Parents of 7th-grader bullied for eight months wants CMSD to examine bullying policies

CLEVELAND - Some parents who have students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District are hoping the district will re-examine its policy and response when dealing with bullying cases.

Tawnya and Rob Mihna said their 7th-grade daughter has been bullied repeatedly at Riverside Elementary over the past 8 months.

The couple made it clear the principal at the school has been extremely responsive, and had meetings with all parents involved.

However, they believe their principal, and all principals district-wide, should be given more latitude when dealing with bullying cases.

"My daughter was screaming, she was crying, she was bent over hyperventilating," said Tawnya Mihna. "I want the principal, all principals at all schools, to have more leeway with these kids.

"There is only so much a principal can do based on the district code of conduct and the current definition of what constitutes bullying."

Tia Holloway said her first-grade daughter was the victim of repeated verbal bullying at Riverside Elementary.

She also believes principals should be given more ways to respond while investigating bullying cases and is calling for more consistent parental notification when cases are reported.

"I tell you they never reached out to me, I had to go to them," said Holloway. "Principals, you are the first responders, so give them enough authority to make a decision on how to handle the situation."

The Cleveland schools responded quickly to concerns over its bullying policy and response.

The district said its code of conduct is reviewed and updated annually.

It told News 5 it is willing to continue to look into both cases, and it issued the following statement:

"Principal Neil Murphy has high expectations for student behavior at Riverside School and in this and all cases, works with students and their families to counsel them whenever behavior issues arise."

"The claim that bullying is managed centrally and principals' hands are tied is not true at Riverside or at any CMSD school.  

Principal Neil Murphy, like other principals, enforce guidelines clearly established in the Student Code of Conduct, which includes guidelines for behaviors defined as bullying and the consequences students face.  

Principals have the autonomy to use a variety of means at their disposal to raise awareness of positive behaviors and anti-bullying strategies, to engage students in peer mediation, to engage parents in counseling around behavior issues and to use case-by-case strategies to help students exhibit positive behaviors at their school."

Still, Rob Mihna believes more bullying response options need to be examined in the district.

"They have to become accountable," said Mihna. "Parents need to be notified. Parents are not being notified, they keep things behind the scenes."

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