Parents to hold meeting on West York district bullying concerns

West York Area High School

Rhonda Lucky was upset when she heard her son had been bullied on the bus to Trimmer Elementary School on Dec. 21, but she was even more angry when she saw the security video.

The recording showed Ted Grove, 10, was slapped and punched after he was put in a chokehold, she said, which she said was much different than what the principal of the West York Area elementary school described to her as "horseplay."

And it wasn't the first time the fourth-grader had trouble on the bus.

"My son’s been bullied on the bus all year long," Lucky said, and a call to an attorney showed her she was not alone.

Rebecca Lyttle, who has an office with LVH Legal in Lancaster County, has since heard from at least 18 parents concerning similar bullying issues at the district. 

Lyttle is holding a public meeting at Leg Up Farmers Market, 3100 N. George St. in Manchester Township, at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, for parents who want to get involved if their child was bullied or who want to help make sure bullying is stopped in the district, she said.

Experiences with bullying are having serious effects on students, she added, noting that parents shared various mental health concerns, including post-traumatic stress and threats of suicide.

Both Lyttle and Lucky said they hope Monday's meeting will bring further awareness to these issues.

More:Bullying not ruled out in Hanover teen's suicide

More:South Western talks about bullying with Be the Change

Policy updates: District spokeswoman Cindi Greco said that prior to the Dec. 21 incident the administration had been reviewing discipline policies and was in the process of updating them.

The district initially released a statement after the bus incident, noting that administration was "aware of discipline issues occurring on some of our buses" and was working with bus management to review policies and make changes.

A letter was sent to parents Friday, Jan. 25, informing them that revised bus discipline policies go into effect Monday, Jan. 28.

"All students have the right to feel safe and secure ... it is the priority of the West York Area School District to ensure this safe environment," the letter reads.

More:School safety task force co-chair: York districts set bar for tackling mental health issues

According to the prior transportation policy and conduct expectations, the bus driver is responsible for student discipline and reports issues to the school for further discipline, which may include suspension.

The updated policy is more specific, adding that drivers will complete a bus conduct report for inappropriate behavior, which may be a major or minor infraction.

Minor infractions listed include horseplay, and result in consequences such as parent contact, a principal conference or peer mediation, while major infractions include fighting, harm to others and threats to inflict harm.

Consequences for a major infraction are varying levels of suspension from the bus, with the fifth infraction resulting in a permanent suspension for the rest of the school year.

Longtime issue: Despite changes going into effect, however, parent stories are pointing to a longtime issue with little action from the district, Lyttle said.

Parents have told her the district did not always call them about injuries and sometimes claimed the victim of the bullying started it, said it was too difficult to get in touch with parents to remove bullies from the bus, and suggested parents of victims place them in cyber school.

One bus driver told Lyttle she also had been terrorized by kids on the bus and made multiple reports to the school about misconduct.

Some parents also told her they had a history of reaching out to the district with bullying problems from the first to the fifth grade with no luck — sometimes even moving their family in order to switch districts.

“I have story after story after story,” she said.