A group of southwest suburban parents are accusing their school of not doing enough to stop bullying, and they say school administrators are not fully implementing a new Illinois anti-bullying law.
The children include a boy who contemplates death and a girl who refused haircuts so she could hide her tears, the parents say.
"My daughter was beaten up on the bus and there was not any repercussion," said mother Robynn Williams. "And to have to file a police report on three 11-year-old girls broke my heart."
But their experiences stand in star contrast to a Plainfield District 202 spokesman who insists the district is a poster child for anti-bullying.
"Whether or not the events of those circumstances are what the parents believe them to be versus what the administration determined them to be may be two different things. But there is not a tolerance for bullying at Liberty or any of our other schools," said Supt. John Harper, who oversees the district's 30 schools and 29,000 students.
Still, Harper admits that each school is still in "different stages of implementation" of the new Illinois law mandating anti-bullying policies and programs in schools.
A leading expert on bullying, University of Illinois professor Dorothy Espelage, says too many districts are only paying lip service and not changing the school culture.
"Bullying emerges in pre-school playgroups," she said, explaining that lessons need to be taught to students young.
"It is too late to think that we are going to change uncivil disrespectful behavior in middle school and high school without setting the ground work in the earlier years," she said.
Many of the parents said authorities dismiss what happens as "isolated incidents" instead of examining the larger cause and effect.
On a positive note, one bullied child in Plainfield District 202 did receive an apology several years later from the bullies following a new school assembly on the subject that apparently hit home.