December 20, 2014

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School board proposes website to combat bullying

SHEFFIELD — In the wake of the suicide of a 14-year-old Sheffield Middle School student who told friends and an aunt he was bullied, Sheffield Schools is making changes.

Superintendent Will Folger at Monday’s Board of Education meeting proposed creating a website link for parents or students to report bullying. The reports could be anonymous.

Parents also would be allowed to make presentations about bullying at orientations at the start of the school year or at open houses. And board members approved spending up to $50,000 to hire a company to help implement anti-bullying strategies.

The changes come in response to the March 23 hanging of Parti Holland in his Sheffield Lake home. A few students and Jeanie Workman, Parti’s aunt, said Parti, who was 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, was bullied because of his size and easygoing nature and because he was black.

They said Parti complained in the weeks before he died that staff weren’t taking his complaints seriously because of his size. Folger, who wouldn’t confirm whether Parti was bullied, told board members anti-bullying procedures were followed

“(We) did what we could do,” he said. “However, we’re always looking for ways to improve.”

Folger said a couple of administrators have attended anti-bullying sessions in Columbus and he has been attending suicide prevention meetings in Lorain County. Folger said he and administrators have been told good communication with parents and students is key to preventing bullying and suicides.

He said a “code of silence” among some students in which informing is looked down upon has hampered efforts. “We don’t hear a lot of things, (and) we can’t do much with what we hear,” he said.

Sheffield’s anti-bullying policies emphasize controlling anger and conflict resolution. The middle school policy said bullying complaints or suicide threats are promptly dealt with.

However, some students and their parents told The Chronicle-Telegram after Parti’s death that administrators had been unresponsive about bullying complaints. Parti’s parents have not commented since his death.

Folger said he is considering hiring Campus Impact, which has previously worked in the school district. The Amherst-based company serves 159 schools in 10 states, according to its website. The site said the company focuses on a comprehensive anti-bullying approach including student assemblies and programs, adult workshops and in-house training.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.