Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2013, 10:09 pm

Q-C parents gather to fight bullying

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By Laura Anderson Shaw,

More photos from this shoot
Anti-bullying activist and author Gabriella van Rij demonstrated how to step forward and "own your own uniqueness" when it comes to bullies on Saturday, Oct. 26, at an anti-bullying gathering at the Col Ballroom in Davenport. Hannah Jett, 9, of Davenport, joined her on stage to help.
DAVENPORT -- Parents, grandparents and students gathered Saturday afternoon to share horror stories about what they or their children have experienced because of bullies, and what they can do to stop it.

One mother said her son was punched in the head and face when he was riding his bike home from school. A grandmother, trying not to cry, told of the day her grandson was cornered in a locker room and beaten while other kids filmed it with their camera phones.

One teen, after Saturday's presentations, said he got tired of being bullied and, because his school didn't seem to be doing much, fought back. His mom said he was suspended for it.

The group's anti-bullying efforts came to a head earlier this month when a 12-year-old autistic boy was punched in the back of the head and the side of his face while riding his bike home from school.

To support his mother -- whom we'll call Ann and withhold her real name to protect their privacy -- a group called Stand Up For a QCA Mom's Fight For Answers and Actions was created on Facebook.

At Saturday's gathering, Ann said her son has been bullied since kindergarten. She said her son, now a sixth-grader at Williams Intermediate School in Davenport, has been bullied by the same group of students since fourth grade. He has been assaulted three times, she said, once on school grounds and twice off of school grounds on his way home from school.

He last was assaulted earlier this month, she said, punched in the back of his head and in the side of his face when he was riding his bicycle home from school.

His assailant was suspended from school for a day, Ann said, and she was told her "son was safe to come back to school."

When he returned to school a few days later, one of the other boys who had bullied him was in his first classes, Ann said. The "taunting" continued all day, she said.

Ann said she wasn't notified of the incidents at school, and when she went to pick him up at school, he was "nowhere to be found." About 45 minutes later, Ann's mother called her to say her son had showed up there, crying and out of breath.

"He was so scared after school he didn't even wait for me," Ann said.

She said she has contacted both school administrators and the police. Police told her the incident was a school matter, she said; school officials said the offending child received a day's suspension, she said.

School officials could not be reached for comment Saturday for confirmation.

"(I'm getting) the runaround everywhere I go," Ann said. So, frustrated, she posted photos of her son's bruises on Facebook.

That's when the Stand Up For a QCA Mom's group was created to support her. Since then, she said, she has been "flooded" with messages from other parents dealing with the same struggle.

Ann said she hopes to raise awareness about bullying and put a stop to it.

"There's more than just my son" who is affected, she said. "And there's obviously a problem here."

Kathryn Morris, of Davenport, connected with Ann via Facebook. Ms. Morris said she is raising her eighth-grade grandson who has been bullied "relentlessly" for years.

"It's just never stopped," she said.

Ms. Morris said her grandson has been poked with pencils and pens, pushed and shoved down stairs and had things knocked out of his hands. He also is autistic and has a problem with noises; when the school bell sounds, he often drops his things to cover his ears.

He's "made fun of for that," Ms. Morris said.

She told Saturday's gathering that her grandson was cornered and beaten in a locker room. Other students talked another autistic boy into beating up her grandson, Ms. Morris said, telling him if he didn't beat up her grandson, they would beat him up instead.

When her grandson found the courage to report what had happened, Ms. Morris said the school's principal deleted videos of the incident from students' phones.

Her grandson now is on antidepressants, Ms. Morris said.

"These (bullied) kids wouldn't hurt a fly," she told Saturday's group. "And they don't deserve this."

Gabriella van Rij, an anti-bullying activist and author who lives in Davenport, on Saturday recounted instances when she, too, was bullied as a child.

"I just need to be the voice for kids," she said. Educators and parents need to talk "together at one table" without blame, she said.

"We've truly dropped the ball on human kindness."

Several of Saturday's participants discussed attending Monday night's Davenport school board meeting to further address their bullying concerns. Phil Yerington, who served 34 years with the Davenport Police Department and now is retired, encouraged parents to gather as a group and voice their concerns at a school board meeting to "demand accountability."

"That's when you'll start to see some changes," said Mr. Yerington.