LONGVIEW — Roughly 60 students walked out of class at Monticello Middle School Thursday morning to protest what they and parents call a lack of action by school staff over bullying.
Five parents joined the students on the Longview school’s lawn.
Shera Havens, who helped organize the walkout, said her 12-year-old daughter has been bullied since she started attending Monticello Middle School this school year and the administration has not answered her requests for intervention.
Longview School District officials say recent bullying complaints have been addressed on a case-by-case basis, but could not talk about specific instances.
Havens said she asked Monticello Middle School leaders to form an assembly where adults and youth could discuss bullying in the school and look for a solution, but staff said it was too late in the school year to hold one.
Havens said she recently asked friends who are bikers to escort her child to the school doors as protection because she wasn’t getting help from school staff.
Monticello Middle School Principal Scott Merzoian didn’t answer questions directly related to Havens’ complaints, but said the school’s goal is “for every student to feel safe at school” and feel included.
“We stand with our school community against bullying and work hard each day helping students to make good choices and be respectful of others,” he said in an email.
Merzoian said school remained on a normal schedule Thursday despite the walkout and “the vast majority of students continued learning.” He said students and parents are encouraged to report bullying so the school can follow up.
Havens said Mt. Solo Middle School might walk out as well on Thursday, but Longview Public Schools spokesperson Rick Parrish said there was no walkout at the school.
Assistant Superintendent Tony VanderMaas said they have heard recent concerns about certain bullying incidents and have reached out to the parents and school administrators involved. District officials usually only step in on these issues if efforts to find a solution fail, he said.
“We want to try and solve it at the individual building level,” VanderMaas said.
Middle school in general is when reports of bullying usually start spiking, VanderMaas said. Teens are at a difficult phase in their lives, trying to find secure friendships and figure out who they are as people.
Social media has not helped.
When a student goes home, they still have several avenues to continue interacting with their peers. What happens on those platforms often affects the real-life relationship between the students. Some parents believe the school needs to step in when online communication spills over into the real world, VanderMaas said.