Plano ISD Superintendent Sara Bonser says that the district’s investigation into a bullying incident involving Haggard Middle School students should be released sometime next week. The news came during a March 9 joint press conference with Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere and Plano Police Chief Ed Drain. The three came together to address the story that has exploded on social media and is gaining national media attention.
According to Chief Drain, the victim’s mother spoke with the school resource officer at Haggard Middle School on March 2 about incidents that allegedly happened on Feb. 12, 13 and possibly 14 during a sleepover at a Plano home. Upon determining that possible criminal offenses had been committed, the officer immediately launched a preliminary investigation. A juvenile detective has since taken over the case and has begun interviewing subjects.
A video that has gone viral on social media appears to show an African American 13-year-old boy being forced to drink urine. According to information provided by the family’s attorney, he had previously quit the school football team after being subjected to constant bullying from some of his teammates. In February, he was ecstatic when a former teammate invited him to a sleepover. While at the sleepover, a group of white students allegedly shot him with BB guns, slapped him while he was sleeping and called him racial slurs.
The victim is now planning to transfer to a private school.
As the police investigation was getting underway, the victim’s mother took to social media claiming there have been multiple incidents of bullying dating back to last school year that included daily racial and homophobic taunts from some of the students as well as physical abuse. Chief Drain says that when police investigators became aware of the online allegations, they expanded their investigation to look into additional incidents that may have occurred in school and off-campus.
“The police department is aggressively investigating this and working with the mother to provide all types of victim service that we can,” he said. “We have already provided Children’s Protective Services with a referral on this case because of some of the things we have come across.”
Chief Drain and Superintendent Bonser met with the victim’s mother before the Tuesday press conference. Bonser characterized it as a productive conversation and said she was thankful for the mother’s willingness to come in and share her experiences and her child’s.
“As superintendent, I hurt for this child and what he has gone through, and his family,” Bonser said. “I want to assure everyone that I’m doing everything in my power to ensure that this situation is addressed appropriately and swiftly.”
“There is nothing okay about bullying and there is nothing okay about acts of racism – whether it’s in our community, in our schools or in our homes. It’s just not okay. I want to be very clear: bullying, harassment, threats or acts of racism against any Plano ISD student are abhorrent and will not be tolerated,” said Bonser.
She says that the district’s investigators are working together with police and other investigating agencies. Plano ISD is planning to appoint an independent third party to look into the bullying allegations from previous school years. Bonser said she could not announce who that third party would be yet but planned to release that information at a later date.
Multiple Plano ISD employees, including the superintendent, have received death threats and threats of physical harm in response to the incident. The victim’s mother says she, too, has received death threats as well as racist hate messages after coming forward with her allegations.
The incident has also prompted others to come forward with their own allegations of bullying and racism on Plano ISD campuses. The victim’s mother says she has received “hundreds” of letters from people sharing their own stories. Bonser says that the district will investigate every incident brought to its attention.
According to stopbullying.gov, a federal website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, schools are obligated by law to address bullying conduct that is severe, pervasive or persistent. They are also obligated to act if someone has created a hostile environment at school or taken action against a student based on their race, color, national origin, sex, disability or religion.
If a parent feels that their child is being bullied, the website encourages them to proceed up the chain of command at the school from teachers, counselors, principals to the superintendent and even the state department of education for action. If a crime has been committed or someone is at immediate risk of harm, they are encouraged to call 9-1-1 and get authorities involved. More information for recognizing and dealing with bullying can be found at stopbullying.gov.
A GoFundMe website has been set up for the Plano bullying victim to help cover the cost of his therapy and private schooling. His mother is planning a call-to-action event for him at 2:30 p.m. March 14 at McCall Plaza in downtown Plano.