Board hears from residents
Nearly 200 people filled the multi-purpose room at the Blue Earth Area Elementary School last Monday night to attend the monthly BEA School Board meeting.
The board, in anticipation of a large crowd, had moved the meeting from the school’s smaller conference room to the larger former elementary gym.
The residents present were there to express their feelings about bullying issues in the school, especially in light of an assault that now has resulted in criminal charges in Faribault County District Court.
Four BEA student/athletes have been arrested and charged in Faribault County District Court for allegedly assaulting a fellow student and teammate at a party at a residence in Winnebago on Oct. 19.
The first person to address the board, during the public express portion of the meeting, was the assault victim’s father.
“My son is scared to go to school,” he said. “He was afraid to tell what happened. We need a change in this school, with children and teachers being bullied. I urge you to do something about it.”
At least a dozen other people present also spoke to the board about the issues of bullying in the school.
Two parents rose to say their child had been bullied and when it was reported, their child had to no longer ride the bus, or their child had to change locker locations.
“So I now have to drive my child to school because they were bullied,” she said. “That was the solution.”
Another parent said her daughter was bullied because of her race and her weight. Another parent said when his daughter stood up to the bullying and fought back, she was suspended for two days and that he was “furious about it.”
Resident Amy Ihle said she was sick of the bullying in the school.
“I am furious with it, and I am not going to stand for it anymore,” she told the board. “None of us are going to put up with it anymore. That is why we are all here.”
She said her son had also been assaulted and was afraid to report it.
BEA board chairman Frankie Bly thanked everyone for their comments and assured the crowd the board would take them seriously.
“I taught here for 30 years and bullying was not as common,” he said. “We need to take a serious look at this, as parents, teachers and school board members.”
One parent of a wrestler and football player, Courtney Waters, also had a message for the board.
“What comes of all this will determine whether my kids go here (to school),” she said.
Superintendent Evan Gough invited anyone present who did not express a concern at the meeting but wished to have a private conversation to call him at the School District office.
“But as to the assault case, it is still under investigation and the board cannot comment or react to it,” he said.
He added that there is no question the board needs to look at making some changes about dealing with bullying.
Winnebago Police chief Eric Olsen also addressed the crowd and urged anyone with information on the case to please call him at the Winnebago City Hall.
The victim’s father spoke a second time to the board and said he would continue to pursue a solution to this issue and he planned on attending future School Board meetings to see changes are done.
After hearing from residents for approximately 25 minutes, the School Board moved the rest of the meeting back to the board conference room.