COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - Comments that bullying may have played a part in the stabbing death of a Palmetto Ridge High School student have some parents contacting WINK News about their own children bullied at the school. We're digging deeper to find out how the Collier School District handles bullying and teachers who don't report it.
"It will always be treated very seriously and I think that's the bottom line, there is no right or wrong way to report it, just report it," Nancy Tarrete with the Collier School District tells us. No matter how the information is brought forward, she says all possible bullying incidents are investigated.
Many schools at the elementary and middle school level have something called a "bully box." Guidance Counselor Andrew Ruben says he's received seven complaints so far in the one at Veteran's Memorial Elementary.
"The student can write anonymous or they can put their name so I can get additional info, but I always check into it," Ruben explains.
The box doesn't work as well in the high schools, so they rely on parents or students coming forward. It can even be done anonymously.
Tarrete says teachers, coaches and even bus drivers have a responsibility to report any incidents. When asked what happens to administration if they don't follow procedures, Tarrete insists, "that doesn't happen."
Anti-bullying laws say the district must act, but their own policy requires a full investigation be done within 10 days.
Tarrete shows WINK News the full form that must be filled out, "they need to get specific information about when it may have happened, when they saw whatever it is they're reporting happened." Plus, any additional attachments will be made such as notes passed or printouts of cyber messages.
The district couldn't tell us if bullying played a part in fatal stabbing of Dylan Nuno by classmate Jorge Saavedra, saying they weren't able to speak to that at this point.
The district also wants to point out the difference between bullying and a one-time harassment. Tarrete explains bullying is something the district defines as a systematic and chronic behavior that's abusive and causes psychological distress. Both bullying and harassment are investigated.
The district will also be rolling out a new website in the Spring that will allow parents and student to report incidents anonymously from their home computer. Those reports will then go directly to the school.
WINK News wants to hear from you. We want to know about your experience dealing with a bullying situation in the Collier School District.
RENEE STOLL, REPORTER