The family of a Sumner County middle school student plans to sue the Board of Education because of ongoing bullying and what the family views as a lack of enforcing a zero tolerance policy against bullying.
Kim Woods said her son Bryson, 13, was first bullied and attacked at Rucker-Stewart Middle School in October.
During the attack Bryson was whipped with a leather belt by a classmate while other kids held him down in a locker room as they changed clothes following P.E.
"He said, 'I am going to whip me a little kid today' and apparently that was me," Bryson said. "He got me by the throat and they pushed me up against the locker."
He continued, "Then he got me in a choke, they held me down and they whipped me several times."
The attack left Bryson with physical injuries. His parents contacted Gallatin police, who filed criminal charges against the student.
He was subsequently sentenced to probation and allowed to transfer out of the district to another school system.
Bryson also transferred to another school, Joseph E. Shafer Middle School in Gallatin, but he said the bullying started again.
He said one of his bullies is the cousin of the student from Rucker-Stewart who was charged in connection with the locker room attack.
"They slapped me in the back of the neck, they were stealing my pencils and taking my money," Bryson said.
This time Bryson did not immediately tell his parents about the bullying.
"I didn't want to tattle tell because it would make things worse probably," he said.
Monday things did get worse.
Bryson said he was on the football field with a group of other students when one of his alleged bullies pushed him in the back of the head to the ground, causing an injury to his nose.
His parents were notified, but Woods said the school district did not tell them the incident was tied to bullying. Bryson did.
"It is devastating," Kim Woods said. "It has broken our heart because one time was enough, but now twice."
She continued, "As a mother we protect our children, that's my job and when I can't protect him from a public school, it saddens my heart."
Woods contacted Gallatin police who contacted school officials.
According to school officials, police decided to let school officials investigate the incident and take whatever action they decided was necessary.
According to Woods, during a conference with the principal, he suggested moving Bryson into special education classes to separate him from the students in his class he said are bullying him.
Woods said the principal also suggested Bryson get used to bullying.
"You have to get used to bullying because it is everywhere, even in the workplace, so you might as well get used to it," Woods said the principal told them during the meeting.
Sumner County Schools released the following statement about Woods' case:
Shafer Middle School administrators have conducted a thorough investigation into the incident and are working with the Woods family to address any issues.
Out of respect for student privacy, it is Sumner County Schools' policy to not discuss in detail reports of bullying or disclose student disciplinary actions.
In addition, the Gallatin Police Department investigated both reported incidents. Charges were filed in the incident at Rucker-Stewart Middle School and the student involved is no longer a student in Sumner County Schools. The Gallatin Police Department chose not to pursue an investigation on the incident at Shafer Middle School after determining it should be addressed at the school level.
Sumner County Schools takes reports of bullying very seriously. The safety of our schools is paramount, which is why our system has a zero tolerance policy towards bullying.
In addition, our Office of Safe Schools, Healthy Students and our School Resource Office program works to educate our students, teachers, administrators and staff on how to prevent bullying before it starts, as well as how to quickly address issues once they occur.
Sumner County Schools has taken all possible action to investigate and address this issue and will continue to work with the Woods family until a resolution can be reached.
After the meeting with the principal, Woods contacted Hendersonville attorney Roland Mumford, who is planning a lawsuit against the school district.
Mumford points to Sumner County Schools' zero tolerance policy for bullying that's outlined in the student handbook.
He said the schools are choosing not to enforce the policy.
"To me, it is a zero policy because they do nothing and the tolerance portion of the policy is they tolerate [bullying]," Mumford said.
Woods posted Bryson's situation on her Facebook page. Since then, a number of people not related to the family have started Facebook pages in support of Bryson and his parents.
On many of the pages, other parents are sharing similar stories related to bullying in Sumner County schools.
Bryson has not returned to Shafer Middle School since Monday's incident. His parents are now considering home schooling him because he is afraid to return to school.
They have also enrolled him in martial arts classes.