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Tougher anti-bullying law wanted in W.Va.

November 17, 2012|By TRISH RUDDER | trishr@herald-mail.com
  • Berkeley County Del. Larry W. Faircloth said "I hear the kids' stories" about bullying at the anti-bullying rally on Saturday in Martinsburg, W.Va.
By Trish Rudder

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A rally supporting a stronger anti-bullying law was held Saturday afternoon at the 365 Church on Mid-Atlantic Parkway.

Church member Sharon Santamaria organized the event because her daughter is a victim of bullying that occurred in early October.

“Nothing was done by school administrators,” Santamaria said.

Santamaria said on a Sunday afternoon, her 16-year-old daughter and her friend were walking behind Opequon Elementary School in Martinsburg when five girls and three boys, all about 13 years old, began bullying the two high school students.

“The group leader offered $10 to take out my daughter. The girls pulled her down and beat her and kicked her in the head. Her friend was prevented from helping my daughter who was grabbed by the hair and legs and dragged 25 to 30 feet.”

Santamaria said her daughter was taken to the hospital emergency room and had several bruises on the side of her head and her nose was broken.

She said she found who the bullies were who bragged about the incident on Facebook.

Santamaria said one of the bullies posted “I kicked her in the face 10 times.”

The incident is being handled by law enforcement and the school board does not want to get involved, Santamaria said.

“Because charges are pending, they cannot do anything,” she said.

Newly-elected Berkeley County delegate Larry W. Faircloth said more accountability to the offenders is needed.

He said no clear West Virginia laws are on the books other than stating that bullying is a crime. “Without definitions put in place, there is no way how law enforcement needs to deal with it or how school administrators are responsible to handle it,” Faircloth said.

“Everybody’s hands are tied because of no accountability,” Faircloth said.

“The strengthening of the laws will play an important part in teaching bullies that they will not be above the law any more,” he said.

He told the crowd of about 150 people that because the offenders use cell phones, Twitter and Facebook, school bullying will get worse.

Bullying offenders must be held accountable by getting the community on board, Santamaria said.

“There must be consequences, so parents must be involved,” she said.

“Bullies want to keep you down; they don’t want you to do the right thing,” said newly-elected Berkeley County delegate Michael Folk. “Stand up for what’s right,” he said.

Erik Gessel, of Berkeley County Medicine and Urgent Care said there is a very strong link between bullying and suicide, which is the second cause of death between the ages of 15 and 25.

He is part of Shine the Light, an organization to educate people about bullying and suicide and wants to meet with lawmakers in Charleston, W.Va.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s regional representative Lynn Phillips said “the governor is behind this.” He said the Jason Flatt Act of 2012 provides a suicide prevention program in the schools.

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