Carmel Assault Update – Keep Kids Safe Only Agenda Here by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

So the Carmel Schools administrators are unhappy and believe my motivation in writing about the ongoing bullying issues in schools and on buses is jealousy and bitterness toward the city of Carmel.  They call me “slime” for writing about how special needs kids among others are being tormented by bullies as Carmel Clay Schools reshape and expand upon a bullying policy in a handbook.  They seem to genuinely believe that will make a difference.

The frustration is understandable, but their decision to project that angst toward the messenger brings them no closer to a solution than the words in a policy manual that exists only as a prop to wave as administrators placate easily convinced parents that something is being done.

No doubt the issues plaguing Carmel Clay Schools regarding bullying are not unique to their experience.  There are kids misbehaving elsewhere.  Because of the ongoing basketball bullying cases against four former players who tortured a younger player, and the posts I’ve written as a result, parents and school officials in Carmel seek me out to share information about kids being bullied without any action being taken even after those incidents being reported.

Parents of former Carmel students have also stepped forward to share examples of the same behavior throughout the last 15 years.

Rather than being critical of someone who is writing about a problem that certainly exists, it would be more productive to look closely at their own actions, and try to improve the failed solutions they have enacted.

Parents are right to demand a safe environment for their children, as well as a method of speedy redress when that is not provided.  If administrators don’t want a dozen parents and several educators seeking a portal where their grievances can be heard, they should do a better job of acting upon what they hear.

Kids who bully, assault, harass, and threaten need to be shown serious consequences not only to instruct them, but discourage others from engaging in that behavior.  “Kids will be kids”, is the worst brand of inactive pablum imaginable, but would actually be an improvement compared to the proud idiocy released in statements from the superintendent’s office.

If the Carmel Clay Schools administration feels unfairly singled out, do something positive about it.  Bury this ill-founded pride, and start looking in the mirror.  Lead the area in educating kids.  Teach them to look at others as human beings.  Finding methods to introduce empathy into their lives would be a great step in the right direction.

The source of my relentless discontent came from a conversation I had with a Carmel basketball player who said the four kids didn’t even realize what they were doing was wrong because it was part of the culture of Carmel High School throughout their experience.  The players accused of battery and criminal recklessness were stunned that they would be punished for what they did.  That’s a cultural problem, not simply a kid issue.

The culture needs to change, and the pain of change must be outweighed by the pain of maintaining the status quo.  If somehow, what has been written here has ratcheted up the level of pain, good.

The camera of the community is on Carmel.  The administrators can resent it or embrace the challenge.  Just don’t whine about it.

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Carmel Assault Update – Chaos on Carmel Buses Leads to Parental Discontent by kentsterling
September 20, 2010, 3:32 pm
Filed under: Carmel Bullying | Tags: ,

by Kent Sterling

Despite fancy words in a new and lengthy policy on bullying, the abusive behavior of kids in school and on the school bus to and from school continues to plague students who want nothing more than a peaceful ride to and from school.

The latest incidents occurred on a middle school bus where, according to a parent of one of the victims, five sixth graders have been victimized by two boys and have suffered, “inappropriate touching, name calling, the receipt of sexually oriented texts, physical assault, name calling and being made fun of for physical disabilities.”

This is anything but surprising.  Words are the least effective tools for fixing behavioral issues.  Administrators and bureaucrats always fight injustice with pamphlets and seminars.  Serious consequences correct aberrant behavior.

Under normal circumstances, a parent might suggest (like my Dad did) that the bullied should take a swing at the punks creating this hostility, but when there are special needs kids involved, it’s time for the adults to lace up their big boy pants and protect those at risk while being transported to and from school.

The consequence for the two bullies this time?  Being suspended from the bus for three days.  Not enough to discourage the hostility, but plenty enough to piss off the accused and their parents.

What kind of assurances are the parents getting from the superintendent’s office?  None.  Jeff Swennson is having calls routed to the school principals.  I was told by a parent today that, “(I was) told by an assistant superintendent that “it was PROTOCOL to report situations like this to the police” (inappropriate touching) … only to contact the school resource officer who said that she didn’t know anything about it. The assistant principal called back and said that they would contact the school resource officer AFTER their investigation is complete.”

Two of the parents are giving serious thought to retaining Robert Turner, the attorney who represents one of the victims, because the method of redress within Carmel Clay School has left them dissatisfied and fearful for their kids.

There is a certain amount of “kids will be kids” nonsense that is expected when a bunch of kids are clustered together with limited adult oversight, but when the response from a school administrator answering the question of how this kind of abuse might be avoided is, “You should get on the redistricting committee so your kids don’t have such a long bus ride,” you can’t blame parents for seeking redress outside the school hierarchy – particularly those parents with special needs kids.

The trials of the former Carmel basketball players are coming up, and given the level of continued abuse students are subjected to, the noise surrounding the question of student safety is only going to grow louder.



HSE Assault – Victim Leaves School by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

What the hell is going on in area high schools?  Are schools being run by the students or the grown-ups?  Victims of harassment are forced to abandon their high schools while those who harassed continue to walk the halls.  In Carmel, the four seniors accused of assault were supposedly expelled, but allowed to complete their course work online and graduate with their class.  One of the victims is supposedly now a student at Park Tudor High School.

Last Friday night, after a Hamilton Southeastern loss to Brownsburg, there was reportedly some taunting on one of the team buses as it returned from the game.  Underclassmen are said to have blamed the seniors for the loss.  In retaliation for the taunting, a senior pissed in a water bottle, and the seniors threw it toward Coleman and then held it in 15-year-old Ryan Coleman’s face.

At Hamilton Southeastern, the victim is moving on to another school while the two yet-to-be named tossers of a bottle filled with urine have been the recipients of an unspecified disciplinary action.

According to an Indy Star article by Carrie Ritchie, Coleman has left HSE because he has been the victim of ongoing harassment including “students were calling him names. His football locker had been broken into, and some of his teammates were ignoring him. Others threatened to hurt him, (father) Reginald Coleman said.”

The dad says that if he had to make the decision again to report the incident or keep quiet, despite his son switching schools, he would make the same call.  Coleman told the Star, “It never shows up right away, but in the next upcoming year you might hear of somebody else who was inspired by a 15-year-old and his parents who refused to let this die.”

Somebody in Carmel and HSE need to put their big boy pants on and demand reasonable behavior from their students.  The collective mindset that the victim is to blame for the crime must be changed.  Whether Coleman stood on the seats of the bus and ripped the seniors, as is rumored, isn’t germane.  I’m not that incensed by the stupidity and foolishness of holding a bottle of urine in a kid’s face.

The galling aspect of this is that Coleman’s locker was broken into and that he was threatened after the fact because he father took their side of the story to school authorities and police.  Treating a kid like a pariah because his dad takes serious offense in hearing about his son being threatened with a bottle of piss is beyond asinine, and a school that allows that isn’t worth attending.

Doing what’s right is never easy, and the Colemans are learning that lesson in a very personal and unpleasant way.  The administration at HSE, much like the group of self-congratulatory boobs at Carmel, have allowed student behavior to alter the life of a kid whose dad just wants people held accountable for treating his kid like a toilet.

Things would be easier if kids defended themselves as they used to.  A kid teases or taunts, he gets a right cross to the jaw.  Maybe the kid gets his ass kicked, but it’s funny how the taunting stops when bullies aren’t sure whether the reaction will be violent.  But that didn’t happen here, and the heavy lifting was done by the dad who stepped forward to try to put a stop to his son’s pain.

Then, it was up to the faculty, coaches, and administration at the school to step up and demand decency from their students.  They failed.  Not sure why neither the taunting with piss or the breaking into the kids locker don’t warrant attention for the police and the Hamilton County prosecutor, but we should expect nothing less from an office that has proven to be a train wreck in its bumbling of the Carmel assaults.



More Bullying – Delphi Football Player Accused by kentsterling
September 9, 2010, 9:44 am
Filed under: Carmel Bullying | Tags: , ,

by Kent Sterling

Earlier this morning, we posted about a relatively innocuous incident on a football team bus returning to Hamilton Southeastern High School after last week’s loss to Brownsburg.  Someone pissed in a sealed water bottle and threw it around the bus.

The story of the bullying in Delphi High School is uglier – a lot uglier.

According to a story filed online by Alexandra Deiro of WLFI-18 (Lafayette, IN), Robert Sanders’ freshman son plays football for the JV squad, and two juniors held him with his face pressed to the lockers while a third junior rubbed his genitalia against the boy’s back.

Sanders told Deiro, “My son was leaving practice for the J.V. team at Delphi High, and after he had showered the varsity team came in. He had showered and placed his shorts and shoes on. Some Juniors, three Juniors, caught him in the middle of the aisle-way between two lockers. Two grabbed him from behind, pinned him, held him, restrained him. And another came up behind him in the nude and proceeded to rub his privates all over my son’s back.”

I’m not sure that the challenges failed by the Carmel Clay Schools and Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office in light of the alleged incidents of hazing/finger banging have been reported with the same enthusiasm in Delphi (10 miles northeast of Lafayette), so the community might not be as sensitive to hazing/bullying/sexual deviance as those in Indianapolis.  The kids involved, and the coaches and administrators of Delphi High School are about to get a big dose of unpleasant.

Sanders says this is not an isolated incident, although the school corporation claims no knowledge of something similar.

Delphi’s principal Barry Stone says the police are involved to ensure the investigation is handled properly because Stone says that the athletic director is related by marriage to one of the boys involved in the incident.  The AD denies being related.  Strange business in Delphi.

The alleged victim is being held out of school and will not return.

Kids need to understand, at least in central Indiana, that what passed as harmless and blameless hijinx in the past is now going to cause mayhem and result in criminal charges.  Keep your hands, johnson, fingers, cell phones, and urine to yourselves.



Hamilton Southeastern Suspends Football Coach by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Some dopey football player pissed off either at the loss against Brownsburg last Friday night or the verbal abuse dealt to the seniors by the upperclassmen on the bus after the game (or both) pissed in a water bottle and threw it around the team bus as it returned home after the game.

Head coach Scott May has been suspended for one game as a result of his lack of supervision on the bus.  Two assistant coaches and two athletic department staffers will also receive verbal and written reprimands for their roles in the incident.

A member of the team told his dad that he was harassed by seniors with the bottle of urine, and it was the dad’s report that prompted a school and police investigation resulting in the penalties for Mat and the other faculty members, which also extend to the player or players involved.

Coaches need to be ready for especially prickly administrators if there is another untoward that occurs when kids are under their supervision.  The Carmel incidents early this year have shown school districts the pain that can come their way if they don’t act quickly and decisively.  No one wants the media scrutiny that has brought light to the ineffective response from Carmel Clay Schools, and so any whiff of hazing or bullying will be met with stern actions.

My question is how did the kid piss in the bottle on a bus without a little privacy.  I have great trouble peeing even when I have to with people close by.  Urinals are okay without people in the adjacent stalls.  Otherwise, I head to the toilet.  This kid likely pissed while seated with someone next to him laughing.  That either shows tremendous focus or wild indifference for being watched while pissing.

No damage was done and no criminal charges will be filed – the urine reportedly stayed sealed in the bottle – but Hamilton Southeastern was right to hold accountable the kid(s) and adults responsible for the behavior.  This is how people learn where the line is, and if throwing a bottle full of urine is allowed, what’s next?

Life will be less dangerous on school property for hazing victims, and less fun for bullies – at least until the hubbub about Carmel quiets.  There will be other incidents because that is what kids do until presented with consequences a little closer to home than what has happened to the four Carmel students who have lost the relative anonymity that they enjoyed.  Robert Kitzinger, Brandon Hoge, Oscar Falodun, and Scott Laskowski are no longer obscure high school basketball players, but poster boys for entitled and brazen high school students who believe they can prey upon others with the shell of high school and adolescence to protect them.

While the football players and coaches are likely upset that this relatively harmless episode has been overblown, their focus should be on being thankful that the bottle stayed sealed.

Coaches and students should take notice that they are one indiscreet and foolish incident away from local infamy.



Carmel Assault Update – Hazing Policy in Place by kentsterling
August 24, 2010, 9:50 am
Filed under: Carmel Bullying, Kent Sterling | Tags:

by Kent Sterling

Being cynical is easy.  Poking holes in the plans of the delusional is not quite the intellectual equivalent of solving the riddle of the sphinx.  That doesn’t mean it’s not correct to do so.  The Carmel Clay School Board heard a report last night from superintendent Jeff Swensson regarding the implementation of the Anti-hazing Policy enacted as a result of the publicity following alleged attacks on younger basketball team members by four seniors.

He said, according the an Indianapolis Star report, that the policy has been a point of emphasis for athletic coaches and extracurricular coordinators.  There will be increased monitoring in the halls and other areas before and after school, as well as between periods.  The coup de grace will be a yet to be activated mechanism that will allow students and parents to anonymously report hazing.

Well, if that doesn’t get things done, what will?  It’s absurd to think that the very people responsible for the culture of hazing prevalent at Carmel for years will fix it.  The totality of the response of Swensson and Principal Williams has been to pat each other on the back for a job well done, followed by the development of a policy that basically says kids should be nice to one another, and the far off dream of one day dedicating an email account that encrypts incoming email addresses or a phone line with voice mail – what a radical concept – that will allow kids to report abuse.

What kind of a school system is it that allows that to qualify as a legitimate response?  The first question is – what kind of fear is there among the kids for the authority figures of the school that would require them to report abuse anonymously?  Can no one at Carmel High School be trusted by a student?  Are the authority figures so far removed from the lives of the students that it is unreasonable to expect enough trust to exist for an accusation of sticking fingers in their rectums?

How about instituting a hunk of curriculum that will teach kids the value of empathy?  It is so tiring to see again and again the authority figures entrusted to lead companies or school districts blithely treat the symptom with some pablumatic decree rather than attack the problem at its root source.  In this case, the cause is a societal indifference based upon status or rank.

Someone in a position of power in Carmel – and let’s not be so naïve to believe it’s the only high school where this kind of unpleasantness occurs – needs to step up and state the obvious; these kids don’t need to be prevented from attacking one another.  They need to care more about their peers.  There is a profound difference between keeping people from committing a crime, and giving them the tools to understand why the crime itself is wrong.

I’m all for teaching kids math, science, and wood shop, but there is nothing wrong with a class that teaches kids to care about one another.  Building generations of adults who understand why empathy is a great trait to possess would be a wonderful legacy for a superintendent.

Too bad the guy in the big chair at Carmel-Clay is more interested in patting himself on the back for paying lip service to a problem whose existence he refuses to acknowledge.  What a farce.

Here is an essay written by Swensson that appeared in the Indianapolis Star August 12.  It’s title should be, “Get Ready for Nausea!”

You didn’t have to look very far during the Carmelfest parade over the July 4 weekend to see why the Carmel Clay Schools are so proud to play a role in the success and excellence of our community.

From our grand marshal, Officer Jason Fishburn, to the veterans and active-duty military personnel who participated in the parade, there were role models for our young people in abundance on that sunny July day.

As we approach the 2010-11 school year, each school day, our teachers, building administrators and support staff will strive to be outstanding role models for our students, the future heroes of our great nation, state, and community.

Amidst the festive colors and sounds of our community’s celebration of our nation’s freedom, were multitudinous examples of service to others.

From the members of our police and fire departments to our elected community servants, and from the various Scouting representatives to the Carmel Street Department employees (whose efforts to keep our city tidy went into full gear scant minutes after the parade ended), the spirit of service was omnipresent during the parade.

During the coming school year, this unceasing effort to “give back” will be part of every school’s day, as volunteers from across our community help students and staff with a variety of learning tasks.

The applause, laughter, and smiles that punctuated every lighthearted moment of an outstanding family event, were built on a foundation of planning, dedication, and hard work.

From the vibrant melodies of the Carmel High School Marching Greyhounds to the “thank you” sent out to one and all by the educators and students who participated in the parade, advance preparation and hard work were essential elements.

The new school year will be constructed of impressive dedication to, and effort towards, the highest standards. One element of our foundation for 2010-11 is that the Carmel Clay Schools earned the highest ISTEP scores of all schooldistricts in Indiana last school year. In addition, we’re building on the fact that Carmel High School was one of only a dozen high schools in the state with 25 percent or more of the graduating class taking Advanced Placement classes and earning a 3, 4, or 5 on these tests.

We are dedicated to supporting each of our students in their pursuit of the national and international standards embodied in our curriculum.

As role models for academic excellence, service and high standards, the staff of the Carmel Clay Schools promotes a culture of success for youth.

As the new school year approaches, I invite our community to our website (www.ccs.k12.in.us) to stay up-to-date with the spirit of excellence, the spirit of the Carmel Clay Schools.

I’m not sure whether it took six weeks for the Star to publish it, or the new PR flack hired by the school district to write it, but I would feel less icky had I never read it.  When I recommended Carmel-Clay Schools hire a PR person to advise Swensson and the district in matters of presenting the district’s message, I did not mean to open a Pandora’s Box of glad tidings in the face of crisis.

What is needed – what is always needed – is an honest reckoning of both successes and challenges.  To continually limit acknowledgement to the wonder and magic of The Great Swensson is to invite suspicion and doubt.

It’s not just the kids of Carmel who need to grow up.  It’s time Swensson or somebody in power at Carmel-Clay Schools put on their big boy pants and do the hard work required to bring needed change rather than congratulate each other for a job undone.

I would rather not be cynical when it comes to the education of area kids, but what choice is there?



Carmel Assault Update – What Is Bullying? by kentsterling
August 19, 2010, 9:14 pm
Filed under: Carmel Bullying, Kent Sterling | Tags:

by Kent Sterling

A comment written by “Not Your Average Carmel Mom” in response to another comment asking about where witnesses are in the cases of the four former Carmel basketball players accused of class B misdemeanors is an excellent place to start understanding why both the act itself and the reaction by the Carmel Clay Schools administration and the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office have been so disappointing.  Not as many people read the comments as the posts, so it is reprinted here:

Well, Carmel Guy, my guess is that the witnesses don’t want to call attention to themselves. They are boys who want to play basketball … not spend time testifying against older boys – possibly making themselves a target of bullying for testifying.

To learn more about this “role”, I encourage you to read an excellent book: The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander by Barbara Coloroso. In it, she details the various “roles” in the bullying equation:

***Bully/Bullies – Start bullying and take active part

***Followers/Henchmen – Take an active part but do not start the bullying

***Passive Bully/Bullies (Supporters) – Support bullying but do not take an active part in the bullying.

***Possible Bully/Bullies (Passive Supporters) – actually like the bullying but do not display open support.

***Disengaged Onlookers – Feel it’s none of their business and don’t take a stand.

***Possible Defenders – Dislike the bullying and think they SHOULD help … but don’t.

***Defenders of the Target- Dislike the bullying and either actively help or try to help the target of the bullying.

Just recently, For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has included a section on bullying in its new recommendations for pediatricians. In addition to recommendations for counseling for teens and their families and increasing awareness of bullying, the AAP has recommended that schools adopt a prevention model developed by Dan Olweus, a research professor of psychology at the University of Bergen, Norway, who focuses on the role of bystanders.

Why Bystanders?

Why the focus on bystanders? For one, there’s safety in numbers – something the victim of bullying does not have on her side. Moreover, no adolescent likes to be criticized by a group of her peers. While admonishment from a principal, teacher, parent, or other authority figure is easy to ignore, and may even make teens more angry and aggressive, research shows negative feedback from peers has an immediate and lasting effect.

In addition, bystanders are present at most bullying incidents. A recent study found that peers were present in 85% of bullying episodes, but intervened in only 10%. Bullies like an audience, but not a disapproving one.

Through classroom discussions, parent meetings, and consistent responses from school officials, experts believe schools and their pupils can send a strong message that bullying will not be tolerated. Changing the school culture will take time and education – most bystanders continue to feel afraid of taking a stand, some prefer to disassociate themselves from the victim, and some even blame the victim or cheer the bully on.

But few interventions have proven more effective than a group of bystanders taking a stand against bullying. A recent study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry showed that a new psychodynamic approach to bullying in schools that focuses on enhancing empathy in bystanders and changing power dynamics school-wide can reduce children’s experiences of aggression in school and improve classroom behavior.

How to Empower the Bystander

The most common response to bullying is to do nothing – but doing nothing fuels the bully’s fire. Mobilizing the largest and most influential group, the bystanders, is one of the best ways to bring about change. Bullies thrive on power and control, and being questioned or confronted by peers usurps their sense of power. It only takes one person to take a stand and mobilize others to jump into action.

To change the culture in schools, teens need to be empowered to speak up against bullying. Without education and support, teens who know what’s right will fail to act. When asked what they should do in a bullying situation, about two-thirds of children say they should intervene, but only one-third of elementary school children actually do – and only one-quarter of high school students will intervene.

Soak in the statistic, Carmel Guy. “A recent study found that peers were present in 85% of bullying episodes, but intervened in only 10%.”

So if there are 100 episodes of bullying, a bystander will only intervene in 10. That’s staggering.

Before just dismissing what others have to say by the smug admonishment, “So where are the witnesses?” consider that we’re dealing with kids who are, in varying degrees, scared, horrified, entertained, emboldened and disgusted by the behavior.

And the bystanders have very likely been “encouraged” by those in charge of their futures to stay quiet.

So that might answer your rather simplistic question and somewhat condescending question… “Where are the witnesses?”

They’re just doing what the bullies (whether the bullies are their peers or the school administration) WANT them to do … stay silent. It’s the path of least resistance.

This issue hasn’t elicited such passion and outrage because four boys have been accused … this case has elicited passion, outrage and disgust because those who SHOULD have protected the victims and admonished the bullies have failed, probably for years, to do so.

Peace be with you.

Thanks to NYACM for taking the time to do more than bitch and moan.  You are in the middle, trying to affect a positive change in any way you can, and that’s inspiring.