to cutting themselves. Some have considered suicide.

"I'm just done with the bullying," Taylor said. "My friends are done.

"There's too many people that have tried to commit suicide," she said during an emotional speech to the board.

Taylor was one of about 50 people who came to Tuesday night's meeting to speak out about bullying in the schools in the wake of the suicide of 12-year-old Miguel Rodriguez of Spring Hill.

Miguel, a West Hernando student, hanged himself in his bedroom in January.

His mother, Jeanette McCants, says it was because of bullying. A Sheriff's Office report released Friday, however, found no evidence of bullying at school and said it did not contribute to his death.

McCants attended the Tuesday meeting, sitting in the audience. She tearfully left before it ended. She did not speak. She has not returned calls from the Times since the Sheriff's Office report came out Friday.

But the report didn't hold much weight with those who came out to speak before the board.

They wanted to get their stories out in an effort to increase awareness.

Coralys Amaya, a 13-year-old Powell Middle School student, said she sees a lot of people getting bullied at her school, but doesn't speak up because she doesn't want to get the other person in trouble.

"I think you guys should do more work to help it stop because sometimes people don't really want to tell on the people who are doing the bullying," she told the School Board.

Samantha Heidt, who has three children in the Hernando school system and recently started an organization known as Hernando Against Bullying, said many kids are unwilling to speak out.

"The bullying issue is getting to the point where our children are afraid to open their mouths," she said.

That's why she started the new group, she said — to help children speak up.

"If our children are silenced every time they come to the office with some kind of issue, after a while they're not going to go to the office anymore," she said. "This is what is happening."

Heidt said there needs to be better communication among staff members to do a better job of recognizing bullying and taking the necessary actions.

Superintendent Bryan Blavatt, in his brief responses to comments, tried to strike an understanding tone. He asked people to share more information with district staffers after the meeting.

"None of this is ever taken lightly," Blavatt told Heidt. "Everything has to be investigated, and everything has to be dealt with."

He said that while the district has developed a bullying policy and provided training for staff, "there's always an opportunity to get better."

"If we're going to get a handle on the bullying," he said, "it's going to be one student at a time."

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Comments
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school more than two years ago, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently declared their relationship in the halls of North Bend High School by holding hands.They knew coming out would be hard in the ...
Published: 05/24/18
What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

CLINTON, N.Y. — In the days after her son Graham hanged himself in his dormitory room at Hamilton College, Gina Burton went about settling his affairs in a blur of efficiency, her grief tinged with a nagging sense that something did not add up.She fi...
Published: 05/24/18
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18