Jackson Jennen, 8, Parker Jennen, 5, and others hold signs to show their support for Logan Bollman, a student who alleges he was bullied for six years, Thursday, July 25, 2013, on the sidewalk outside the Greenwood Public School Administration Building.
Jackson Jennen, 8, front, and others hold signs to show their support for Logan Bollman, a student who alleges he was bullied for six years, Thursday, July 25, 2013, on the sidewalk outside the Greenwood Public School Administration Building.
The family of a Greenwood junior expressed optimism Thursday after a closed hearing with school administrators about bullying the student said he’s experienced for six years.
Logan Bollman, his parents and their attorney met with School Board members, Assistant Superintendent and Equity Coordinator Jerry Cecil and school attorney Mitch Llewellyn. Also present were Arkansas State Board of Education member Mireya Reith of Fayetteville and state Sen. Jake Files of Fort Smith.
Llewellyn declined comment following the nearly two-hour hearing, stating that the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act forbids school district comment.
Logan and his parents said they had not yet fully processed what they had heard in the hearing.
Reith told Logan and his parents, Scott and Janelle Bollman, their message really resonated. She thanked Logan for standing up about the issue of bullying, and she expressed admiration for his insistence on working through the system.
Reith said she’s exploring what other accountability the State Board can offer, and that the matter is under development now through Arkansas laws and regulations.
“You can’t have great state laws without accountability,” Reith said, promising the state would work toward better accountability regarding bullying.
The Bollmans’ attorney, Leon Jones Jr. of Fayetteville law firm Morton and Jones, said the Bollmans appreciate school administrators meeting with them.
“I think the meeting was productive, and I think as the year progresses, we’ll know more about the outcome,” Jones said. “I think we’re on the same page now.”
Asked whether district officials were considering changes to the district’s anti-bullying programs, Superintendent John Ciesla said Greenwood will continue to offer the programs it has but will seek improvements to them.
He said the district wants to implement its 3-year-old The Leader in Me program district-wide. It is now in three of Greenwood’s five schools. Ciesla said program stresses proactive responses and relationship building among students and between students and staff.
He said the district wants to continue offering professional counseling, wants to offer more professional development/training for staff, wants to strengthen resources at its Parents Center and has applied for a grant to increase school resource officers.
“It is always our goal to seek continuous improvement,” Ciesla said.
Outside the hearing, a small group of supporters gathered, holding signs for passing motorists: “Stand with Logan. No Bullying. Protect Kids and Learning,” “Thank you Logan” and “Bullying Stops here” some read.
Gina Ervin, a Greenwood native who works for the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s federal TRiO programs, chose to spend a vacation day supporting Logan.
Ervin said TRiO staff work to help students meet their dreams and to empower them. She said she read Logan’s story and was moved by his values and character — the very qualities TRiO aims to instill. Then, she said, she realized that Logan’s mother worked in UA’s TRiO offices for the Veterans Upward Bound program.
Ervin’s daughter, Lacey Jennen of Fort Smith and her children, Jackson, 8, and Parker, 5, also stood for Logan. Ervin said the children wanted to support Logan. Granddaughter Parker said she’d learned at Bible school that bullying was wrong.
Jennen said Jackson is a Boy Scout, like Logan, and serves on his school’s The Leader in Me program board.
Ciesla and former Superintendent Kay Headley have said that the district investigates all reports of bullying and acts upon verified incidents, but FERPA prohibits their discussing individual students.
Al “Papa Rap” Lopez, Springdale Public Schools English as a Second Language communications specialist and community liaison, took a personal day to stand outside to support the Bollmans. Lopez has worked with northwest Arkansas communities for almost 20 years, seeking common ground among community members and immigrants to the community. He performs musical presentations regarding minority- and immigrant-related issues.
“In a community like this, being proactive can be a challenge that turns into opportunity, and those individuals become liaisons for other newcomers,” Lopez said.
Files thanked Logan for speaking out and told him he could call his office anytime he needed him.
Logan has said he spoke up to help others understand what being bullied is like and to let people know the values for which he stands.
Logan’s parents have said their goal all along has been not just to protect their child but also other children who are victimized by bullying. They’ve said they want the district to consistently enforces its anti-bullying policy.
Jones agreed that the issue is not just about Logan, and he expressed admiration for the student.
“His bringing it forward, he’s brave,” Jones said.