Rhonda Walden wants Penn Hills School District officials to take action to ensure other students do not suffer the same trauma as her daughter.
“There is lack of policy at Linton, lack of consequence,” Walden told district officials at a meeting March 25. “Multiple students have been involved in fights within the last three weeks, all of which have been posted online. They went viral … There’s no action for this cyberbullying.”
Walden said her daughter, an eighth-grader at Linton Middle School, sustained a concussion and neck injury as a result of a fight with another girl in a classroom on March 5.
Some students took cellphone video of the incident, and it ended up posted on several social media outlets.
Someone even inserted music in a short clip of the girl getting her head smashed into a computer, as well as a music montage of fights allegedly to have taken place at Linton throughout March.
The original video does show two male teachers attempting to break up the fight. Students can be heard laughing and one teacher saying, “Put the phones down.”
Walden said she did not know about the video until another parent sent it to her, and other girls have challenged her daughter to fight as a result of the videos.
“It endorses violence,” Walden said about the videos. “It actually reached Steel Valley School District … This incites violence as well as cyberbullying.”
Walden said her daughter has been back to school since the incident and continues to recover.
“It feels like a never-ending cycle for her because so many people have seen this video,” she said. “My concern is not just for my child. I’m concerned about every student in the Penn Hills School District.”
School board President Erin Vecchio said she recently visited Linton in response to reports of fighting and pledged to address Walden’s situation.
“I’ll be making sure that, if charges could be filed, charges will be filed and make sure kids are disciplined,” Vecchio said. “I don’t tolerate bullying. Anybody that filmed that video should be expelled. You sat there and watched somebody get their head smashed off of things — you should be expelled.”
Vecchio also suggested organizing a meeting with staff and district families to have a broader discussion about bullying and fighting.
Superintendent Nancy Hines said the district does have a policy prohibiting students from using cellphones in class other than for academic purposes. Those found responsible for video taping and posting the fights could be disciplined under that policy.
Hines declined to talk specifically about the incident. She said, in general, it may be difficult to identify who took the video and posted it.
“There certainly could be school consequences,” she said. “It’s hard to tell in some situations who’s actually holding that phone and doing that. Then, after that, who’s phone was it, who posted it. So, there’s a series of things that we would have to prove in order to consequence a student.”
A police report about the March 5 incident has been filed. It’s unclear if that investigation was closed.