Mother Jailed for Posting on Facebook That Her Son Might "Shoot Up the School"

A mother frustrated about school administrators’ ineffectual response to the bullying her son has suffered for more than a year was arrested for comments she made on Facebook about it.
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A mother frustrated about school administrators’ ineffectual response to the bullying her son has suffered for more than a year was arrested for comments she made on Facebook about it.
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A mother frustrated about school administrators' ineffectual response to the bullying her son has suffered for more than a year was arrested for comments she made on Facebook about it.

“And they asked why do people shoot up schools,” Teri Pallat, the mother of a 15-year-old boy she says has been relentlessly bullied, posted on her daughter's Facebook page, according to The Omaha World Herald. “Well this is exactly why and when our son does it cause I know he will have nobody to blame but the administration and I promise everyone he will only get the ones that caused this. He is an excellent marks men.”

Pallat was arrested and charged with first-degree harassment, an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up two years in prison, and making terroristic threats, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, The Omaha World Herald reported.

Describing what she feels was an inadequate response from Lewis Central school about her son's bullying, Pallat told the Herald reporter, “They say nothing has been caught on camera and my son, who has epilepsy, needs to file better reports." A violent incident in September 2012, Pallat claims, led to her son's diagnosis of epilepsy.

Critics say that the closed-circuit cameras used in schools to reduce bullying record at such low resolution that it's very difficult to identify students in the footage. They have additional limitations as well, according to a 13-year-old Korean boy who committed suicide after being bullied at school for two years, The Wall Street Journal reported in March:

“[The boy], Choi, also left a suicide note. The handwritten note begins 'I will now tell you why I will die. Dear policemen, I will share my story here of how I’ve been bullied so far.' He named five students who he said had been harassing him since 2011. He said he had endured years of physical and verbal violence, humiliation and extortion in and out of school.

'You’ll never be able to spot school violence the way it is now. There are blind spots in classrooms and restrooms where no closed-circuit cameras are installed. That is where most school violence happens,'” he wrote, indicating government efforts to step up monitoring have been insufficient.”

Joel Beyenhof, Lewis Central principal, told The Omaha World Herald that several students ratted out the mom to the school and insisted that a thorough investigation of bullying takes time.

More than a year though, really? This is bullying in a midwestern school, not an assasssination atttempt on the President.

I'm not sure how saying, essentially – on Facebook, for God's sake – “Kids like my son who are tormented for months on end sometimes shoot up schools” is a terrorist threat. Or “harassment” – a comment on her daughter's Facebook page is harassing Lewis Central? Isn't what she said her opinion of what the school's inaction could lead to and therefore considered free speech? I'm not a legal expert, but the word that springs to my mind when I read what she allegedly posted on Facebook was “accurate,” not “harassment.” She's right; it could happen. And in my opinion, locking her up and making her kid, the “expert marksman,” even more bewildered and pissed off (and frustrated and bored, as the school suspended him while the charges against his mother are investigated) was a bad idea.

Schools all over the world have to deal with shitty students who bully their classmates, and yeah, it's a difficult and terrible problem. Teachers aren't psychologists and they're not the police. But unfortunately, they are an integral part of the solution.

A 2005 op-ed published in Editorial Projects in Education pointed out: “Many schools in Australia lean toward problem-solving interventions such as student or teacher mediators or class discussions in which children, including the bullies, exchange views about why problems occur and what should be done about them. But Ken Rigby [an adjunct research professor at the University of South Australia] argued that, ultimately, the success of any program depends less on program content and more on how involved teachers and schools become. 'Implementation is the bottom line as far as I'm concerned, he said. 'The extent to which a teacher takes [bullying] seriously makes a difference.'"

The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends that teachers and administrators “be aware that although bullying generally happens in areas such as the bathroom, playground, crowded hallways and school buses as well as via cell phones and computers (where supervision is limited or absent), it must be taken seriously... If a teacher observes bullying in a classroom, he/she needs to immediately intervene to stop it, record the incident and inform the appropriate school administrators so the incident can be investigated. Having a joint meeting with the bullied student and the student who is bullying is not recommended — it is embarrassing and very intimidating for the student that is being bullied.”

Teachers can also help by giving targeted students “jobs” during lunch and recess to give them something to do and cut their chances of being bullied in those less-supervised periods, the APA advises.

Researchers in Scandinavia started studying bullying in the 1960s, but it wasn't until after three suicides of bullied Norwegian students in 1982 that Norway implemented an aggressive anti-bullying program, according to Editorial Projects in Education:

“Norway encouraged schoolwide intervention policies, including classroom rules establishing limits to unacceptable behavior, the formation of teacher-development groups, class meetings with children on peer relations and behavior, and counseling for bullies, victims, and parents. Studies showed a 50 percent decrease in school bullying by 1985. The country's parliament strengthened efforts in 2002 with passage of a manifesto that committed the central government, local authorities, and some parent and teacher groups to a program of action in the hope of quickly eliminating the practice.”

As for this current case in Omaha, can't they just fine Teri Pallat and order counseling for her and her son? If they won't do anything else about bullying in their schools?

If you haven't seen the 2012 documentary Bully (not to be confused with the Brad Renfro movie of the same name), I recommend it. I think it aptly provides perspective on what can happen when the community gets involved in school bullying – and what can happen when it doesn't.