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School notifies parents after 13-year-old receives threatening messages

Mason school changed bullying investigation policy
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Posted at 6:09 PM, Nov 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-16 05:15:22-05

MASON, Ohio -- The threats sent to 13-year-old Kyra were "vulgar," her mom, Leanne Fischer, said.

One threatened to hijack a bus and run her over. There was a racial slur. 

"There were things about raping her in there," Fischer said.

Messages sent over the weekend got the Mason Middle School administration's attention because of an altercation at recess Monday over two girls and a boy.

"We were all screaming, calling each other names..." Kyra said. 

It was then the assistant principals, noticed a problem and acted, and found out about the threatening messages sent over the Snapchat app over the weekend, district spokesperson Tracey Carson said.

Carson said the school started calling parents right away. She couldn't discuss what consequences will be given to whom in the case. 

"Things that are found to be in violation of our bullying policy can end up with suspension, even recommendations for expulsion," she said.

Mason schools just updated a thorough bullying policy influenced by the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation. 

It's a process Fischer said she hopes will include talking to all their students.

"I want more awareness," she said. "I want an assembly done, I want an assembly done about bullying, how to speak up, how to stop it, how to contact somebody."

A 9 On Your Side I-Team investigation last spring uncovered inconsistencies in reports of bullying. The state law is worded vaguely, so schools are left to interpret the law themselves. The schools must track bullying and post their tallies online.

I-Team: All school districts aren't equal when it comes to reporting bullying

Mason Middle School, with roughly 1,700 students, reported 82 instances of bullying last school year and verified 33 of them through investigations. That seems like a lot when compared to schools like the Lakota Local School District, which reported just three cases of bullying among its 20 schools and roughly 15,000 students the same year.

Mason Middle School officials realized they were including every complaint of bullying it received on its tracking report, while other schools -- even schools in the same district -- were only including those verified instances, making them look like they had more cases of bullying than they actually did.

This year, the school is still investigating every complaint, but it's only including the instances confirmed as bullying through a school investigation on that report.

"The report from your I-Team showed that it was confusing to see that sometimes someone reports it one way and another place [reports it another way], it was better to have it consistently," Carson said.

I-Team: Ohio legislators looking at bullying laws amid student suicides

Carson also wrote in an email that the district is continuing to "strengthen our administrators' ability to identify threats, signs and signals that a student is a risk to him/herself or others." 

Some Ohio lawmakers are working to change the bullying law to create a uniform system for all public schools to report bullying. They also want to create mandatory punishment for bullies and require help be made available for victims of bullying.