UPDATED: DeKalb bully report released

UPDATE 11:15 a.m.: Jaheem Herrera wasn’t specifically targeted for bullying, according to a report looking into what may have caused the 11-year-old to kill himself in April.

The investigation also showed that Jaheem actively participated in several fights during the school year

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore oversaw the report, which was requested by DeKalb school officials to review concerns about the culture at Dunaire Elementary

DeKalb school leaders will talk this morning about what happened in an elementary school in the months leading up to Jaheem Herrera’s suicide.

The 11-year-old hanged himself in April and his family has blamed the boy’s suicide on the excessive bullying they said he received at Dunaire Elementary School in Stone Mountain.

I’ll post an update once we have more information about the report. Meanwhile, check out this story by Kristina Torres documenting some steps taken and not taken by everyone involved.

47 comments Add your comment

Stan

May 20th, 2009
9:27 am

I’d wager that the report, which is internal, will absolve the school and county completely…but I’m a bit cynical.

Teacher, Too

May 20th, 2009
9:56 am

Sidebar: Did anyone else happen to notice the small article in this morning’s paper about the 18 year-old South Cobb HS freshman who was arrested for beating a 15 year-old into a gang? Why on earth is an 18 year-old still a freshman?

Ernest

May 20th, 2009
10:18 am

Stan, obviously you did not hear that this is an independent report being conducted by a retired judge. Let’s wait and hear the results before passing judgment.

Tony

May 20th, 2009
10:22 am

We have 18 year-old freshmen for 2 big reasons: special ed law/rules/regulations that require us to keep these students up to age 23, and NCLB’s push to raise the graduation rate.

Stan

May 20th, 2009
10:52 am

Breaking news: Judge says child wasn’t targeted by bullies

Allen

May 20th, 2009
11:04 am

What a shock, DCSS exonerated itself.

Allen

May 20th, 2009
11:13 am

So the message to our kids is basically–you’re on your own. You can’t expect the school to act in some sort of in loco parentis manner or anything to stop fighting in the school.

mr. incognito

May 20th, 2009
11:13 am

Was there ever any doubt?

No evidence of bullying

May 20th, 2009
11:58 am

No evidence of bullying. Right. Just how stupid does Lewis and company think the pubilc is?

For starters, if there is no evidence of bullying, why is there a code of silence among students? If there is no bullying, then why would there be a code of silence about something that doesn’t exists?

Dr. John Trotter

May 20th, 2009
12:01 pm

I have not had time to read this so-called “independent report.” (None of this of type of reports is truly “independent” no more than the “hearings” before the school boards are “independent” — the superintendent is trying to fire a teacher and “the judge and jury” team is the very school board which hired the superintendent.) This “conclusion” does not surprise me ONE BIT. I think that the DeKalb School System under the UNleadership of their clown for a superintendent, Crawford Lewis, will never improve. DeKalb Discipline will continue to be an oxymoron. The administrators will continue to sweep disciplinary problems under the proverbial rug and throw them back into the teachers’ faces. Teachers Beware: When you try to teach in DeKalb County, you have to “deal with” certain thugs and bullies in the classroom (who not only “bully” other students but will “bully” you on a regular basis). You will very, very seldom receive any support by the administration for this malaise of discipline. Oh, by the way, you will be expected to not count off of the student’s grade if you catch him or her red-handed cheating on an exam, etc. Don’t worry. Just give the students’ their grades (without any rigor or expectation that the students have to perform a any genuine standard), and you will be liked by the administrators. That’s why DeKalb has so many students who “make good grades” in their classes but cannot pass the end of the year standardized exams. And, about 60% of these students who have been coddled and passed along under the “Premier” administration of Crawford (The Superintendent Clown) Lewis will have to take remedial classes when they reach the Georgia public colleges. Hey, I have an idea, why don’t The Superintendent Clown and I engage in formal debates with formal propositions with a live audience (and even televised) about whether bullying occurs on a fairly regular basis in “Premier” DeKalb? That would be fun. I issue this invitation to Crawford Lewis. Do you think that he will accept the challenge? “He’s scared. He’s scared. He’s scared to shoot dat ball!” (c)MACE,2009.

Allen

May 20th, 2009
12:13 pm

I hate to see the county taxpayers sued, which is financially what the suit of DCSS is, but it seems that will be the only way to get a fair and honest hearing. The system is broken beyond internal repair when a child’s death is swept under the rug.

Erin

May 20th, 2009
12:48 pm

Slaps on the wrist about bullying has been going on in DeKalb County Schools has been going on for YEARS, if not DECADES.

This report isn’t surprising at all. Independent investigator or not, this is just another slap on the wrist, another attempt at sweeping a huge problem under the rug. Nothing will change. NOTHING.

Debate moderator

May 20th, 2009
12:55 pm

Some questions:

They didn’t PAY the “independent” judge to find that bullying exists in the school now did they?

If bullying ISN’T a problem, why are school systems devoting MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to combat a problem that isn’t a problem?

If MACE is so wrong on the issues, why don’t these people who criticize them step up to the plate in engage them in a formal debate? Why would a superintendent NOT want to use a public forum to tout the sucesses of his system?

Why would they NOT want to tout the sucess for example, of your elementary school in which ALL 33 5th graders who failed the CRCT in math not only passed, but 26 of the EXCEEDED with just a few extra days of summer school instruction?

I mean if you can go from FAILURE TO EXCEED in just a few short days, why not brag about it and prove once and for all MACE is wrong on the issue of cheating in the schools as well as wrong about the issues of bullying?

You’ve got a great story to tell Crawford; say it loud and proud, and represent DeKalb!

Maybe Ms. Candor 2009, Maureen “blame teachers first” Downey can moderate the debate since she’s apparently lacks the resolve to engage in a debate with an organization she regularly bashes.

Maybe then she would then have some much needed perspective to take to her new position, since in the “candid” opinion of the AJC, she’s been taken off the editorial board and busted down to education blogging.

Lisa B.

May 20th, 2009
1:00 pm

“Why on earth is an 18 year-old still a freshman?” Well, 14-year-old 6th graders turn into 16 and 17-year-old 8th graders. Students don’t hit high school and magically become successful. We have a whole bunch of 8th graders in my school who failed the CRCT and the retest in 3rd grade, repeated 3rd grade, failed the CRCT and the retest in 5th, repeated 5th grade, and have now failed the 8th grade CRCT.

Stacey

May 20th, 2009
1:02 pm

I agree with everyone above that this ruling was not at all a surprise to me. My heart literally aches not only for this family, but for all kids in the DCSS.

The article mentioned that one of the reasons that the judge ruled that there was no bullying is that the child actively participated in several fights this year. The fights were probably a result of him defending himself against the bullies. What is a kid supposed to do when the administators won’t protect them since the bullies have since enough to hide their actions?

Jeff

May 20th, 2009
1:15 pm

I’m glad the report came out the way it did. There was just some name calling and a little roughhousing. Kids today just need to man up a little and quit being such nancies.

catlady

May 20th, 2009
1:20 pm

Many times a parent cries “bully” to get their kid out of trouble, to cover up what their kid is doing. So saying, who knows if this finding is accurate. You would think a judge would be impartial, but maybe the right questions were not asked of the right people. It could go either way. There certainly is bullying in the schools, and sometimes so under the radar that teachers are not aware of it or unsupported by the administration when they do try to do something. We hear a lot of “you’re picking on my son” from the parents of bullies.

CJ

May 20th, 2009
1:43 pm

This is why I document almost every contact I have from a parent, AND my response to it. I can’t have a parent say that they told me about a problem and I did nothing, because I will have documented their contact to me (if there is any), and my letter/e-mail back to them. Then, I’m covered. I can’t help what admins will or won’t do. Unfortunately, that’s what teachers have to do in this sue happy society.

I have a feeling the teachers reported the bullies, and administration did nothing. I hate to say that, but that’s what happens too often because admins don’t want to deal with the paperwork that official referrals cause (among other things).

Allen

May 20th, 2009
1:44 pm

Right jeff. Jaheem should have carried a .357 to grade school instead of being such a nancy. That would have shown them how tough he was.

[...] Get Schooled | ajc.com – [...]

Elsie

May 20th, 2009
2:09 pm

This is such a tragic story that a favorable outcome was not possible with today’s report. What makes bullying so difficult to deal with is that bullies are sneaky. By definition they don’t want anyone in authority to witness their behavior. This turns any report of bullying into a “he said, she said” situation. The teachers and administration did act on a report from December, where there were other witnesses. I don’t know what the answer is to bullying, but I don’t think it’s going away.

Jeff

May 20th, 2009
2:14 pm

@Allen: Well, that, of course it taking it to a far extreme. I merely suggest that maybe instead of wanting kids to just whine to their parents and teachers, kids should fight back. Call the other guy a name, have a good fight out in the playground. Worked out well for our Greatest Generation.

Allen

May 20th, 2009
2:23 pm

Seriously Jeff, you’re saying bullying was not a problem in the 1920s and 1930s? Based on what evidence?

Then again, you did call choking to the point of causing loss of consciousness–which happened to this “nancy”–just “a little roughousing.”

RandolphCountyTeacher

May 20th, 2009
2:38 pm

Allen,
You are aware that Jeff is a failed teacher with an ax to grind aren’t you?

Steve

May 20th, 2009
2:40 pm

Allen, why do you keep putting words in Jeff’s mouth? Nope, didn’t say anything about 1920’s, 1930’s, about guns, or even say anything along the lines of:
“call choking to the point of causing loss of consciousness–which happened to this “nancy”–just “a little roughousing.”
Reading comprehension: you don’t have it. And just to go ahead and respond to your next comment, “I didn’t say that.”

Old School

May 20th, 2009
2:49 pm

Allen and Jeff, I dislike my name being used in such a negative way. Could you please find some other term? I would really appreciate it.

Allen

May 20th, 2009
2:50 pm

Steve–
No, Jeff didn’t say anything about guns. That was my own hyperbole.
But he did refer to the Greatest Generation, who are defined in multiple sources as having grown up in the 1920s and 1930s.
And he did refer to what happened to Jaheem, which included being choked to the point where he passed out (it’s in another article on this), as “a little roughhousing.”
You see, reading comprehension sometimes involves the ability to synthesize multiple sources of information. And I did say that.
Randolph–
No, I didn’t know that. Thanks

Martha

May 20th, 2009
2:57 pm

WHat a crock!!!!! Why are those yellow NO BULLYING signs all over school walls and on doors in Dekalb schools if there is no bullying problem??? After spending 32 years in elementary and middle schools in Dekalb County I have to wonder if those teachers at the school in question are deaf, dumb, and/or blind…..OR just afraid of administrative retaliation if they say they see bullying on a daily basis. Do they not have hall duty? Do they not stand at their doors between classes? I am also wondering about that statement that this child was not “specifically targeted”. Could that be just playing with words because it is impossible to say an individual kid is targeted because so many kids are bullied on a daily basis that to single out one would be impossible? I don’t think we have heard the end of this.
Oh..and about that code of silence among the students…they’re scared to death that they will be the next victim!

jim d

May 20th, 2009
3:49 pm

allen,

Now there’s a rather unigue concept–let’s arm them all and put and end to all bullying.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

May 20th, 2009
4:56 pm

Martha at 2:37 PM today commented that there is a “code of silence among the students” and implies a code of silence among teachers, too. My own professional experience affirms Martha’s.

Lee

May 20th, 2009
5:21 pm

Too many things don’t add up….

For the past several weeks, the school has said that Jaheem was well liked and a good student. This report says that he was “…actively involved in several fights…” Most of the time, your “good students” are not the ones rumbling on the playground. Don’t add up.

School systems also call getting attacked and defending oneself “Actively involved in a fight”. I actually had a principal tell me that the only actions that the school considered self defense was to run and tell a teacher. There are two basic scenarios in a fight – 1) the students square off and go at it as mutual combatants. This is what I would call “actively involved.” Or, 2) on student is the aggressor and the other student is trying to defend himself. The schools make no distinction between the two (although any police officer on the street would.)

This child was choked unconscious on one occasion. The school report said that he “…went to sleep when put in a sleeper hole [sic].” Good Lord people, do you not grasp the concept of what you just said.

I don’t know how many fights my daughter’s private school had this year, but I’m guessing zero.

catlady

May 20th, 2009
6:37 pm

Unless the school catches the bullying on tape, it “didn’t happen.” And even then the parents of the bully will try to argue that the bullied kid did something to deserve it. Seen it/heard it all. Repeatedly.

When I have a meeting with parents (which this case did not involve) I conspicuously take notes, go over the notes with the parents, and then have them sign the notes. When I do this, I have never had a parent come back and say the conversation did not happen as I say. Of course, phone conversations cannot require the parent to sign, so I request parents come in to meet with me. If they won’t I document that, also.

I hope the school is not covering up anything. My younger daughter was bullied in the Clarke County schools afterschool program; I wrote notes requesting help, but she took care of it by pulling out his “rat’s tail” by the roots after the third assault. Of course, she got in trouble, and when I pointed out to the principal that I had contacted the supervisor, the principal said she had never heard about it. The supervisor verified it but my daughter was still given a week out of the program. I removed her from it immediately. The boy’s mother wanted me to pay for her son’s new haircut (I refused until after she paid for the bruises and stripes on my daughter inflicted by her son–and they would have been very expensive), and wanted to meet with me to “discuss how to help our children get along.” I told the principal it would not be necessary; if the boy left my daughter alone there would never be another problem.

I wish we could be as omniscent as folks say we are. We cannot be instructing students(DB, LD, MR, ADHD, ESOL, gifted, and regular with adaptations) and in the restroom supervising them at the same time.

Cere

May 20th, 2009
7:19 pm

“…went to sleep when put in a sleeper hole [sic].” Yikes! That’s the one that sticks with me too. And the guy who said it, Ernest Brown, is paid over $60,000 to be the school’s “School Culture” officer. IMO – someone with his level of authority should not be so ignorant as to think that “going to sleep” is no big deal. Yikes! Now, on top of this, all of the teachers have signed letters stating that they knew nothing of any bullying. (ala Col Klink) – Yikes! And there are several parents of student who claim that they were bullied – but they have been virtually dismissed. Yikes! And now comes a very highly respected judge who interviewed everyone and determined that nothing happened. Yikes!

Obviously, all ll I can say is – Yikes!

Observer

May 20th, 2009
7:24 pm

Your article appears to be bias. It targets the deceased child, by mention of two negatives about the deceased child. It doesn’t mention the bully(ies). You might examine your objectivity in presenting the information. M

TW

May 20th, 2009
7:40 pm

I mean, c’mon, the greatest sand in the educational gears is the inability of parents to take responsiblity, to look themselves in the mirror.

I applaud the system for saying ‘no’ to being the scapegoat for this. God knows the public schools get blamed for enough crap that’s out of their control, it’s nice to see them dodge one now and again.

Amongst those who do blame the school, where are the calls to raise taxes so the school can employ security?

Oh, nevermind then…

Thug Berry

May 20th, 2009
8:09 pm

I taught 10 years in the Chicago schools where I grew up. I came to Atlanta and taught 9 more years. Atlanta was not as tough as Chicago when I first came in 1980. Did you see the report on CNN on Sunday night (I believe) about the violence in the Chicago schools? It was pitiful. Atlanta and DeKalb especially (with Clayton and Fulton on their tails) are becoming Little Chicagos. The administrators sweep the violence and the gang activities and the run-of-the-mill, in-your-face disciplinary problems under the rug each and every day. I think that Crawford Lewis should be given a one-way ticket out of town by the DeKalb Board of Education, and if the Board doesn’t do it, then we all need to boot the board members to the proverbial curb. My name is Thug Berry, and I picket “candy _ss” administrators who are afraid of wannable thugs in their schools. I am a proud member of the MACE Picket Force.

Martha

May 20th, 2009
8:23 pm

This is a terrible, terrible situation….BUT I am convinced that it is a good thing that this is now out in the open. Just because this judge says IT ISN’T SO, doesn’t mean IT ISN’T SO!!!! If it quacks like a duck…..etc. AJC…Please do not “move on”…..Do not allow this to be swept under the rug……

catlady

May 20th, 2009
8:56 pm

Another post of mine failed to appear. Am leaving this blog for good, since there is no explanation and no repair of the FAILed mechanism for posting.

Nikole

May 20th, 2009
9:21 pm

The school is at fault b/c discipline in general is not properly addressed. There are no consequences for students that misbehave. But I believe the report also made mention of the fact that the victim’s grandmother died and his uncle was shot to death. To assume that those facts have no bearing on his decision to commit suicide is unfair. I don’t think that Dekalb taxpayer money should be paid out to this family. Why are we not discussing the role of the bullies and their parents that will swear that their children are not bullies?

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

May 21st, 2009
12:41 am

Will the DeKalb County grand jury examine this case? Could the DeKalb County grand jury perform a thorough, disinterested investigation?

Danteach

May 21st, 2009
12:48 pm

I think that it is a multitude of peoples’ fault. The school for not addressing the discipline problem. NCLB because of attendance being a criteria to make AYP. So you can’t suspend the students because of the attendance policy.

And not to mention that you don’t want to be labeled a bad school. It is so ridiculous.

And then you have the parents that will still send their children to school even if they are suspended.

Momof2

May 21st, 2009
10:07 pm

The perception of a threat can be very real to some. What looks like banter to one person could be a very real threat to another – the perceived relative status of the the parties involved, the situation, past experience and social support combined make the difference between a good times and a bad experience.
I am horrified that this report was produced without the balance that could have shown the truth.
As a Dekalb taxpayer I am furious that my tax dollars will now be used to support the defence of this report and the school systems’ lack of integrity and the subsequent legal penalties.
Think about this – as adults we know that in the office one persons suggestive talk will be laughed at by some, while others would call HR to report sexual harassment. How do you know which way the situation went? You talk to people involved. How is bullying any different? (and you should understand that sexual harassment is considered a form of bullying.) This is a serious problem that did not get the attention it warrants.

Dr. John Trotter

May 24th, 2009
3:15 pm

Thug, it’s good to see you take a stand. I know you and your background, and I know that you are sick and tired of bullies running the schools — not just bullying other students but bullying the teachers too! We’re glad to have you on the MACE Team!

Anna

May 30th, 2009
11:26 pm

I am a administrator in DCSS and bullying is happening all over the place. I try to investigate every matter reported, and it is a full time job when you have to monitor all of the other items required in a school day, but it has to be done. Bullying is in the eyes of the victim and if the victim says they are bullied, we had to treat it as so. That is what DCSS administrators were told in a meeting when the judge was introduced to us prior to her “independent investigation, so I am not sure why they said no bullying was going on. Just a reaction from someone on the other side. I work for DCSS but it is still wrong what happened.

Josiah

June 4th, 2009
12:41 pm

Your mom. is. your local stalker. pankcanks have green beans in them. emo bully. is me. i like to pee. wee wee. Nick Scribano is hot

[...] is often an issue here. In April an 11-year-old hanged himself and his family has blamed the suicide on the excessive bullying they said he received at Dunaire [...]

[...] is often an issue here. In April an 11-year-old hanged himself and his family blamed the suicide on the excessive bullying they said he received at Dunaire [...]