70ºF

Speaking out and standing up against bullying

Family of girl taken to mental health facility says she was bullied

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mother and sister of a 15-year-old Duval County School District student were finally able to see her Thursday, three days after she was admitted to a mental health facility for making suicidal threats, 

According to the Duval County School District, when a student makes that type of threat, a mental health professional is called in to evaluate the student to decide if the child needs to be admitted.

That was the case here, but according to Lisa Wilson, sister of 15-year-old Alishia Montelongo, they were never notified of the transfer until they got to the school to pick her up.

The school district says the school is supposed to inform the parent about the situation.

Wilson said the bigger picture here though is bullying, and she said the district hasn't done enough to stop it.

Wilson said she has photos of Montelongo after she was beaten up by another student in the hallway at school, a claim the state attorney's office is investigating.

The school board is supposed to do a full investigation when someone claims they are being bullied, which is what the Duval County School District says they do once they start receiving those claims, but experts say sometimes it's difficult to prove it meets the definition of bullying.

Denise Marzullo, president of Mental Health America of North East Florida, says these situations can be tough for the district to define.

"So you've got to figure out if it is bullying or if it's assault and battery. Bullying is ongoing, repeated, over time with the intent to harm somebody. So they've got to do a full investigation before they categorize bullying. Right now, if you just look at the behaviors for the one incident, then that is possibly battery or a fight. They have to look into that as well," Marzullo said.

Marzullo said it's important for students to be the change, by standing up for bullying victims, befriending them and telling an adult when they see bullying.

"If there's only one bully and 18 bystanders standing up for the victim, then bullying is not going to happen. But if it's the other way around, it's terrible, it's torture for the victim," Marzullo said.

She said students who are doing the bullying also need help because something could be going on in their life that causes them to lash out at other students in the form of bullying.

Wilson said that the assistant principal at the school wants to meet on March 23 to discuss the issue further.

Parents with a child they think is being bullied are encouraged to head to duvalschools.org/Page/9841 for help.

The website has information on what bullying is, and if the parent feels their child has been bullied, there are documents they can fill out and turn in to school administrators for further review and an investigation into the matter.