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Education

Pflugerville Parents Complain About District Bullying Policy

Satellite view of Riojas Elementary school

A group of parents in Pflugerville Independent School District is upset over how they believe the district is responding to accusations of bullying at Riojas Elementary School. They will meet with the district on Thursday night to go over their concerns about campus safety.

The situation for one family boiled over in September when a boy accused of bullying accidentally stabbed an eight-year-old student in the eye with a pencil during a scuffle near the pencil sharpener.

The eight-year old was sent home with an eye-patch. But his parents rushed to Dell Children’s Hospital, where he required surgery to have a small piece of led removed from this eye.

“At that time, we all believed my son was going to have to lose his eye,” said Molly Lofthouse, the boy’s mother. She claims Pflugerville ISD has been unresponsive to her requests to have the other boy disciplined.

"They've not been honest with us throughout the process," she said.

But the district says it is limited by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in what it can disclose to parents about its disciplinary response. Pflugerville ISD in August approved a code of conduct that explicitly bans bullying.  

“Providing a safe and secure learning environment is Pflugerville ISD's top priority,” Pflugerville ISD’s director of community relations Amanda Brim said in an email. “We know that students can't learn if they don't feel safe, and campus leaders work hard to promote a positive atmosphere at every PISD school. “

Texas lawmakers passed a new law this spring, HB 1942, that requires public schools to create policies to prevent bullying and procedures to deal with it when it occurs.

Back in 2009, more than one-third of middle and high school students in the district said they had been bullied in some way, according to Community Impact Newspaper.

Thursday’s public forum in Pflugerville also comes just days after a national survey by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that nearly half of students in grades 7 through 12 had experienced sexual harassment.  

“It’s pervasive, and almost a normal part of the school day,” Catherine Hill with the AAUW told the New York Times.