HURST, Texas — Renee Trudgett was no stranger to bullying in her children’s school district.
With two older daughters, 20 and 17, and a son in fifth grade at Shady Oaks Elementary School in Hurst, every single one of her kids has experienced bullying in the district. But a particularly cruel incident forced her to make the issue more public.
Her youngest son, Leo, showed her a series of messages sent to him on Snapchat from other students in which they called Leo the N-word over and over again.
“That’s why nobody likes you at school. (You’re) a nobody now and (if) you died nobody would (know) not even your new (nephew),” the messages read.
When Leo told them to stop and that he would report these incidents, the students answered that they would not get in trouble because they could only be disciplined by teachers for incidents that happen on school grounds.
When Trudgett saw the messages her son was getting, she immediately took the screenshots and sent them to Leo’s teacher and the principal at Shady Oaks. She said this was not the first time her son had been bullied by one of the students, and she hoped that this incident would not be tolerated.
Later that day, the administration at Shady Oaks called and said they would let the parents of the student know.
“At that point, they couldn’t tell me any disciplinary actions against the other kid,” Trudgett said. “I waited for the next day, and I didn’t hear anything else back. They didn’t tell me if they were going to start a bullying investigation, nothing. The bullies were still in class. The only resolution I’d gotten was that they were going to let the parents know.”
After no updates, Trudgett posted the screenshots to Facebook. She said she just wanted to share the frustrations with her friends — she had no idea that so many people would share her post and start calling the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District about the incident.
But sure enough, the morning after she posted the screenshots, she got a call from Darla Clark, assistant superintendent for elementary administration at HEBISD. Clark told Trudgett that the district was looking into the incident, but Trudgett wasn’t satisfied.
“Nothing would have been done about the situation if I hadn’t put it on Facebook,” Trudgett said. “Leo has been my third kid to go through the district, and the third to have issues with bullying.”
Deanna Hullender, a spokeswoman for the district, said the administration opened an investigation into the incident immediately after it was brought to their attention. She also said the district could not comment since the investigation was ongoing.
The incident with Trudgett’s son coincided with a rising issue for the school system in which students had been using HEB ISD Google platforms like Google Chat and Hangouts to bully other students. In response to both issues, the district released a letter signed by Superintendent Steven Chapman, saying that bullying — whether on or off school property — was not tolerated.
“Students who engage in bullying will face the maximum disciplinary consequences allowed under the Texas Education Code and HEB ISD Policies,” the leader states.
The district also posted the letter on its Facebook page, and a handful of comments said it was nice to see that school officials were taking bullying seriously this time.
Trudgett said that those comments were a sign that the district has had a long history of tolerating bullying.
“If you read their code of conduct, they very well have bullying outlined in there, they just don’t follow it,” she said.