Parents call for action amid increased bullying at Ernie Davis Academy

Local News

The details alleged in this article may be disturbing to some readers.

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Several parents expressed concern and shared serious allegations of bullying in Ernie Davis Academy. Parents, child advocates, and a few students gathered Tuesday night to share their experiences and try to find a solution to the growing issue.

For the Ledger Family, these alleged instances of bullying were extreme. They say it began with verbal disputes and led to a physical altercation. Later, severe threats were made against their son, 12-year-old Giovanni’s, past.

“[They said] Why don’t you slit your wrists? Why don’t you kill yourself like your mother?” Christine Ledger, Giovanni’s stepmother, said.

After checking her son’s phone, Christine found something unexpected.

“I opened a picture of my 12-year-old son cutting himself,” she added.

Now, Giovanni is at a new school, but he recalls several days where the teachers were unable to get through a lesson due to disruptive behavior. He hoped the start of his school year would be filled with new, exciting opportunities, like the yearbook club, which he wanted to join.

“I didn’t expect it [the bullying] to be this intense,” Giovanni continued.

Giovanni’s parents say they tried to speak with the principal multiple times but were unable to come to a solution quickly enough. After removing their son from the school, David Ledger, Giovanni’s father, took to social media, asking other parents if they experienced something similar. He received hundreds of comments with some parents sharing their stories. The interest in the post led to an in-person meeting Tuesday night and they plan to host another gathering Tuesday, November 16 ahead of the November 17 board meeting.

Parents Brandon Finch and Sharisse Styles say their daughter was physically harmed in a crowded hallway.

“Some girl came up and grabbed her breasts and then left,” Sharisse told 18 News. “The girl grabbed her breasts so hard that my daughter had to go to the nurse to get an ice pack.”

Elmira City Schools Superintendent Hillary J. Austin says this school year has been particularly difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the advent of Tik Tok challenges.

“It’s been a challenging start for our staff and I think for students. We’re seeing that there’s a lot of conflict from outside of school that’s being brought into school,” Superintendent Austin said.

According to New York State Law and the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), no child should be subjected to harassment or discrimination by employees or other students. The law is clearly stated in the Elmira School District Code of Conduct. Each school is also required to have a DASA coordinator. Also, the Code of Conduct states that “all district students have the right to…be protected from intimidation, harassment, bullying…”, but the students 18 News spoke with feel unprotected.

Both parents and school administrators say they want to find a solution to a deep-rooted issue, but it is unclear how a solution will be reached.

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