UPDATE: This article was updated to include more recent information about the Blanchester Police Department’s investigation into the alleged bullies.
BLANCHESTER — School officials announced that the re-opened investigation into allegations of bullying verified that bullying took place. They have revised the punishment for the alleged bullies and created a protection plan for all
Blanchester Local School District Superintendent Dean Lynch told the Wilmington News Journal the investigation concluded Monday and verified there was bullying, which he said requires repeated behavior rather than what was previously believed to be an isolated incident.
Additionally, Blanchester Police Chief Scott Reinbolt said, in a prepared statement, that Patrol Officer Kristen Jeffers finished her investigation into the alleged bullies. Police were investigating the girls for possible charges of telecommunications harassment after being contacted by school officials.
The messages, according to a previous statement by Reinbolt, include “derogatory remarks about a particular cheerleader and includes discussion of a desire to cause her physical harm.”
The investigation awaits review by Clinton County Prosecutor Richard W. “Rick” Moyer’s office, which will determine if the evidence warrants charges and court action.
Lynch did not specify what punishment was made, citing state and federal privacy laws concerning students, but he did say that the punishment was revised in light of the new evidence. He also told the WNJ that a protection plan was implemented to protect all parties in the future.
“We are confident that the district appropriately responded to those who recently expressed concerns about bullying,” Lynch said in a prepared statement. “We convened meetings with the families, at the building level, conducted investigations consistent with our policies and implemented interventions to address concerns about the students involved.
The incident revolves around messages circulating on Facebook made the week before school began by an unknown number of 13-14 year-old girls, according to police and school officials.
The WNJ does not identify juveniles alleged as perpetrators or victims of crimes.
The initial investigation determined the incident was an isolated one, not part of a pattern or repetition, according to Lynch, so the schools punished the students accordingly. Then, media reports detailed the incident. According to Lynch, those reports were the first time school officials heard allegations of bullying, which prompted it to re-open the investigation.
Lynch said the district is planning an informational meeting with the community about the school’s bullying policies for Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Blanchester High School.
“There’s been a lot of questions about what bullying is, the school’s jurisdiction when it comes to bullying, zero-tolerance policy and the athletic policy, and I just think it’s important to bring the community together,” said Lynch. “I think that something of this magnitude, that’s gotten so much press time, it’s important to bring the community together.”
Lynch said he hoped to explain those topics and answer community members’ questions.
“While we believe that the district has been proactive in its efforts, we know that continued attention to bullying and other forms of student conflict is necessary,” Lynch said in his prepared statement. Lynch encouraged concerned parents to contact his administrative staff “so we can directly address these concerns and work collaboratively to support a positive school environment at Blanchester Local Schools.”
Lynch said the school prioritizes teaching students positive behavior and combating bullying. He cited Blanchester Middle School’s recent “Power of Prevention Award” as recognition of its efforts.
The Power of Prevention award recognized the efforts of Joel King, BMS principal, and Rebecca Wilson, a social worker.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.