By Benjamin Joe
Last week, the Niagara-Wheatfield School District was once again under scrutiny by the public. This time the newsworthy item was a video that showed a student at the high school being bullied by two of his peers. The student was subsequently suspended when he responded by attacking the bullies. The video quickly made its way onto social media, as well as local news stations.
The issue was addressed at the end of a School Board meeting by Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich.
“Let me start with this: There are many things that you heard tonight that we can be proud of as a district, however, one of them is not what was on Facebook. What was posted, what happened to that student in the video should not happen. It’s not acceptable; it can’t be tolerated,” he said.
More information was included on the school district’s webpage, www.nwcsd.org, where Ljiljanich posted a short statement:
“On Tuesday, October 15th, the District became aware of a video that was posted on-line showing a confrontation between several District students. The District promptly addressed the situation with the students involved. While federal privacy laws prevent the District from disclosing what action(s) were taken towards the students involved, this matter was addressed promptly. The District also has reached out to each of the families of the students involved in this incident in order to address any and all concerns. The District will continue to work with all of our students, their families, and all others to ensure that all students in the Niagara-Wheatfield District have a learning environment that is safe and welcoming for everyone.”
Lewiston Police Chief Frank Previte said the incident was the only one its kind at the school, as far as he knew from reports by the school resource officer in the Niagara-Wheatfield school system. He noted that there was “nothing heightened” about the amount of bullying in the school as far as he knew.
Online, the video was posted several times with viewers sharing it on Facebook. Many said that the student’s actions after being bullied were the correct ones. Others said the bullies should be punished by their parents.
“Something is wrong this principle needs to go. And the Superintendent,” wrote Joe Studi as a comment after to seeing the video on a Facebook group page.
“My son got suspended today for trying to defend himself,” wrote the student’s father on his Facebook timeline on Oct. 15. “I Am so mad that my son has to endure all this racism in NIAGARA Wheatfield school system.”
The next day, Ljiljanich said he’d spoken to the father of the student.
“I did get the opportunity to, about 4:30 this afternoon, to speak with the father of the boy who is clearly being harassed in that video, and he shed some additional light on some information we didn’t have prior to me speaking with him,” Ljiljanich said at the School Board meeting. “We will be following up on that, as well, but certainly it’s not a moment that any of us are proud of. I do want to say this: All of our students need to know all the time that they can go to adults, they can share information with us right away that something wrong is happening to them.
“We need to empower students when those things happen by showing them that we act and we act swiftly and appropriately with relation to our code of conduct.
“So, I just wanted to make sure I made at least one comment about that tonight.”
By Friday, the father of the student posted that he wanted to thank everyone with kind words and support for his family.
“… This isn’t just about my son but about kids who have endured bulling,” he wrote, in part.