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Bullying or Jail? Mom Picks the Pokey

Cheryl Joseph would rather go to jail than have her child bullied.

Usually, it’s the child who risks punishment for not going to school. But this time, it’s the parent. Cheryl Joseph says she would rather spend time in jail than force her 13 year-old daughter, Tiffany, to return to the school the concerned mom describes as a “hell hole.”

Joseph claims that Tiffany has been bullied repeatedly at Pepper Middle School, being tormented about her weight, her hair as well as her race.

Joseph told ABC News a Philadelphia truancy court has informed her that if she doesn’t enroll her daughter in a school by early next year, the mom will find herself behind bars, as well as the subject of a $500 fine. But she’d rather suffer such a plight than allow her daughter to continue to be victimized. Tiffany has allegedly been beaten up and had basketballs thrown at her by bullies who “don’t like the way she looks.” Joseph thinks it could be because Tiffany is biracial.

Joseph has tried to get Tiffany, as well as Tiffany’s younger sister, transferred to another school, but has had little luck. District officials point to a lack of written evidence of the bullying as the primary reason for not allowing a transfer. Without anything documented, they claim their hands are tied.

But a Philadelphia school official has recently begun whistling a different tune. While spokesman Fernando Gallard agrees that even after a full investigation, the district was unable to find any evidence of bullying at the school, he also concedes that investigation did uncover that Tiffany had been bullied in the surrounding area of the school. Gallard agrees that the situation warrants a transfer.

“We have no problem with Tiffany and her sister going to another school,” Gallard said. “Our policy is that if a child feels unsafe or a child feels like they can’t learn in one of our schools, then we’ll go ahead and move forward with the transfer.”

The obvious question is what’s taking so long? After pulling her daughters out of school for over a month, Joseph eventually enrolled them in a different school district, but they were told that they had to return to their original one.

So the stalemate has continued. Even with the recent affirmation provided by Gallard, Joseph is still skeptical at how long the process is taking. Until it’s resolved, Tiffany and her sister are just sitting at home. Though frustrated, Joseph feels that their idle time is better than the alternative.

“With all these kids who have killed themselves after being bullied,” she said, “all I can say is that it won’t be one of mine.”

Cheryl Joseph’s actions are reminiscent of James Jones, the man who confronted his daughter’s bullies on a Florida school bus. As I contemplate the potential outcomes of bullying, it appears to me that in extreme cases, such parental involvement is warranted. If I were placed in the same situation as Joseph or Jones, I believe I’d react the exact same way. Too much is on the line.

How do you think you would react?

photo: PhillyNews

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John Cave Osborne’s personal blog.
John Cave Osborne’s book website.

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