A New Jersey mom is in hot water after losing her temper at a school board seminar on bullying.
Cindy Schwalb says her 13-year-old daughter had recently been the victim of sexual harassment and bullying at Hasbrouck Heights Middle School. During gym class, she says, a male student pulled the girl’s sweatpants down to her ankles in full view of her classmates.
In an interview with a local television station, Schwalb says what happened to her daughter was not an isolated incident. According to her, other students were being bullied in the same way on a daily basis at the school. As a result, she and other parents pushed school officials to hold sexual harassment workshops.
The school held the workshops, but Schwalb felt it wasn’t enough. Hoping to address the matter with school officials, she and about 200 other parents attended a recent district seminar on bullying. During the meeting, she raised the subject of what happened to her daughter but was given the brush-off by school officials who said the meeting was not the place to express her concerns. When she persisted, school superintendent Joseph Luongo began questioning her. When he inquired as to whether or not her daughter had been wearing thong underwear at the time her pants were pulled down, Schwalb became enraged.
After the meeting, Schwalb met school principal Edward Bolcar in the hallway and gave him a piece of her mind. She told him he was “worthless” and then dropped an F bomb or two. She immediately regretted the outburst and apologized before leaving the building.
That probably would have been the end of the story but for the fact that one of the school board members happens to be a police officer. Detective Sgt. Joseph Rinke filed a report on behalf of the school district, charging Schwalb with disorderly conduct. If convicted, she faces a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail or community service.
But what about Superintendent Luongo and his rather disturbing interest in her daughter’s underwear? He has no regrets. “I had to find out what body parts were actually revealed,” he says.
Schwalb can take some comfort in the knowledge that the boy who bullied her daughter has been suspended and ordered to get counseling. But despite the fact that she regrets her choice of words, she believes other mothers would have done the same thing in her position. An informal poll of my friends and colleagues suggests that she is right. What would you have done?