After saying that pleas for school officials to protect her son from bullies fell on deaf ears, a Fayetteville mother posted a video on social media that shows her son being pushed to the ground and put in a headlock.
Since school began this year, 13-year-old seventh-grader Christopher Skarzynski has been bullied by fellow students at Douglas Byrd Middle School, according to his mother, Alice Phillips. Phillips, who speaking to the Fayetteville Observer, said she and her two sons relocated to Fayetteville five months ago.
The video that Phillips posted has exploded on social media. It has been viewed more than 400,000 times and shared more than 7,000 times. In the roughly 2-minute video, which Phillips said Christopher’s 11-year-old brother Alexander recorded, the 13-year-old appears to be surrounded and hassled by a group of students.
Christopher, who grabs a stick for defense, is verbally berated by an unidentified girl who school officials said was also a middle-schooler.
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She tells him to put the stick down, but he refuses.
“I don’t trust you, I will hit you,” he warned the girl before another boy grabs the stick from him, breaking it in half.
The 13-year-old then appears to retreat but is pushed by the girl.
“Get away from me, stay away from me,” Christopher said.
The girl then jumps on top of him, pushing him to the ground and putting him in a headlock before letting him go.
“Why didn’t you protect me?” Christopher said looking toward the camera, as he walks away.
Since the alleged bullying began, Phillips said she has raised concerns with school officials, but the attacks and abuse have continued.
“This is the type of behavior that Douglas Byrd Fayetteville NC advocates and openly allows – my son has been attacked multiple times, regardless of his attempts to be the better man and walk away,” Phillips wrote on Facebook.
Renarta C. Moyd, spokeswoman for Cumberland County Schools, said the school system has a zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying. The incident is being investigated, and will be handled in accordance with the system’s student code of conduct, she said.
School administrators said that they had never received complaints from parents of prior conflicts between the two students, Renarta said. She declined to comment on whether administrators had received prior complaints about other students bullying Skarzynski.
The school system on Thursday released bullying statistics to The News & Observer that show that there are dozens to hundreds of bullying incidents recorded at elementary, middle and high schools.
In 2014-15, 62 incidents of bullying were recorded at Cumberland County elementary schools. That number rose in 2015-16 to 70 incidents. In 2014-15, 120 bullying incidents were recorded at middle schools. That number dropped to 78 incidents in 2015-16. High schools see the fewest incidents of bullying, county records show – 32 in 2014-15 and 37 in 2015-16.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi