Mother of Bullied Teen Demands Help from School

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SEDALIA - A Sedalia woman threatened taking legal action Wednesday against her teenage son's alleged bullies. Kim Kenfield said Smith-Cotton High School, where her son is a sophomore, has failed to properly address three years of complaints about the violence.

Kenfield said several students have engaged in both physical and verbal harassment against her son.   But, she noted, one student in particular has exhibited unrelenting violent acts against the boy--despite what Kenfield said was continuous reporting of the incidents.

The school could not discuss details pertaining to these specific accusations for privacy reasons.

Kenfield said the mental strain her son has endured because of the alleged bullies recently has become noticeable.  "I knew something was up when he went from a B to a D minus right off the bat, because he's carried As and Bs all school year."

Recently, Kenfield took up the bullying claims with the school's superintendent, who called on the county sheriff to investigate.  As of late Wednesday afternoon, Kenfield said her son had completed an extensive interview with the sheriff, who said matters will be addressed.  Kenfield said the sheriff could not disclose whether he will press charges. "If I would have known three years ago that the bullying would have kept going to the point where my son's wanting to drop out of school...the bullying in these schools has got to stop, or we're going to keep burying our kids," she said.

Smith-Cotton High School Principal Steve Triplett said, "We take bullying very seriously at Smith-Cotton. When it is reported to our office either through a student, a teacher, a parent or a community member, we do a thorough investigation to determine the cause and what's going on with that particular situation. And, at that time, we gather that information and make a determination on consequences where we need to go from there."

Triplett added such consequences include conferences with parents and students, in-school suspensions, expulsion, and contacting law enforcement.  But, he said incidents of bullying are not common.   Regardless, he noted school administrators have implemented a school resource officer that operates with the Pettis County Sheriff's Department. Additionally, he said, the school has a school security officer, security cameras and has maintained continuous attendance at bullying-related seminars.

Kenfield said she is calling on not just school administrators, but also lawmakers to stop bullying in Missouri schools.  Currently, two bills in the Missouri legislature aim to increase bullying awareness and prevention in schools.  House Bill 1062, sponsored by Rep. Sara Lampe (D-Springfield) has rendered full House approval and now awaits Senate discussion.  A similar Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Jolie Justus (D-Jackson County) has passed through Senate committee and now awaits a third read on the Senate floor.

Missouri lawmakers said although the sponsors of these bills are Democrats, neither the measures nor anti-bullying efforts are partisan and have attained Republican support and sponsorship, as well.

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