Parents of bullied CPS students seek to make changes in schools

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Parents of Chicago Public Schools students who have been bullied gathered Saturday to find a way to keep their kids in school.

Among them was the mother of an 11-year-old who is currently on life support after trying to take his own life because of bullying.

Parent Sequoia Williams, whose 8-year-old son Mason ended up with a broken arm after repeated bullying at Woodson South Elementary School in the Bronzeville neighborhood, was also among the parents.

"My son had been pushed down steps and they tried to pretend like it was an accident. I then found out it was on purpose," Williams said.

Her son was a second-grader when the incident occurred.

Another Woodson student - 11-year-old Jamari Dent - tried to kill himself because of repeated bullying, his family said. The child remains hospitalized on life support.

A small group of CPS parents, along with education advocates and community leaders, met to a talk about the safety of their children.

"What is it going to take for you to listen to and to actually see there's a problem?" said CPS parent Natasha Erskine.

Parents at the meetings said they have voiced their concerns with emails and at CPS board meetings but to no avail. They hope that joining together will bring about change. It's the first meeting, but they hope others will follow to make changes in the schools.

"We're watching our neighborhoods and communities crumble, so we need to take a step back and say how do we rebuild our community and it starts with the schools," said CPS parent Brian Mullins.

The group met at the Heritage Cafe on 79th Street which is owned Deion Steele, who spent nine years as a charter school principal.

The former educator cautions parents about being too quick to blame school officials while encouraging school administrators to commit taking bullying incidents seriously.

"I'm not speaking in defense of principals. I just know what the resources are like when it comes to the schools, so I want the parents to demand the resources for them to be able to do what they're doing," Steele said.

In a statement, a CPS spokesman said: "CPS is fully committed to creating safe and supportive learning environments for all students, and the district does not tolerate bullying or harassment in any form. To prevent and respond to bullying, CPS utilizes a robust anti-bullying policy that outlines the steps all schools must take to ensure students are supported."
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