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Wellington's anti-suicide effort will begin next year, but parent wants action now

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From left, Wellington School Board members Ayers Ratliff, Kevin Stump, Sally Stewart, Dan Rosecrans and Brett Murner at a meeting Tuesday night. jODI WEINBERGER / CHRONICLE

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WELLINGTON — Under a banner reading “Band Against Bullying” members of the Wellington School Board were silent as a parent spoke about what he felt was the lack of action in response to complaints of bullying in the district.

Samuel Oney said his daughter, a 14-year-old freshman at the high school, was too scared to come to school Tuesday. She’s been threatened, stuffed in lockers, pushed to the ground and been the target of rude and degrading comments, Oney said.

“So all the best-laid plans about what is going to happen in the future with programs and counseling … for this girl, who sits in class and cries every day, who comes home from school crying every day, who cries herself to sleep every night and who is now afraid to come to school … I ask you, staff, school board members, what are you going to do now? Not in the future. Tomorrow,” Oney said.

When no one responded, he walked out of the high school cafeteria where the meeting was being held.

Earlier in the meeting, the board heard from high school Principal Tina Drake about a budding partnership with the Lorain County Board of Mental Health to bring in services for kids coping with stressful situations.

After Oney spoke, the board also approved a program called LifeAct to begin in the spring to educate the school community about recognizing the signs of depression and suicide prevention.

In January, Drake said the school’s counseling service Applewood Centers will meet with ninth- and 10th- graders for eight sessions during class time and with small groups in grades 11 and 12.

But Oney said not enough is being done to discipline the kids causing problems.

“These kids are intimidating, aggressive, harassing, tormenting and dominating the other kids,” Oney said. “We need to start swift and harsh punishment the first time. Not the fourth or fifth time. We need to send a true and clear message to these students that there are severe consequences for their actions.”

After Oney left the meeting, board member Kevin Stump said he was embarrassed about how the board handled Oney’s statement.

Bullying and depression have been two hot topics in Wellington lately.

Ten days ago, on Nov. 18, high school cross country coach Bill Watters organized a 5K race honoring Tyson McKinley, a 15-year-old freshman at the high school who took his own life Sept. 20.

Tyson suffered from depression and emotional issues, which his father, Kenneth McKinley, said was exacerbated in part by bullying at the schools.

“I’m sure there’s some protocol for what can be answered by a board during public input, but to not say anything … I can feel his frustration, as a parent, as an employee,” Watters said. “To say nothing … at some point there’s got to be some compassion, to at least say, we’ll meet with you. I know you guys are in a tough spot, but we need answers.”

Board member Dan Rosecrans said the board and school administration would be following up with Oney, but a public meeting was not the place to have that discussion.

“It’s not that I didn’t understand every word he was saying, but there are protocols and policies in place,” Rosecrans said. “This will be followed up on, but I won’t have anyone tell me that this board does not have human compassion. I appreciate your comments, but I’m going to draw the line there.”

Contact Jodi Weinberger at 329-7245 or jweinberger@chroniclet.com.



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