Alleged bullying incident hospitalizes one, prompts district-wide presentation

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WLNE) — An alleged incident of bullying at the Michael J. Kuss Middle School in Fall River that sent one student to the hospital has prompted a district-wide presentation at that same school set to take place on Thursday at 6pm.

While the child’s name and age have not been released and their condition is still unknown, the mother did state in a public post on Facebook that her child is currently recovering after being evaluated at St. Anne’s Hospital following the incident.

Dr. Elizabeth Englander, who plans to speak at Thursday evening’s event to address bullying, said while serious harm incidents like this are “unusual,” bullying in general is becoming more and more frequent. “Right now, this spring and this winter, we really have been seeing more behavior problems in kids,” said Englander.

The cause? Yes, this too could be COVID.

“As this pandemic wears on, it has exacerbated some of the problems that were existing before the pandemic. And so the question is, what can parents do to help their kids be better adjusted?” she said.

Englander said the secret could be simple: staying off screens and spending more time with friends.

“If you look at the difference between how much it helps to have a friend or two versus how much it helps, for example, to have the school punish the bully — there’s no comparison,” she explained.

From getting involved in school activities to spending more time at local parks or churches, the director said any way kids can make healthy relationships are helpful.

According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, 49.8% of tweens say they have experienced bullying at school while 14.5% say they have experienced bullying online. For Fall River Public Schools, the district-wide handbook says incidents that occur on school property are investigated and ranked by category of mild, moderate or severe to determine appropriate consequences. But Englander said regardless of where and how it happens, she wants parents to be prepared.

“Whether the relationship is happening on Instagram or whether it’s happening in a game or whether it’s happening in school, a lot of the dynamics are the same. So, I really want parents to feel like, ‘I know what to do, I know how to help my child.’ And that’s what I want them to go home with tonight,” she said.

ABC 6 News did reach out to Principal Melissa Rouette of Michael J. Kuss Middle School as well as the Fall River Superintendent’s office. Neither have provided comment at this time.



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