The benefit of hindsight makes it fairly easy to say that Yates Elementary School Principal Robert Flanders should have taken a bully’s threats made against his 11-year-old student April 20 more seriously. But even lacking the ability to see into the future, a school official in this day and age, and in a city like Schenectady, should know better than to take chances.
As Saturday’s Gazette story detailed, T’yanna Lockridge was badly beaten on her way to the Boys and Girls Club on Van Vranken Avenue, where she was sent along with other schoolmates in the company of an adult school aide, because Flanders didn’t want teachers (two of whom apparently offered) to either walk or drive her the three blocks to her house, and presumed the girl would be safe in the aide’s presence.
That line of thinking may once have been valid in dealing with kids not yet in their teens, but it clearly is no longer — at least not in Schenectady: T’yanna was brutally attacked while the aide could only look on, unable to pry the bully away. And though T’yanna suffered no broken bones, just several bloody bruises, she was sufficiently shaken by the episode that her parents say she’s afraid to leave her house — which is hardly a good scenario for her education or her emotional growth.
School district officials say no policy exists for notifying parents when a child fears being attacked by a bully. After its experience a few years ago, when several bullying victims at the high school actually committed suicide, this is hard to believe. Given that experience, not to mention the national media coverage this issue has received in recent years, it’s also hard to believe that anyone might try to downplay the seriousness of the threat when the girl returned to school to convey her fear about it. School officials had the discretion to phone her parents, or to let the girl do so, but according to her mother, she was told, “No, you’ll be OK.”
Any school district, but especially one with a history like Schenectady’s, needs to take bullying threats seriously — whether they’re made on school grounds during the school day, or afterward, on the child’s route home from school. And in incidents where a child reports an explicit threat, as T’yanna did, calls should be made immediately — not only to the child’s parents, but to police.