After a new student was shamed for his sexual orientation on his first day at Greenbrier High School, other students said they hope the incident will encourage their peers to stand up to and put an end to bullying.
Snippets of various students’ accounts regarding the incident began circulating social media Tuesday after a high school student welcomed a new student by throwing mashed potatoes at him and yelling out various homophobic slurs at him.
A sophomore who witnessed the incident said that shortly after throwing the mashed potatoes, the instigator placed a piece of paper in front of the new student that had a homophobic slur written on the front of it.
As the incident transpired, the sophomore said an employee watched from close by and did not intervene until another student stood up for the alleged victim.
“At this time, the teacher that was on lunch duty was close to the area and knew what was going on and laughed and smirked,” the sophomore told the Log Cabin Democrat. “He didn’t do anything about the issue.”
As the victimized student responded to the note by writing “I may be a (expletive) but I’m still human,” the employee nearby “looked at the note and laughed.”
“When I say laugh, I mean more of a chuckle,” the sophomore who witnessed the incident told the LCD. “The group of kids kept saying slurs and absurd sayings.”
At this point, one of the students in the cafeteria stood up for the incoming student.
The girl walked over to the on-duty teacher to report what she’d witnessed and then stormed out of the cafeteria and headed to the front office with the new student. Other students yelled out derogatory slurs toward the two as they left the cafeteria, the sophomore student said.
Videos circulating social media show the girl yelling out obscenities at other students who had ridiculed the school’s new student.
School administrators said the incident was upsetting and that they encourage victimized students and other who witness bullying to report this behavior immediately.
“It was horrible. It was unacceptable,” Greenbrier Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Peggy O’Reilly said of the incident. “It was rally bad. We’ve tried to make sure we’ve had meetings to let students know this is not going to happen again.”
Despite rumors circulating social media, O’Reilly said she wanted to make it clear the student who was bullied Tuesday was not punished.
Though she could not comment specifically on student matters, when asked if other students involved were punished, the assistant superintendent said administrators “followed the handbook policy and take bullying very seriously.”
The district is working to ensure a situation like this never happens again, O’Reilly said Friday.
“We encourage (students) to go to an adult in the building, a teacher, an administrator … anyone they are comfortable with (to report bullying),” she said. “We don’t want them to feel threatened and encourage them to speak out so we can do something.”
One junior high school student said this was not the first time a student was bullied and that she hopes the harassment will end. The teen said she was glad to see posts circulating social media in support of the boy who was bullied Tuesday.
“I’m proud of the kids at my school for standing up to bullying and the way that Greenbrier treats their kids. They’re not just hiding in the background. They’re saying, ‘We’re sick of this,’” she said.
The girl said she felt the district did not properly handle the incident immediately but that she hoped the community would continue fighting against bullying.
The sophomore student who witnessed the incident said he hopes what happened Tuesday would bring awareness to the issue.
“Kids get bullied all the time at Greenbrier but nothing ever gets done about it because people stay silent and the incident usually don’t go as far as what happened at lunch Tuesday,” he told the Log Cabin. “I just hope that people realize how they acted and learn from their mistakes. I hope everyone learns from the kids and don’t make their mistakes … I wish people would care for each other instead of bash(ing) them for being different.”
Anyone with questions or concerns about bullying at the school is welcomed to call administrators at 501-679-4808.