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viernes, 18 de mayo de 2007

Mom makes daughter who bullied hold a poster in front of schools

A tall, 12-year-old girl with a stoic look and a giant sign captured the attention of hundreds of high school students leaving Temecula Valley High School on Wednesday.

"I engaged in bullying behavior. I got suspended from school and this street corner. Don't be like me. Stop bullying, " the sign read.

Under mother's orders, Gardner Middle School seventh-grader Miasha Williams has held the sign in front of schools, morning and afternoon, since she was suspended for a week for bullying May 10.

Today, she will display her sign for the last time, mother Ivory Spann said, in front of Great Oak High School in the morning, and her own school in the afternoon. Friday, she returns to classes.

Spann said she designed the novel punishment to make Miasha understand the seriousness of the crime.

"At first she was boo-hooing and saying, 'But Mom, I didn't do anything,' " Spann said. "Well, let me tell you, you did do something."

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Frank Bellino / The Press-Enterprise
"I don't want to hold the signs, but I think it's the right punishment," 12-year-old Miasha Williams says of days spent carrying an anti-bullying placard in front of area schools.

The bullying incident happened last week when a group of friends that included Miasha heard a rumor of another student insulting them, Spann said. The group of six aggressively confronted the lone girl. Miasha and her friends were then suspended from school for five days.

Spann said she does not believe the punishment she assigned was overly harsh because bullying can have such serious consequences.

"At first, I wanted her to put, 'Bullying can be a deadly situation (on the poster),' " Spann said, citing the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres, both perpetrated by young people who reportedly had suffered repeated bullying.

And even when cruel teasing doesn't have fatal consequences, it still poisons a school and hurts children, she said.

"I don't want that kind of environment at the school my child attends, or the school any child attends," Spann said.

She said she plans to organize anti-bullying rallies at high schools before the end of the year.

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Frank Bellino / The Press-Enterprise
Miasha Williams, 12, holds up her sign outside of Temecula Valley High School on Wednesday. She returns to her own classes Friday.

The 1999 Columbine shootings prompted a nationwide awareness of the effects and prevalence of bullying, with studies showing large numbers of children either bully or are bullied on a regular basis.

Gardner Middle School Assistant Principal Patricia Mathis said the school would consider the use of supplemental materials in bullying for next year, and that a recent Riverside County Sheriff's Department presentation to students had highlighted the issue.

In general, though, she said Gardner students are kind -- with an occasional lack of judgment. Miasha fit that profile, she said.

Mathis also expressed support for Spann's right to discipline her child. "My theory is this: Parents know their children far better than we do as educators," she said.

She added Spann is a "very concerned and involved mom," who frequently volunteers on campus.

Miasha said she has accepted her punishment, and that it will influence her future behavior.

"I don't want to hold the signs, but I think it's the right punishment," she said.

Miasha said that, in the future, she will ignore rumors or tell an adult if she perceives trouble with another student.

Spann said Miasha is a loving, caring girl who would probably not bully alone. So it was especially important to teach her to resist this mob pressure before it led to more serious trouble, like gangs.

"We need to catch the small things before big things happen," Spann said.

The parents of one of the other suspended girls, Shanice Habin, made her join Miasha holding signs last Friday. Shanice, 13, said the exercise made her learn her lesson fast.

"I know that if I keep messing up, this is what I can end up doing over and over again," Shanice said.

Many high school students who read Miasha's sign said they would hate to be in her shoes. But many were also sympathetic with Spann's methods.

"I think it's smart for her mom to make her do it," junior Kerinn Fields said with a smile. "My mom would make me do that if I did something really bad."


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