Michael Hamar

York County, Virginia Schools Won't Stopping Bullying despite Suicide

Filed By Michael Hamar | February 04, 2011 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: anti-gay bullying, bullying, public education, religious based bigotry, York County, Yorktown

I have written about the ongoing bullying problem in the nearby York County, Virginia, school division in the aftermath of the Memorial Day weekend suicide of 1christian-taylor_370x278.jpg6-year-old Christian Taylor last year both here on Bilerico and on my personal blog here and here.

One of the problems is the apparent total indifference to well-being of all students in the ranks of the school administration.

The second and even larger problem is that Virginia's laws more or less absolve both the bullies persecuting other students and the indifferent and negligent school administrators. Only actual physical assault or utterly gross negligence will open the threshold for accountability of the bully and school administrators, respectively.

I have spoken a number of times with Christian's mother and the state of affairs is enough to breal one's heart.

But back to Christian's family eight months after his death. Given Christian's suicide, one would think that the York County schools would go out of their way to protect his surviving siblings from harassment and bullying. But sadly, such is not the case as is evidenced by this story on WVEC-TV 13 by a reporter friend, David Ham. Here are highlights from the print coverage followed by a WVEC-TV video clip (by the way, Christian's mom is a military wife whose husband is deployed overseas):

YORKTOWN--The mother of a teenager she said was driven to suicide from bullying, now says her stepson is now also being bullied in the same school system. Despite her son Christian Taylor's death last May, Lisa Williams says the York County School system is not doing enough to prevent bullying.

This week she said her stepson 14-year old William Juntti was bullied at Grafton Middle School for wearing black and white colored jeans. "[He] walked up to me and said you know everyone is calling you gay because your jeans are gay," said Juntti. "That's when he kind of shoulder shoved me into the wall and I was walking back to my desk and he shoulder shoved me back again."

Because she said she could not be reassured, she plans to pull William out of the school system. "I'm not willing to risk another child for this to happen to me again. I can't do that," said Williams.

As a parent myself, the school division's obscene disregard for Christian's siblings - and I suspect many other students as well - makes me furious. Every child deserves to be able to go to school without harassment be they gay, lesbian, black white, hispanic, Christian, Muslim or Hindu, etc. Is this simple right too much to ask for? I hope readers will widely disseminate this story and force York County to clean up its act if not for the right reason only so as to stop the negative publicity.

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The state of Virginia should be ashamed for these laws and especially that horrible school system!

Om Kalthoum | February 4, 2011 1:50 PM

Mark Harmon? Why?

Why not Mark Harmon?? He did a charity event in OKC and we attended he spent time talking to William Christian Tristan and Hunter even speaking to my husband while serving in Iraq He does it every year, Thats why Mark Harmon!

Om Kalthoum | February 4, 2011 7:41 PM

Well actually, I thought that might be a Mark Harmon look-alike. I read the article three times trying to find a mention of the who/what/where/why of the photo.

Virginia "ashamed?" Look a the narcissism and ignorance of the attorney general. Look at the conservative ignorance of the majority of the General Assembly. Look at the pathetic governor. These people, who have no ability to feel empathy for others, are incapable of being "ashamed." Shame is predicated on the ability to be introspective, to recognize that we can do wrong and hurt others, whether by commission or omission. With a few exceptions, these bible-toting fools have no introspection. As with most fools, they just believe more strongly that they're right.

Why Mark Harmon? Because the boys were at a sporting event where Mark Harmon was in attendance and they managed to get their photo taken with Harmon. Not surprisingly, they were proud of the photo and it appears on the blog created by Christian's mother.

I'd also add that it's the photo the family made public.

I use the picture with Mark because one The boys were very proud they had met with him and he was one of their fave actors, and two because Christian was strikingly handsome and very tall in this picture his eyes were very blue and he was gorgeous, not to mention my kids worked hard raising the money for the charity they were proud of their accomplishments.

What a wake up call for York County

i went to grafton. that being said, i cant say that i had anything less than a great time while i was there. coming close to my 10 year reunion, i am appalled at the situations the students find themselves in now at the same school that i graduated from. i am now a full time employee for the fire dept that serves the same area.

the actions taken by the board are not the same actions of the zero tolerance that was instilled in me while i was doing my studies. something needs/will be done about this crap. this is insane. the way i see it, anyone who drives another to commit suicide from bullying actions should receive the same punishment as someone murduring a public servant.....capital punishment.

My deepest sympathy for the family...my heart really aches for what you have been through and continue to go through. My husband and I are a military family and our daughter began attending GMS in the fall of 2010. She has been harassed - we tried to handle it ourselves but it just got worse. We visited the school today to voice our concerns and we were told "what do you want us to do about it?" I find it hard to believe "professionals" don't know how to deal with issues - that's why they are there isn't it? We are prepared to do whatever is necessary for our daughter to get a quality education in a physically and emotionally safe environment.

The former principal of Grafton, Paul Hopkins, is now Assistant Director of Special Education for Henrico County Public Schools. His friend who is also from York County Schools, Bondy Gibson, who is the Director of Special Education for Henrico, evidently welcomed him with open arms to neglect our most vulnerable children. What is so ironic about all of this is that nearly a year to the date that Christian was murdered by York County leaders' indifference and gross negligence, (it was not a suicide in my opinion), OCR was holding Community Meetings in Henrico County regarding civil rights violations where over 200 parents from the East End of Henrico shared the horrific stories of bullying, civil rights violations, special education violations, intimidation, retaliation, and even the banning of parents and advocates that stood up to expose child abusers, drug addicts and adult bullies in the system. OCR has launched a district wide-investigation into Henrico's leaders for denying the civil rights of our children. If you have information that can help them, us, and our children, please contact OCR's lead investigator, Attorney Martha Russo at [email protected] And no, Dr. Patricia Wright, Patty Pitts, Judith Douglas, and the other so called "leaders" of the Virginia Department of Education have done NOTHING to stop this reign of terror that is denying our children and families their civil rights. One VADOE complaint specialist, Kathleen Harris, received email after email documenting the district's refusal to protect children, and Patty Pitts even sent an INTERNAL email stating that Henrico school officials should have reported the abuse to social services, but nothing has been done to one leader or administrator in HCPS that is abusing our families. THEN to know that Hopkins earned a promotion for neglecting and murdering a child is sickening. If anyone knows Lisa Williams, please have her contact me. We want her to come to Henrico County to share the murder of her son by Paul Hopkins.