September 24, 2023

Newton parent says bullying makes students want to change schools

‘That’s why people are leaving’

The parent of a Berg Middle School student pleaded with school board members during public comment last week to do address bullying, which she said is not only affecting their child’s emotional well-being but may also be a reason why Newton is seeing such declining enrollment.

Newton News will not to identify the parent in order to protect the child’s identity.

Referencing the configuration proposals being deliberated by elected officials, the parent said the reason why two buildings will have to close in the near future is because of declining enrollment, which is true. But discussions amongst administrators at a recent town hall cannot find the cause, the parent said.

“I can tell you as a parent and friends of parents within the district, we have a huge problem on our hands and it 100 percent is bullying. Our kids don’t want to go to school. Our middle school is notorious for our bullying problems,” the parent said. “I’ve have (a student) that comes home crying.”

While they have inquired about alleged assaults and bullying issues, the parent expressed frustrations when they were told nothing can be done because nobody saw it, even when there are visible marks on the child’s body. These are the kinds of things students and families are dealing with, they said.

“That’s why people are leaving. If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, it’s us. We’re letting this happen. We’re letting kids get away with it. We’re not doing anything about it. The kids get detention. Great. They don’t care. The kids that are doing the bullying they don’t care if they get detention.”

The parent recalled incidents where their child was called belittling names, and in some cases by the same groups of students. In the event the parent’s child stands up for themselves, they get in trouble for disrupting class. The parent asked how the school can expect kids to keep putting up with it.

“How do we as parents continue expecting our kids to go to school there every single day?”

Other times the parent was told by their child they had to go back inside to check on a friend who was going to get “jumped” by students.

“This is insane. This is ridiculous. We are failing them on a daily basis. This is not OK. (They have) gone to the principals, (they have) gone to counselors, (they have) gone to the teachers. Nothing is helping. I don’t know what else to tell (them) to do. We clearly have a problem that is having monetary consequences.”

The parent challenged school board members to take a poll of middle school kids in the district, and they might find out they don’t want to be here.

“There are groups of kids that are just so mean. They’re physically abusive, they’re mentally abuse…I know our kids have to grow up at a certain point and they have to learn to deal with people, but middle school is not that time. Your mission, your vision, your values is to promote a safe, nurturing environment.”

But we’re failing, they said.

“And I say ‘we’ because it’s all of us.”

While school board members did not respond directly to the parent’s comments, they did address it briefly at the end of the meeting. School board member Donna Cook asked that it be looked into and that officials be provided the necessary data to help the issue.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.